Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Melatonin Redux

So the night before last, having not slept much in the previous 24 hours, I decided to give the melatonin one last try, on the theory that three’s a charm. The first time I used the stuff, it worked to keep me asleep for seven hours. The second time, as I remarked in my post on this experiment, a half-pill left me feeling “cranky” — that was an extreme understatement. I was on a tear for about 2/3 of the day: everything, but EVERYTHING made me mad as a cat.

But nevertheless, the three- and four-hour nights soon returned, leaving me too tired to function during the day. So I took another pill.

Bad idea.

The result was a migraine, an episode of optic neuritis, and swollen ankles. I slept like a rock but awoke feeling just awful! I haven’t had a migraine in years, nor have I had the needle-jab in the eye, which is associated with the migraines, in that long. The needle-jab makes the migraine feel like a fun ride in the park — my god that hurts!!!

Although some people have complained of edema in the ankles following a dose of melatonin, there’s no proof of an association. In fact, it may have been brought on by a pair of new peds I put on to keep the toenail nostrum in place and not get it all over the sheets — those are elastic-y all over and kind of tight. Within five minutes of removing those, the swelling went down.

On the other hand, I’m like a canary in a coal mine where meds and nostrums are concerned: if something has a weird side effect, I will be among the one in 64,000 who get it.

But the headache sure as hell didn’t go away. At one point, too, I got so dizzy I had to sit down.

Among the top side effects of melatonin are sleepiness (check!), irritability (check! in spades…), headache (check!), dizziness (check!), and short-lasting feelings of depression (check!).

I hadn’t made the connection between the snake oil and the depression until I found a reference to it at the Mayo website. For several days after I started trying the stuff, I fell into such a deep blue funk I literally could not work. I just sat here staring that the computer. I have done nothing on Facebook: dropped off the face of the earth in the writers’ group I joined up, and have done no other marketing work at all anywhere else. Nor did I do any work on the book, which is now almost finished.

This interesting piece at the Huffington Post suggests melatonin should be regulated as a drug by the FDA, not as a “dietary supplement” (for godsake!). Many of the formulations you can buy off the shelf contain way more of the stuff than you need to make you fall asleep.

It’s easy to take too much, and most of melatonin’s side effects are the result of just that. While there’s no evidence that too much melatonin could be fatal, or even remotely life-threatening, exceeding the proper dosage can upset the body’s natural processes and rhythms.

“With some hormones, if you take too much you can really put your body in danger,” says Dr. [Richard] Wurtman [the MIT neuroscientist who patented the drug as an insomnia nostrum]. “With melatonin, you’re not in danger, but you’re also not very comfortable. It won’t kill you, but it’ll make your life pretty miserable.”

Yeah. You could say that.

By about 8 p.m., the effects were wearing off. In a haze all day long, I’d fought taking a nap, because anytime I sleep during the day, I’m not gonna sleep at night. But now I began to feel almost revved up…like…say…like it was dawn!

The melatonin seemed to have reversed the time of day. It was like the body wanted to sleep all day long — two or three p.m. felt just exactly like two or three a.m. But now that it was dark outside, the body wanted to spring awake.

So along about 11 p.m. I dropped a half a tablet of Benadryl. That worked: slept 6½ hours and awoke feeling rested and enjoying the illusion of being in control of life.

There it is, then. Don’t let minor annoyances push you to experimenting with over-the-counter nostrums and snake oils. There are worse things than not sleeping at night. And if you have a real ailment? Seek medical treatment…from a doctor. One with “M.D.” or “D.O” appended to the name.


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Author: funny

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  1. Hmmm….Does exercise help? I know with me if I have a fairly physically active day …. I tend to sleep well. On the other hand if I have a bunch of crap in my head….projects to do….family to worry about….crazy tenants….my sleep pattern suffers. I then may wake up at 3 or 4 AM to use the facilities….and that’s it…I’m up. I use to fuss with it and try to go back to sleep to no avail. Now I just find something to do that won’t wake DW and gets me a head start on my day.
    As for supplements, you are absolutely right. I had a DF who began taking St. John’s Wart for depression which gave her terrible side effects. She went to her Doc who about had a fit….Hope you get back on track soon…

    • Sure, it would if it weren’t 110 degrees and 30% humidity out there! It is just TOO effing hot to tromp around, and with the influx of bums, it’s not safe to walk at night or before dawn.

      I’ve decided the same: go with the flow. If I wake up at midnight or 1 a.m., I can probably spend a couple of hours puttering and then go back to sleep. If I wake up at 4 a.m., then it’s just time to get up.

      Usually the internal alarm goes off at 4 here.

  2. You really do have buzzard’s luck when it comes to medications/supplements! I’m really grateful that melatonin only gave me some stomach discomfort. I don’t remember of it made depressed or irritable, but since I currently work as a cashier, I don’t need to use anything that might make me snap at a customer. ;o)
    I’m not real big on taking any kind of supplement unless a medical professional recommends it and I think I’ll continue to follow that tendency. Even so, I may buy a small bottle of Benadryl to see if it helps me enough to keep using it.

    • Benadryl in bottles comes in both capsules and tablets. Try to find it in tablet form, because it’s easy to snap these in half. I find 1/2 Benadryloid (I always buy generic) will keep me asleep as long as needed without leaving me in an impenetrable haze. It’s possible that even 1/4 of a dose would do the trick, though I’ve been too lazy to try it…you can snap a tablet in half with your fingers, but I think breaking it into quarters would require you to get out a knife and dork around with it.

      • Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve got a pill splitter around here somewhere if I can remember where I put it. I may buy some after I leave the training session at work tonight.

  3. When a doctor recommended it to me, she said to take only .5 – 1 mg, meaning that I get 2 mg tablets and bite them in half. She also said to get tablets that contain Melatonin alone, and to take them 30-45 min before wanting to sleep, and at the same time each day. Just FWIW.

    • Yeah! That makes sense.

      Wurtman, the guy who brought the hormone out as an insomnia remedy, was saying to the Huff Post that people can easily overdose on the stuff. The pills I have, which were recommended by a pharmacist when I asked about it, are FIVE milligrams! She called it “homeopathic,” clearly not knowing what that means but evidently imagining that was something sure-fire and also safe. When I said to her that homeopathic nostrums are “safe” because they contain next to nothing, she was flummoxed.

      These OTC concoctions clearly need to be regulated. We have here, for example, a drug that evidently works as desired under some circumstances, that probably won’t kill you (assuming you’re not a small child), but that possibly can mess you up. Americans need to know which of the varieties of snake oil on the market are just that — nonsense; which may actually do something and if so WHAT they may do; and how much one should (or should not) take. And we have someone who’s supposed to be an expert — a pharmacist — who hasn’t a clue!

  4. I think my GYN also had passionflower or something like that on her list of things to try for insomnia. I’ll have to wait until the end of the week when I’m back home to look it up. I do recall her telling me that it would need to be taken an hour before bedtime since it tends to rev you up for a short time first. I know my insomnia is mostly caused by anxiety these days. I’m eager to get to surgery day so I will have nothing more strenuous to deal with than healing for several weeks.