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Fellow Insomniacs,

The following is a big chunk of a thread from CrazyTalk regarding melatonin, written by Jemini:

OK, so melatonin is a drug. It is also the hormone that occurs naturally and is produced (directly from serotonin) in cycles that become our sleep cycle. There are only two reasons one would need or want melatonin supplementation -- their cycle is irregular, or they are not producing enough melatonin and so do not get enough solid sleep. 

In the case of too little melatonin being produced, as is often true in older people (and not common as dar as I know in young to middle-aged people), regular supplementation may be appropriate, but a doctor is necessary and the exact levels should be established. 

An irregular cycle could be one that changes too easily, or intermittent insomnia, or simply a chronic "late-shift". This is the typical reason one would take melatonin as a sleep aid, and it is important then to understand how this cycle works.

Several chemicals are produced and metabolized over the course of a day in regular cycles, and these cycles reinforce each other. Certain things cause serotonin production to increase, like morning sunlight. Serotonin is eventually converted into melatonin, which is correlated to the strength of sleep onset and the depth of sleep, which in turn is correlated with the level of serotonin production and the regularity of the serotonin cycle. It's very chicken-and-egg. 

Now a "normal" (as in middle of the bell curve) melatonin cycle has very low levels of melatonin for much of the 24 hour day, and 2 large peak levels -- a smaller peak around mid-afternoon, and a larger peak around bedtime. You can feel these peaks very easily. In fact the feeling of being exhausted and tuning out to sleep is melatonin. It causes you to turn down the volume of all your senses, slows down your thinking, and makes you very sensitive to darkness as a cue to enter the sleep cycle. 

If your melatonin cycle is off, that means that your peaks are not when they should be. Could be they've gotten all screwed up from multiple days of inconsistent sleep times or general sleep deprivation, so you're having peaks and valleys all day (and you feel like a copy of a copy of a copy), or it could mean you have 2 peaks, but they're 5 hours from where they should be. As with jet lag. 

Now here's the big point that makes all this info useful: 

The only reasonable way to take melatonin is to take it at such a time that it will move your peak levels earlier or later. If you take it at a time when your level is just not anywhere near peaking, you'll experience something like a post-lunch slump, and then within an hour not only will you be fully awake again, but your melatonin will not peak again for several hours, because you've metabolized it. The best time to take it is about 45-60 minutes before you know you'll actually have a peak (or more simply, as you begin too feel slightly sleepy). So for instance if you've been staying up too late, you could take melatonin for a few days to move your cycle backwards an hour a day. But you can't move it 5 hours in one night -- it is counterproductive to take it 5 hours earlier than you would otherwise get tired enough to sleep. 

Likewise if your sleep is just weak, you can take it the same time every night to strengthen the cycle and force your circadian rythym to set that as your bedtime. 

Other things that affect this are lightness/darkness. Don't take melatonin and then turn on all the lights and watch TV waiting to pass out. Turn out the lights. I actually found when I first started taking 5-HTP (which again gets converted directly into serotonin and then eventually into melatonin) that it boosted my melatonin too high, so that when the sun set I would absolutely have to go to sleep, sometimes then waking at 10 or 11 pm, so I had to cut the dosage. 

If you've never taken melatonin, start with a quarter tab (typically it's sold as 3 mg, so ... .75 mg)  If that's cool, try 1.5 the next night. If you don't have adequate time after taking it to sleep (8 hours being a good estimate for adequate), maybe also reduce it from the 3. Like if you've been getting to sleep at 4 am but still need to get up at 7:30 for work, take half a tab at 3 am one night, half at 2 th next night, and wait until it's back to a normal bedtime to take a whole tab, because otherwise you'll be metabolizing the melatonin out of your system all morning and will feel groggy. 

Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, some SSRIs, and I'm sure many other things will interrupt your serotonin and/or melatonin production, sometimes in a good way. But it's good to reduce these if there's a problem with sleep before adding new drugs to counteract the problem. 

Lots of info, but perhaps useful to someone. 

Jemini

Oh and if this point wasn't clear -- if you needed to take melatonin beyond a few days, like 2-7, you shoul dbe seeing a doctor to establish what is really affecting your sleep cycle. It is best kept around as a short-term fix for certain types of insomnia, jet lag, and drifting schedule type stuff. 

...and this from Herpie:

Well, there are clinical studies about melatonin supplementation (not many of them though). Anyway, what you wrote above seems to make perfect sense in context of I knew about melatonin. 

I've tried to find something about rate of melatonin metabolism, and found this one:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.f...rieve&db=pubmed &dopt=Abstract&list_uids=15302228

Half life of an hour. So total elimination in at most a few hours.

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