Do you know that cozy feeling you get as you anticipate bedtime? You’ve worked all day, rushed home, took care of everyone else and now it’s time for you to settle down for the night. You pull up your covers, snuggle in to your favorite pillow, close your eyes and the waves of slumber wash over you….ahhh , sweet sleep.
Or maybe you’re like me and millions of Americans who have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
Having worked 7p-7a for 5 years as a registered nurse my sleep schedule was often at the mercy of my job or mommy duties. Naturally a night owl, the night shift suited me. I was a master at staying awake for way too many hours; coffee, running the stairs and staying busy helped me remain sharp and focused during a long 12 hour shift. The 30-minute drive home was the biggest challenge. Sitting still, warm car, the hum of the road were as sleep inducing as a wild-game tranquilizer. I had tricks for that too though; loud radio, windows down, even stopping to run around my car when necessary. Sadly, there were still mornings I couldn’t remember traveling the last few miles, putting myself and others in danger.
I developed a great talent for staying awake while the rest of the world slept and ended up breaking my sleeper!
Now, no matter how exhausted, I tend to dread the moments after the lights are turned out. Moments when I have to “relax, breathe, empty my mind”, “relax, breathe, empty my mind”. My knee-jerk reaction is to bolt from the bed like a 2 year old “fighting sleep”. I would much rather do something creative or productive than waste time laying in bed wishing I was sleepy. Compounding the frustration is my best-friend of 20+ years who is gently snoring 3 seconds after his eye close. He says it’s a clean conscious and good living which make me laugh and want to smother him at the same time.
Some nights when I didn’t limit my caffeine intake that day, have too much on my mind or just don’t have the discipline to settle down I will resort to a prescription sleep-aid. Even a couple of milligrams helps me succumb to the night. However, the negative side effects and possible long-term consequences have me seeking a more natural way to fall asleep at night, enter Melatonin.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that peaks at night and helps us control our sleep-wake cycle. 20 years of clinical research (2) as shown many therapeutic uses for Melatonin supplements from a reduction in cancer cell proliferation (3) to a reduction in dementia. (4)
Because of an impressive study linking Melatonin to improved cognitive function and protection in postmenopausal women (1 ) I had purchased the supplement over a year ago and intended to add it to my daily vitamin regimen. Now in light of my growing desire to sleep without a scrip, I decided to give Melatonin a try along with my nightly routine.
I have to say, taking 3 mg of Melatonin about an hour before “lights out” had me hugging Sand Man again. I especially enjoyed the benefit of waking up on my own the next morning without feeling foggy.
Disclosure: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
1. J Pineal Res. 2004 Oct;37(3):198-206.
Long-term effects of melatonin or 17 beta-estradiol on improving spatial memory performance in cognitively impaired, ovariectomized adult rats.
2. Clinical uses of melatonin: evaluation of human trials.
3. Effect of Melatonin on Tumor Growth and Angiogenesis in Xenograft Model of Breast Cancer
4. Clinical Aspects of Melatonin Intervention in Alzheimer’s Disease Progression
Daniel P Cardinali, Analía M Furio, and Luis I Brusco Curr Neuropharmacol. 2010 September; 8(3): 218-227