We live in a world where 10% of the adult population suffers from chronic insomnia which affects people’s psychomotor performance, causes sleepiness, accidents, and memory impairment(3).
Shift workers are also in this situation where they cannot sleep during normal hours and these are usually hospital and airport workers to name a few.
So what else happens when you have continuous loss of sleep?
Melatonin for Insomnia
Well in 2001, a study has found that increased exposure to light has an increased risk of breast cancer (1). This is due to the fact that with light exposure there is a decreased melatonin production in the pineal gland. Melatonin is our natural sleep hormone but it also is an antioxidant (2).
So how do you minimize disruptions to our natural circadian rhythms (sleep patterns)?
Well quitting our jobs isn’t on everyone’s must do list, but simply using melatonin as a supplement can help you reach the goals of having a good night’s sleep.
Melatonin, the human body’s natural sleep hormone, is useful in restoring the natural sleep patterns lost by shift workers.
A study in 1993 showed that a 5mg melatonin supplementation helped improved sleep and alertness (5). In addition, another study conducted in 1997, also showed benefits for jet lag and shift work (6).
While the safety of long-term melatonin use in humans has never been studied, a study on regular melatonin use up to a 6 month period revealed that the only significant short-term side effect of melatonin is sleepiness following ingestion (5 mg or less) (4).
However, this side effect may be favorable to night shift workers or chronic insomniacs.
Although the safety of melatonin has been researched, it would be in your best interest to consult your physician before attempting any drugs or supplements as reactions can occur with any medication.
- Scott Davis, et al. Night Shift Work, Light at Night, and Risk of Breast Cancer. JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst (2001) 93 (20): 1557-1562.
- Dun-Xian Tan, et al. Melatonin: a hormone, a tissue factor, an autocoid, a paracoid, and an antioxidant vitamin. Journal of Pineal research, Volume 34, Issue 1, pages 75–78, January 2003.
- T.Roth. Insomnia: Epidemiology, characteristics, and consequences. Clinical Cornerstone, Volume 5, Issue 3, Pages 5-15.
- Josephine Arendt, et al. Safety of Melatonin in Long-Term Use(?). J Biol Rhythms December 1997 vol. 12 no. 6 673-681.
- Simon Folkard. Can Melatonin Improve Shift Workers’ Tolerance of the Night Shift? Some Preliminary Findings. Chronobiology International 1993, Vol. 10, No. 5 , Pages 315-320
- Josephine Arendt , et al. Efficacy of Melatonin Treatment in Jet Lag, Shift Work, and Blindness. J Biol Rhythms December 1997 vol. 12 no. 6 604-617