Twice a year we change our clocks to adjust for lengthening or shortening days. But do you re-set your inner clock as well when you set your household clocks to spring ahead or fall behind? If not, you may be facing weeks of sleep-disturbed nights before your body adjusts to its new schedule.
Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to your health. Poor sleep can lead to suppressed immunity, depression, and a lack of mental clarity. If you don’t sleep well in general — or if re-setting your inner clock is robbing you of precious sleep — it’s time to do something. I suggest taking melatonin to help adjust your sleep patterns.
Melatonin is a hormone — and the only one I think is safe to take on your own for short periods of time. Don’t use it longer than for a few weeks without discussing it with your doctor first. Long-term use could cause your body to stop making this hormone. Certain medications like aspirin, NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and beta-blockers reduce melatonin levels. If you have problems sleeping and have been taking these medications over a period of time, there may be a connection between the two.
The amount of melatonin you need to adjust your body’s inner clock can vary from one-half mg to three mg. Use the smallest amount needed to help you sleep and take it half an hour before bedtime. If you find melatonin helps you get to sleep but you don’t sleep through the night, try a timed-release product.
Melatonin supplements are inexpensive, and easy to find in health food stores and pharmacies, but be sure the melatonin you buy is made in a laboratory and not extracted from the pineal glands of cows. Animal-derived melatonin could be contaminated with the same substances, prions, which cause Mad Cow Disease. If you can’t find a good quality melatonin easily, the one I take each spring and fall — or for jet lag — can be ordered from ProThera (888-488-2488). They have both regular and timed-release melatonin.
One word of caution: Taking melatonin with alcohol or sedatives, including herbs like valerian, will increase its sedative effect.
Goldberg, Burton. Alternative Medicine, Second Edition, Celestial Arts, 2002.
PDR for Nutritional Supplements, Medical Economics, Co, Inc, 2001.