Funny about Money

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

Melatonin: Does the Stuff Actually WORK???


quack! quack! quack! quack! quack! quack! quack! quack! quack! quack!

A few months ago, I bought a bottle of melatonin — a supposed sleep aid — at a local Walgreen’s. But after hearing the pharmacist, who seemed to be a certifiable moron, natter on and absurdly on about how it’s…oooooo!!!! homeoPATHic!!!, I figured it was a quack nostrum and didn’t bother to try it.

But lately I’ve become pretty desperate for sleep. So decided to try it, on the theory that it couldn’t do any more harm than a steady routine of four-hour nights.

The main ingredient in it is vitamin B-6, not in enough quantity to do you any harm unless maybe if you swallowed a whole bottle of the stuff…or rather, not unless you take it every day for a significant period. B-6 is neurotoxic, and the effects of overdose are irreversible. Neuropathy develops at around 200 milligrams; the smallest reported toxic doses have been 24 to 40 mg. These things contain 10 mg, so obviously you wouldn’t want to be dropping it if you were taking a regular vitamin supplement. But I don’t. There’s no evidence that vitamin B-6 treats insomnia, or much else of whatever ails you. It isn’t well regulated, because it’s not a prescription drug — what you see on the bottle’s label may not be what you get. But probably it’s not harmful in short doses over a short period.

Nor is there any evidence that melatonin effectively treats sleep disorders. But apparently it can help reset your system to synchronize with a normal circadian rhythm — i.e., cause you to sleep between dusk and dawn, instead of waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. It also apparently helps your blood pressure.

Well. I can tell you: there’s nothing like the endless frustration of insomnia to jack up your blood pressure. So if it actually keeps you asleep until 5:00 a.m. or so, that alone would help bring the old-fart blood pressure numbers into the reasonable range.

Anyway, there’s some evidence that the stuff helps the elderly to stay asleep until dawn. So, in desperation, last night about 10 p.m. I dropped a pill containing 5 mg — two to five times the recommended dose.

And lo! This morning I slept till 5:30 or 5:45…was rolled out of the sack by the dogs right at 6:00 a.m.

Holy sh!t.

Normally by 6 o’clock, I’ve fed and walked the dogs, fixed coffee, had breakfast, read the news, answered the email, cleaned the pool, taken a swim, watered the outdoor plants, and at least started a blog post or a client’s project.

Not only that, but contrary to published warnings, I’m not at all sleepy this morning. Benadryl, the only other thing that has ever helped me to stay asleep more than four or five hours, leaves me in a haze until noon the following day. It’s really unsafe to drive in that state, and I feel awful until the damn stuff wears off.

There are different types of insomnia. Some people can’t get to sleep at bed-time. Some wake up  in the middle of the night for a short period and fall back to sleep. Some wake up two or three hours before dawn and can’t get back to sleep.

Mine falls into the last category, which would be OK if it were practical to go to bed at 8 p.m. However, a 14-hour work day tends to militate against that… Last night I sent a finished project back to a Chinese mathematician and forthwith he sent me three more papers! AUGGH!

At any rate, summer is beginning to slip away — it’s 8:30 in the morning and still livable out here on the back porch, for the first time in weeks. When winter comes in, it’ll stay dark longer, and then the dogs and I will sleep longer naturally.

But wouldn’t it be marvelous if this nostrum actually did reset your internal clock so you’d stay asleep until dawn? Have you had any experience with the stuff?


Author: funny

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  1. I took benedryl for YEARS to sleep, usually washed down with a wine or two. And so groggy the next day, did it for years. Now I take melatonin every night and refuse to worry about it. I take it and 30 or 60 minutes later, I’m sleepy. of course I’m doing things like closing up the house, getting pets inside and reading quietly or taking a bath. I can count on it. Don’t fret about it – take it!

    • No problem falling asleep in the evening here: by 9 p.m., I’m so exhausted I can hardly hold my head up. The problem is, sleeping longer than about 5 hours. Go to bed at 9 and I’ll be up at 2 a.m.; wait till 10, and I wake up at 3. Ideal seems to be about 7 hours — I feel great the next day if I’m lucky enough to sleep that long. But would be happy just to get 6 hours in, on a regular basis.

  2. I’m glad it worked for you. I’ve had bouts of insomnia all my life and I took Melatonin for around a month when I was in my 20’s. Didn’t help at all and it caused some very mild stomach discomfort. Haven’t tried it since, but may give it another whirl if it continues to help you, which I really hope it does.
    Also, who knew vitamin B-6 was so dangerous? I take a multi-vitamin every morning which contains 2 mg. Apparently that’s the recommended daily dose.

  3. Holy crud!! I periodically have bouts of what you describe. I’ll get up round 2:30-3 AM to use the bathroom….and that’s it….I’m up. I use to fuss about it but now I just look upon it as an opportunity to get something accomplished….Like audit the CC accounts, file receipts, pay bills, balance the check books….check out the internet….catch up on reading. This goes on for a week or two and then for whatever reason I sleep straight thru again…crazy…
    You have me a bit concerned. I recently started taking B12 after reading an article on it’s many benefits. I began taking 1 tablet a day and I noticed I don’t get as sore when doing physical labor and seem to recover faster. It may be the “placebo effect”…BUT I’ll take it. Is it possible to OD on B12???

    • Not to the extent of vitamin B6:

      There are medical uses for vitamin B12. Supposedly it protects against Alzheimer’s, but I haven’t looked for any science to prove it — try doing a search in Google Scholar, looking for real studies published in recognizable scientific journals. Be careful, though: even Google Scholar is infested with woo-woo, and there are now several hundred fake academic journals out there.

      In the absence of a doctor’s prescription, I wouldn’t just swallow pills. You should get plenty of B12 in a reasonably balanced diet.

      Hmmmm….. A nice trout dinner will do the job. Obviously, this is an excellent excuse to go fishin’…

      • As you say, check with the doc about any supplements, however it’s not uncommon to have issues digesting B-12 from food sources as you get older. (Or even when you’re not older if you have something else affecting your digestion or develop pernicious anemia.) I had a couple years of chronic B-12 deficiency only relieved by regular injections. I ate all the right foods and didn’t have pernicious anemia, but if I stopped getting injections and relied only on food or oral supplements (and that also include sublingual tablets and drops) my B-12 levels started plummeting again. Luckily, I seem to be able to digest it again and am off the weekly injections for now. 🙂

  4. My doctor recommend Melatonin as a replacement for Tylenol PM and other sleep aids I was using. It has worked well for me – and as you said I don’t have that horrible groggy outcome the next morning.

    • Last night was the second try, and it again seems to have worked! Slept through till 5 a.m.: seven whole hours!

      A little cranky this morning — today having devolved into “one of those days” — but don’t feel like I’ve been hit upside the head with a baseball bat, which is the typical effect of Benadryl.

  5. In Finland they have milk with melatonin, called night milk. It’s also used to alleviate insomnia. Never tried it though.
    They also say that it’s collected from cows at the night time.

  6. I take melatonin nightly. It helps me fall asleep easier. Mother nature’s call still usually wakes me by about 6 but that usually means I’ve gotten 6-7 hours of sleep.

    When I first started taking it, I gad some fuzzy headed-ness for a few minutes after waking.

    I buy nature made and it doesn’t list B6 as an ingredient.

    • I think I’ll try to get one of the brands that’s highly rated for consistency and quality of its ingredients. And take a lot less of it: apparently 5 mg is enough to knock out a horse.

  7. I may give melatonin a try again. I used it years ago during a trip to southern Africa as an attempt to reset my body clock but it didn’t seem to have any effect on me then.

    My GYN recommended taking 500 mg of magnesium to help with sleep. Since there are lots of other benefits to magnesium I’ve been taking it for nearly a year now. It doesn’t seem to help me with the WASO insomnia (Wake After Sleep Onset…apparently the technical term for this type of insomnia), but it’s good for bone health.

    Much of my insomnia is due to stress and anxiety. If I can keep the stress and anxiety under control then I sleep a full night. Lately, I’ve been unsuccessful with it, though, and wake up after a REM cycle only to toss and turn for a couple hours. 🙁

  8. Yeah, boyoboy the stress will surely do the job on your snoozing efforts! Really, I don’t know what a person can do other than try to get a grip on the causes of the stress (which sometimes is possible; sometimes not) and maybe try to up the exercise significantly. I find that a fair amount of brisk exercise — especially walking and biking — does seem to run off the stress. But you have to do it several times a week…preferably every day, if you can swing it.

    But what the heck? When you’re awake at four in the morning anyway, you might as well get up early and go for a walk or a run!

    Waking up in the middle of the night is really common among women. I used to wake up at 2 a.m. like an alarm clock went off. As you get older, though, you tend to sleep through the wee hours and wake up right before dawn, like a dog. But then you find you can only sleep XX number of hours: if you go to bed at 9, you’ll wake up at 4; if you go to bed at 10, you’ll wake up at 5. It’s crazy!