Anvisa released the sale of melatonin as a food supplement – without a prescription. Known as “sleep hormone”, the substance has the function of promoting relaxation and assisting in the modulation of the sleep-wake cycle, popularly known as “biological clock”.
Of course, melatonin is a hormone released in the brain by the pineal gland, when the intensity of natural light decreases with dusk. As the luminosity increases, with the dawn, the production decreases so that the person can wake up. Consequently, deficient production of this hormone can disrupt the circadian cycle, leading to sleep problems.
“But it’s worth remembering that not every sleep disorder is insomnia. There are different disorders caused by different causes. For those who suffer from insomnia at the beginning of the cycle – when the person has difficulty falling asleep – a dose of melatonin can help, because it will increase the peak of this substance in the blood and facilitate the understanding of the brain that it is time to sleep” , emphasizes Fidel Castro, a neurologist at Unimed-BH.
The specialist explains the importance of follow-up and medical advice, as each disorder requires a specific treatment and melatonin is not indicated for all cases. Fidel emphasizes that the long-term use of the synthetic version has not yet been studied, and that it has some side effects.
“Gastrointestinal problems, mood disorders, nightmares are some of the effects that melatonin can cause. Therefore, the substance needs to be used with caution and monitoring, we cannot leave these side symptoms as something commonplace”, he concludes.
The doctor recommends using melatonin a few hours before bedtime, as its purpose is to promote and facilitate sleep induction. Fidel says that the effectiveness of melatonin has been demonstrated in people who have difficulty initiating sleep, for those who suffer from maintenance insomnia – when they wake up in the middle of the night – the substance will have little effectiveness.
Like Fidel Castro, Gustavo Protti, also a neurologist, points out that inappropriate consumption of this version can lead to excess and cause inconvenient side effects, such as excessive sleepiness, headache, nausea, dizziness, irritability and abdominal discomfort.
“Night workers, who need to sleep during the day, people who travel a lot and often face time differences, or the elderly, who can naturally produce less melatonin, are examples of cases that can benefit from supplementation with the synthetic version , to maintain a restorative sleep”, explains Gustavo.
Therefore, although Anvisa has authorized the use of melatonin as a food supplement and not as a medicine, that is, not for the purpose of treating, preventing or curing diseases, but to replace bioactive substances in a food supplement, its use should not be indiscriminate, because it can bring harm to health. People with sleep problems should first seek medical help.