Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone made by a part of the
brain called the pineal (say: "pin-ee-all") gland. Melatonin may help our bodies
know when it's time to go to sleep and when it's time to wake up. Melatonin
supplements (in pill form) can also be taken. There are two types of
melatonin that may be used in these pills: natural and synthetic
(man-made). Natural melatonin is made from the pineal gland of animals.
This form could be contaminated with a virus and is not recommended. The
synthetic form of melatonin does not have this risk. If you are not sure if your
melatonin is natural or synthetic, ask your doctor or pharmacist before taking
How is melatonin used?
Melatonin can be used to treat insomnia
(difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep). It can also be taken to
prevent jet lag. Beyond that, there is little scientific evidence that melatonin
has a role in promoting health or treating disease.
Does melatonin have side
Some people who have taken melatonin have
reported sleepiness, headache, a "heavy-head" feeling, stomach discomfort,
depression or feeling hungover. Further study is needed to find out more about
melatonin's side effects, especially delayed or long-term effects. For example,
we don't know if melatonin causes problems when taken with other medicines. We
also don't know how melatonin may affect diseases.
Does melatonin require a doctor's
No. Melatonin is sold without a prescription in
health food stores and drug stores in the United States. However, melatonin
products are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Since
melatonin products are not regulated by a government agency, their purity,
safety and effectiveness can't be assured.
Should I take melatonin for sleep problems or
It might be better not to take melatonin until
we know more about it. If you decide to try it, talk to your doctor first. Be
sure to tell him or her if you have any medical conditions, are taking any other
medicine (prescription, over-the-counter or herbal) and if you are pregnant or
nursing. It is unclear what effect melatonin can have on an unborn baby or
Does melatonin have any effect on
No. Despite claims that have been made in
magazines and newspapers, no scientific studies have shown that melatonin can
slow down the aging process or prolong your life.