Melatonin and Sleep Disorders Explained

Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep, wakefulness, and circadian rhythms in humans.

Circardian rhythm describes the sleep/ wake cycle, a biological clock that runs in our brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness. It explains why we may feel energized or sleepy at around the same time each day.

We all know that sleep is crucial for our health and wellbeing. But, sadly, millions of people suffer from sleep disorders.

The most common issues are waking up in the morning feeling drowsy or tired, followed by waking up in the middle of the night, difficulty going back to sleep after waking up and difficulty falling asleep initially.

Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, even when we have the chance to do so. People with insomnia are usually unhappy with their sleep and often experience fatigue, low energy, difficulty concentrating, mood disturbances, and decreased performance in work or at school.

Insomnia can be acute (short-term) or chronic (ongoing). Acute insomnia is often caused by situations such as stress at work, family issues or a traumatic event. This type of insomnia may last for days or weeks. Chronic insomnia lasts for a month or longer.

There are several ways to deal with insomnia. Treating a possible underlying cause is usually the first step. This may include avoiding caffeine, tobacco and other stimulants. Alcohol and certain medicines may also disrupt sleep.

Cognitive behavioral therapy may be helpful. Such treatment targets thoughts and actions that may disrupt sleep and encourages good sleep habits.

Melatonin is often recommended to treat insomnia. It is available as a food supplement in health food stores. No substantive risks from melatonin use have been reported. However, several questions remain about its efficacy which may depend on drug dose and formulation, as well as the timing, frequency and duration of administration.

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