Unwind vs Melatonin: Know the “Real” Natural
There is no heroic journey like the one it takes to get a good night’s sleep, am I right? If you don’t know, the recommended amount of quality sleep a person should be getting each night is no less than seven hours. Let’s highlight two things there: quality and no less than. Did you roll your eyes and let out a big, “Oh, I’d love to, if only I could turn off my devices and kids repeatedly getting out of bed for water, and well, you know, my brain.” What if we could help you with two out of three?
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, over 70 percent of Americans report they don’t get sufficient sleep once a month with another 11 percent reporting inadequate sleep every single night. What do people do to try to sleep? They have an extra couple glasses of wine, a little ZZZquil, or perhaps a prescription to get a few precious hours of restorative sleep. Over the last ten years, one particular “sleep aid” has been gaining ground under the guise of being all-natural, non-addictive, and totally safe – melatonin. But just how accurate is that claim?
What is Melatonin?Melatonin is “a natural hormone that is produced in the pineal gland and then released into the bloodstream.” Darkness incites melatonin production and light inhibits it. This is what creates our circadian rhythm, which is a fancy term for our sleep-wake cycle.
Now here’s a really important differentiation: endogenous melatonin is made by the body and exogenous melatonin is made in a lab and is thus, a synthetic hormone! Okay, now just marinate on that a minute – all melatonin is not created equal.
Melatonin Made in the Body vs. Melatonin Made in a Lab – There’s a BIG Difference!Millions of people use melatonin every night to sleep. Moms, Millennials, Baby Boomers, chronically overworked 40-year-olds, children, the elderly, and so on, but is it really as safe as everyone thinks it is?
Um, sorry, but that’s a big loud no on that one, Maverick.
Endogenous melatonin, aka the body-made variety, is absolutely safe because your body makes it. However, exogenous melatonin, the synthetic type that shows up in every supplement under the moon, has some real drawbacks. First, there are the common negative effects like nausea, very vivid dreams of the not-so-nice type, headaches upon waking, and grogginess aka; a melatonin hangover. Sure, there are side effects with everything, but then there’s more.
Melatonin made in a lab is classified as supplements and is regulated as such. Supplements have less stringent FDA regulation than over-the-counter drugs or prescriptions. This leads to issues such as inaccurate product amounts as well as additional ingredients not listed, such as serotonin, which can be dangerous at even small levels. As it is sold as a supplement, there is no medical intervention from a doctor or pharmacist, and many people don’t check on possible drug interactions. Exogenous melatonin can be especially harmful for those taking blood thinners and medications for epilepsy and mental health issues. It’s also not recommended for breastfeeding or pregnant women or older people with dementia. Melatonin also may not be safe for children, and while there aren’t enough studies for a firm conclusion, some researchers believe melatonin can interfere with hormonal development. To reiterate: “Natural” doesn’t always mean “safe.”
Oh, and then there’s the fact that over-the-counter melatonin has been banned or highly regulated in the following countries: the United Kingdom, Japan, the entire European Union, Canada, and Australia. Just a few small developing nations, right?