Melatonin gains popularity as students search for ways to help them sleep
By Sari Royer’16
Junior Isabelle Scott is like many students; juggling a busy schedule of school, sports and extracurricular activities while still trying to get an adequate amount of sleep.
This can be difficult for teens. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need about eight to ten hours of sleep each night.
However, one study reported that only 15 percent of students get, at most, eight hours of sleep per school night.
Scott tries to go to bed around 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. each night.
When it is a school night and Scott can’t fall asleep, she searches for something to help her fall asleep quickly. This is when she will look into her medicine cabinet for the bottle of melatonin and take one or two pills, which will cause her to feel drowsy and eventually fall asleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, melatonin is a hormone made in the pineal gland of your brain. During the day, the pineal gland is inactive but when the sun goes down, the gland turns on and melatonin levels in the blood increase causing one to feel less alert. Blood levels typically stay like this for about 12 hours or until 9 a.m.
“I don’t really feel that different after I take it, but somehow it does make me tired,” Scott said. “It doesn’t knock me out. I just slowly get tired until I fall asleep.”
Scott does not believe taking melatonin will have long lasting side effects for her because she does not take it addictively, only on the occasional school night.
“If you take it every night you can become immune to it and it doesn’t work as well, because your body might adapt to the medicine and it will stop working or help you fall asleep” Scott said. “You can become dependent on it.”
Scott credits most of her good nights of sleep to melatonin and believes there are no negative consequences to taking it.
At the beginning of the school year, junior Sydney Metcalf had problems falling back into a normal sleep schedule. Her body could not get used to the routine of waking up at 7 a.m. and going to bed around 11 p.m. So, she visited her doctor and he suggested taking melatonin. He explained that this drug is more natural than other aids and, unlike sleeping pills, there is no risk of addiction or withdrawal symptoms with melatonin.
Metcalf started taking melatonin to help her fall asleep, and she would take it every night. When it began to get dark outside Metcalf would take one pill, and in about 30 minutes she would begin to fall asleep.
Metcalf explains that melatonin was more of a sleep aid for her than a sleep inducer. It did not have an extremely strong effect, but it definitely helped her fall asleep.
Like Scott, Metcalf agrees that melatonin does not have long lasting side effects, because she took it every night for a little over a month and was able to transition into a normal sleep schedule without going through withdrawal.
“Taking too much melatonin could turn into an issue,” Metcalf said. “But I think melatonin is a lot safer than normal sleeping pills.”
Brent Bauer, a doctor at the Mayo Clinic of General Internal Medicine, does not recommend teens or children take melatonin. This is because of the lack of studies and research done on children taking melatonin.
Another concern about children taking melatonin is that it has other effects on the body besides helping with sleep. It also plays a role in how children’s and teens’ bodies mature. Further studies are necessary to show if taking melatonin as a child or teenager can have consequential effects on a persons sexual development.
However, Metcalf disagrees and believes melatonin can be beneficial to students.
“I think that melatonin could help students if they’re having trouble sleeping, Metcalf said. “So they’re not exhausted during school.”
Weather you use melatonin or not; think about the consequences before you take sleep inducing medication.