Melatonin can be your best friend if you have difficulty getting to sleep. It is a hormone manufactured by the pineal gland in the brain and is derived from the amino acid tryptophan. Melatonin is linked to letting our bodies know when it is time to fall sleep and wake up. It is synthesized and released during darkness, and natural levels are present in the blood prior to bedtime. In people older than 40 years, the pineal gland has likely slowed down its production of melatonin, and by age 60, virtually everyone has a melatonin deficiency. Melatonin is primarily used in cases of insomnia, and it may also be used to prevent jet lag associated with long air travel.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, multiple human studies have measured the effects of melatonin supplementation on sleep in healthy individuals. Although most of the trials have been small and brief, the weight of scientific evidence suggests that melatonin decreases the time needed to fall asleep and increases feelings of sleepiness. For use in adults in the management of insomnia, doses within the range of 0.6 mg – 3mg at bedtime, preferably one hour before retiring, are generally sufficient.

Joseph Wegmann, R.Ph., LCSW is a licensed clinical pharmacist and a clinical social worker with more than thirty years of experience in the field of psychopharmacology. His diverse professional background in psychopharmacology and counseling affords him a unique perspective on medication management issues. In addition to consulting with numerous psychiatric facilities, he has presented psychopharmacology seminars to thousands of clinicians in 46 states.

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