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Instagram use before bed and melatonin pills for insomnia: Link explained

Instagram use before bed and melatonin pills for insomnia: Link explained Illustrative photo (Photo: Freepik.com)
Author: Daria Shekina

Full-fledged sleep is the key to a good sense of well-being and productivity throughout the day. However, falling asleep and sleeping soundly until morning doesn't always come easily. As a result, there's irritability, lethargy, quick fatigue, and poor concentration. Melatonin is necessary for regulating sleep phases and combating insomnia. Increasingly, more people are taking it as a pill for insomnia.

In the material by RBC-Ukraine, neurologist Elizabeth Rogova explains what the sleep hormone melatonin is and why abusing melatonin tablets is not advisable.

During the material's preparation, the following sources were also used: PubMed.

What is melatonin

Circadian rhythms, or biorythms, are our internal biological clocks tied to the familiar 24-hour day-night cycle. The function of all organs throughout the day, as well as all processes in the body, is regulated by this clock.

Melatonin serves as the synchronizer between biological processes and circadian rhythms.

Melatonin is a hormone synthesized in the pineal gland (a pine cone-shaped organ in the brain) from the amino acid tryptophan. It's also known as the hormone of darkness because its synthesis and secretion are enhanced in darkness and suppressed by light.

In humans, melatonin secretion begins shortly after sunset, peaks in the middle of the night (between 2 AM and 4 AM), and gradually decreases.

The longer the period of darkness, the longer the secretion of melatonin. Conversely, an excess of light suppresses melatonin production, disrupting circadian rhythms.

Disruptions in circadian rhythms lead to sleep disorders and deteriorating health. Therefore, to maintain a healthy nervous system function and improve well-being, it's important to restore circadian rhythms.

Information about darkness and light is transmitted to the pineal gland from the retina of the eye. Thus, sometimes simply getting rid of the habit of sleeping with the light on or scrolling through social media before sleep, illuminating the room with a smartphone, can be sufficient.

Why melatonin is needed

Human natural melatonin plays a role in regulating:

  • Blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular system function
  • Eye retina functioning
  • Detoxification processes of free radicals and antioxidant action.

Thanks to its antioxidant properties, melatonin protects the gastrointestinal tract from developing ulcers, reducing the negative impact of gastric acid and the oxidative action of bile acids on the intestinal epithelium.

Additionally, it contributes to immune regulation:

  • Stimulating the production of cytokines and interleukins
  • Supporting rapid immune response
  • Reducing inflammatory response.

Among other vital functions, melatonin prevents excessive fat deposition with age and contributes to increasing bone mass.

Also, melatonin provides a physiological influence on puberty and reproductive processes.

Melatonin in tablets: Research findings

Synthetic melatonin available in pharmacies is a biologically active supplement.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t approve melatonin use. Despite this, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends melatonin as a first-line pharmacological therapy for treating insomnia.

Synthetic melatonin isn't a conventional sleep aid, but it's indicated for:

  • Primary insomnia (i.e., not caused by any secondary reason)
  • Age-related insomnia
  • Jet lag syndrome
  • Shift work sleep disorder
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Neurodegenerative diseases.

Canadian scientists decided to study melatonin supplements. It turned out that the melatonin content in synthetic supplements available in the pharmaceutical market varies from -83% to +478% from the marked content. That means, what's written on the label doesn't match the actual content—either a deficiency or an excessively high dose.

The highest discrepancy was found in chewable tablets: exceeding by 478% compared to the declared content on the label, nearly 9 mg of melatonin compared to the labeled 1.5 mg.

A deficiency of melatonin in a supplement doesn't harm health, but excessive doses can lead to side effects.

Moreover, some melatonin supplements contain serotonin (the so-called happiness hormone), another substance whose content may cause side effects. Hence, there are many questions regarding the composition of pharmacy melatonin.

Side effects of synthetic melatonin

Studies have shown that the action of high doses of melatonin can be unpredictable:

  • When simultaneously taking medications that can interact with melatonin
  • In patients with diabetes
  • In pregnant women.

In any case, taking the supplement is only possible after consulting a doctor and avoiding overdosing.

Possible side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dryness in the mouth
  • Dry or itchy skin
  • Strange dreams
  • Increased night sweats
  • Very rarely - allergy.

Synthetic melatonin doesn't cause addiction or dependence, but it shouldn't be taken for long periods. Follow the prescribed duration of intake by the doctor, and when the course ends, stop using melatonin. This will help understand whether you can fall asleep without receiving the hormone externally. If sleep is good, it means your circadian rhythms have normalized, and further melatonin intake isn't required.