What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It’s main function is to control our sleep wake cycle (our diurnal cycle). The receptors in the eyes help monitor night and day which in turn switches the production and release of the hormone on or off. So to promote release of this hormone, making a room dark and turning off screens /phones can be very helpful when preparing for sleep !!
Insomnia or sleep trouble can be due to a number of reasons… medication, stress, ageing, overstimulation or just something peculiar to an individual … so use of a naturally occurring supplement like melatonin to top up our own production, is the ideal option. It usually doesn’t have any adverse effects or the ‘hangover’ effect sometimes experienced with other prescription sleep medication. And it unlikely that an individual taking melatonin will develop tolerance or become dependent, particularly when melatonin is taken on an as needed basis for short periods of time.
How long can I safely take melatonin for ?
The period of time recommended is something you can discuss with your Doctor. This would depend on individual factors such as age, medical conditions, how you are tolerating taking melatonin, your health status and the underlying reason for which you were prescribed melatonin.
Can melatonin be used safely in children ?
This is a discussion to be had with your child’s treating Doctor but melatonin products are quite commonly prescribed for use in children.
Can melatonin be used for jet-lag when I fly ?
Yes absolutely. As melatonin can moderate our sleep wake cycle this is an ideal solution to reset your body clock when you arrive at your destination for a few days and again when you return home. Dose and duration can be discussed with your Doctor.
Is melatonin useful for shift workers?
Yes, because melatonin release in the body helps control sleep wake cycles, supplementation can be helpful to reset the body clock and let the body know when it must sleep ie. when you get home from a night shift or for pilots /cabin crew after a flight arrival into a different time zone.
Down-regulation of commercially available melatonin product to over-the-counter Pharmacist-only
In recent times the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) our Australian medication and devices regulatory body, has down-regulated the sleep aid medication melatonin to over-the-counter Pharmacist-only (no need for a Doctor’s prescription). This is great news for those who struggle with bedtime ! It makes it a little more accessible without having to plan ahead and make a Doctors appointment…
That said, there is still a need for prescription compounded melatonin products.
Why compounded melatonin ?
Although there is a commercially available melatonin product available over-the-counter, there are still the melatonin products of the compounded variety which you do require a Doctor’s prescription for. This includes melatonin in suspension/solution form of varying strengths for children or those who prefer not to swallow capsules. It also includes the various strengths of melatonin capsules and release profiles ie. immediate release /absorption capsule for those who need assistance falling asleep and the slow or modified release melatonin capsule for a more sustained absorption/action (for those who struggle to stay asleep past 2am! )
Compounding also provides the option for people who are vegan /vegetarian in which gelatin capsule shells are not suitable. (Compounded capsules are vegetable based). It also provides the option for people with sensitivities or allergies to some filler ingredients to have a custom made capsule.
Is there a cost difference between compounded melatonin products and the commercially available product?
Price of the commercially available product varies from pharmacy to pharmacy but in general the compounded products are at a lower cost to the customer and this also varies slightly between compounding pharmacies. Some private health funds offer a rebate on compounded prescription products depending on fund and level of cover.
In my next blog I will talk about the uses of magnesium glycinate.. a case study on restless legs! (And can be used at night to aid sleep and restfulness too).. 😴