Whether your sleep struggles are caused by anxiety, jet lag, or a chronic sleep condition, most of us have had trouble getting quality sleep at some point in our lives. This can make many of us need help getting a good night’s sleep, whether it be traditional or natural remedies.
Unfortunately, recent research has linked prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids to cognitive decline. Studies have also called the safety of melatonin (a sleep aid commonly used in the United States) into question.
If you find it difficult to fall asleep and sleep well, you are not alone; Melatonin is one of the most popular dietary supplements in the United States, with various forms available in most grocery stores and pharmacies.
Research shows that between 1999 and 2018, the use of melatonin in the United States quadrupled (it is more strictly regulated in other countries).
However, the researchers report that studies and research show that we don’t really know enough about the safety of melatonin-containing supplements, especially using them every night. Sometimes for years in a row.
Although melatonin is generally considered safe, adverse effects have been reported with scarce data on long-term use and high doses. That’s why some sleep experts worry that using it regularly might reduce the body’s natural production of this important sleep hormone, says Dr. Seema Pune, founder and medical director of the Center for Anti-Aging and Longevity in Philadelphia. Where he stresses, “It is important to remember that melatonin is a hormone, and using any hormone regularly can reduce the regulation of your own production of it,” according to what was published by the “Mbghealth” website concerned with medical affairs.
For her part, Dr. Ashley Jordan-Ferreira, vice president of scientific affairs at mbg, explains, “I have not seen good data showing that high doses of melatonin will not affect your natural production of melatonin.”
Other dangers of melatonin!
Some research has also shown that taking melatonin leads to impaired glucose tolerance, which may be harmful to blood sugar health in the long term.
Researchers published in the journal “Sleep” a study targeting 21 healthy women who took 5 milligrams of melatonin or a placebo drug in the morning and evening, and then monitored their glucose tolerance for 3 hours after each dose. The researchers found that those who took melatonin had higher blood sugar levels.
There is also an important debate between melatonin and sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, which has led some experts to worry about potential long-term side effects of melatonin on reproductive health.
Alternatives to melatonin?
Unfortunately, we don’t know if it’s safe to take melatonin long-term. But the good news is that there are plenty of alternative non-hormonal sleep aids out there. If you’re concerned about the long-term safety of using melatonin, here are some alternatives to consider, as well as some science-backed lifestyle modifications for better sleep:
Magnesium is known as nature’s “relaxation mineral” due to the role it plays in the nervous system. It can be helpful for relaxation and sleep. So experts recommend a dose of 100-200 mg taken two hours before bed.
* Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Whether you’re an adult or teen with insomnia, CBT can be effective in helping you fall asleep and get quality, more efficient sleep.
You may have heard of cannabinoids like CBD which are natural compounds found in hemp oil that can reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.
Here are some options for better sleep:
* Set boundaries with work
A 2018 Virginia Tech study showed that the mere expectation of checking work email after hours can cause anxiety and stress that can disrupt your sleep.
Research has shown that mindfulness meditation can significantly improve sleep quality.
The use of melatonin has skyrocketed in recent years, but there’s a lot we don’t know about its long-term safety. Therefore, experts recommend relying on melatonin as a sleep aid “from time to time.” However, other, non-hormonal options for daily use should be explored.