The pineal gland is a small pine-cone shaped endocrine gland that secretes melatonin, a derivative of serotonin. Melatonin synthesizes information about the environmental light around the body. This has a bearing on the body's sleep-wake pattern or circadian rhythm. It also affects reproduction and other biological rhythms. Melatonin serves to lower blood pressure and strengthen immunity. The antioxidant properties of melatonin are also said to increase body resistance.
Melatonin - The Sleep Drug
Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland that is located at the center of the brain. This hormone regulates the body's sleep and wake cycles. The chemical name for melatonin is N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine and this hormone is crucial to the biological circadian rhythm of the body. Melatonin plays the role of helping our bodies to understand when it's time to go to sleep and when to wake up. Melatonin production hinges on the presence of light - more melatonin is synthesized at night when compared to it's day time production. Consequently, prolonged reduced exposure to light during seasonal changes can lead to a sleep disorder or 'winter blues'. This happens on account of increased production of melatonin. Insufficient production of melatonin can lead to insomnia.
Melatonin works as an antioxidant - it protects against cellular aging of the brain cells. It plays a vital role as a protector of the immune system. As melatonin production reduces over time, shortened sleep time is noticed in older persons. Melatonin is prescribed for those suffering from insomnia, stress and jet lag.
Side Effects of Melatonin: Reported side effects of Melatonin include sleepiness and headache. It has been seen that people on melatonin experience abdominal cramps, dizziness and irritability. Decreased sex drive in men and women is also noticed. Those who suffer from depression tend to experience worsening symptoms. Persons having liver disease or High Blood pressure may be at higher risk of experiencing melatonin side effects. The effects of melatonin when taken along with other medicines is yet to be verified. Melatonin is contraindicated for women who are pregnant or nursing. Women who are trying to conceive must avoid this hormone as it might have contraceptive properties. If you suffer from severe allergies or auto-immune diseases, melatonin might be contraindicated for you.
Dosage of Melatonin: Melatonin is usually taken as 1 - 6 mg tablets daily. Initially larger doses can be taken and subsequently the dosage can be reduced. Typically one capsule of 1 mg is taken at night ½ hour (h.s. hora somni)before bedtime. A dosage of 3 mg is sometimes resorted to for severe cases of insomnia.
Antihistamines are widely used for allergies and motion sickness. As they exhibit properties that can indirectly induce drowsiness, there is a class of antihistamines, sold as OTC sleeping pills. However, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine warns that such pills should be used only occasionally. Beware that there is a price to pay for buying OTC antihistamines. Some OTC sedatives combine antihistamines with pain relievers and some combine it with alcohol.
They can induce abnormal muscle spasms. Other side effects are blurred vision, constipation, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, dry mouth and general dehydration. Therefore she needs to consume plenty of water if she is taking any antihistamine. In elders and children, antihistamines can cause nervousness and insomnia. Similarly, asthmatics should steer clear of antihistamines as these can aggravate their condition. They can affect the behavior of the fetus in the womb. Antihistamines also interfere with lactation. Be warned that OTC antihistamines should never be clubbed with alcohol or other sedatives.
Although it is construed that some antihistamines are non prescription sleep aids, and they are more sedating than prescription hypnotics, beware that their effectiveness may decrease over time. More importantly, OTC sedative is only meant for short-term insomnia and by and large the long term effectiveness and safety of the OTC drugs is questionable. However, for transient insomnia or insomnia based on illness or depression, antihistamines can be an effective OTC tool.
Sedative antihistamine list includes (the following list also contains suggested dosage for an adult. Always take the medications e.m.p (ex modo prescripto as directed by the physician):
These come in various brand and trade names and they can be taken as tablets, syrups or nasal sprays. Droplet form for use in the eyes is also available. The effects of these antihistamines including drowsiness, dizziness, headache, loss of appetite, vision changes, irritability, dry mouth, stomach upset should subside, when the body begins to adjust with the medication. If these side effects continue, it is better to contact the medical practitioner. Sedative antihistamines may be taken with food and milk. Sustained release low acting tablets can be swallowed whole as chewing the sustained release long acting tablets may destroy the action and increase the side effects. Chewable tablets can be chewed thoroughly and swallowed. Suspensions should be shaken before food consumption.
This is a hormone produced by human body – by the pineal gland, a pea-sized structure at the center of the brain. This regulates sleep and wakefulness. Taken as a supplement, melatonin helps to reduce delayed sleep syndrome. This also improves sleep quality and lengthens the period of sleep. Day time alertness also seems to improve when this is taken. Melatonin can treat insomnia without altering the sleep pattern of the individual. It also does not impair any performance related skills.
This may help elders with insomnia as the amount of melatonin produced in the body seems to decrease as one gets older, although it is not recommended for chronic insomnia. Melatonin works on the circadian rhythm – the biological clock that regulates our sleep and wake cycles. Many become melatonin deficient due to age, work schedules and stress. Melatonin supplements are a quick way to adjust the lack of melatonin in the body and rebalance the sleep cycle. These are available OTC and when used in conjunction with herbs like chamomile and lemon balm, help lull the body to sleep acting as a true sedative.
Although Melatonin shows good effects for the treatment of insomnia, if used in excess, this sedative can produce side effects including sexual irregularities, mood swings and depression. Although by and large safe when used in moderation, it is unsafe for small children and pregnant women to use melatonin supplements. It is also not recommended for those with lymphoma, extreme allergies, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, auto immune diseases and for cancer patients. Some melatonin sedatives include:
As such Melatonin can cause sleepiness and drowsiness, and if taken with sedatives that cause sleepiness, then too much of sleepiness can result. Research indicates that quick release Melatonin can be more effective than sustained-release formulations, especially when used as sedatives. Intramuscular injections of 20 mg of Melatonin are also available.
This is also found naturally in the body. This OTC aid can not only help to sleep but also treats depression and chronic fatigue by promoting serotonin production in the body. Unless consumed in large quantities, SAMe has no known side effects.
Antidepressants used as sedatives
Although the FDA has not approved the use of antidepressants as sedatives, there are those who believe that insomnia is related to depression. As with any other medication for depression, there is a significant risk of suicidal thoughts particularly in adolescents and children. Approximate dosage of antidepressants s.o.s (si opus sit only if there is a need) :
Citalopram 20 mg
Escitalopram 5-10 mg
Fluvoxamine 100 mg
Fluoxetine 20 mg
Paroxetine 20 mg
Sertraline 50-75 mg
Venlafaxine 75 mg
Donormyl sleeping pills are available without prescription and they are approved by the FDA for non-prescription. They are used in the treatment of insomnia. 25 mg of Donormyl is the strongest non-prescription sleeping pill. Possible common side effects of antidepressant sedatives include diarrhea, dizziness, headache, insomnia, rash, vomiting, blurred vision, decreased appetite, cold symptoms, nervousness, cramps, hallucinations, hair loss and decreased coordination.
OTC sedatives side effects
Although OTC sedatives can be effective for an occasional sleepless night, the longer you take them, the less they are likely to make you sleepy. OTC sleep aids can leave you feeling groggy and unwell the next day. This is like the 'hangover' effect. Much remains unknown about the safety and effectiveness of OTC sleep aids.
Dizziness and forgetfulness, clumsiness, feeling off balance, dry mouth and throat are some common side effects. Serious risks of OTC sedatives include severe allergic reaction, facial swelling, memory lapses, hallucinations, suicidal tendencies, sleep-related complexities such as sleep-walking, sleep-driving, and sleep-eating. If any unusual sleep-related behavior is exhibited, consult the doctor immediately.
Over-the-counter sedative tips
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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: December 3, 2023