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Melatonin for Jetlag, Unsafe?

Update Date: Jan 31, 2017 07:30 AM EST

To avoid the inconvenience of jet lag, a common nuisance for long-distance travelers, a growing number of people are taking melatonin supplements not only to relieve jet lag but as well as other sleep problems. In the United States alone, 3.1 million Americans took melatonin and the number of users has already doubled in the US from 2007 to 2012.

 A survey conducted by the government in 2016 revealed that 1.3 percent of the American population are already taking melatonin to address several sleeping problems and to fight jet lag, The Guardian reports.

Melatonin tablets, however  are less common in the UK and can only be given to treat sleep orders for adults 55 and over. It is not an over-the-counter drug and is taken in slow-release form. These supplements are also rarely prescribed for children with sleeping problems associated with ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism.

British travelers are therefore resorting to buying melatonin tablets from the United States and Canada in bulk, where they can be bought without a prescription. It is treated as a nutritional supplement in these countries. Employees with shifting scheudles are also using the supplement to help them sleep during the day and can acquire melatonin via online pharmacies.

However, there are some side effects that comes with taking melatonin, most especially for people who has epilepsy and those who are taking blood-thinning drug warfin. Scientists also point out that melatonin bought as nutritional supplements are not subjected to strict standards, unlike prescription medicines. This makes it hard to be sure of the content of the tablets most especially for the medicines bought online.

According to WebMD, melatonin is a natural hormone in the pineal gland. Its production is triggered by darkness and inhibited by light. However, scientists also reveal that melatonin is not a sleep hormone. The release of the hormone in the bloodstream prepares the body for sleep. It was originally harvested from bovine pineal glands in the 50's to treat skin-diseases and were later produced synthetically in the 90s.

A scientifically proven consensus on how melatonin can help in bringing sleep more quickly is not yet available. In some researches, though, it is believed that this is possible due to the slight dilation of the blood vessels in the skin, lowering body temperature in the process, thus promoting sleep.

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