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In a pilot study done in 2012, women who had premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) or PMS were found to have lower levels of melatonin, the hormone made by the pineal gland that regulates sleep. This finding may explain the sleep disturbances that women who suffer with PMDD/PMS often experience. Disturbed sleep can cause daytime drowsiness as well as irritability. Women were tested during the first and second halves of their menstrual cycles for mood, ovarian hormones and 24 hour plasma melatonin. Those who had PMDD not only had lower levels at night but also had a reduction in melatonin production in the second half of their cycle, when premenstrual symptoms occur. The also reported a worsening of their moods during this phase. Researchers are continuing to study this correlation.
Your body should naturally make melatonin in the dark hours of the day, keep the levels high until the early morning hours when they should naturally decrease, and then it will be replaced with serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of happiness and alertness. Melatonin is a precursor for serotonin meaning that you need it in your system to make serotonin. So if your melatonin levels are too low not only will you have trouble sleeping, which can cause stress and irritability, you won’t be able to make enough serotonin to lift your mood and energy during waking hours. During the winter when light levels are low, people may also have a hard time making the serotonin they need during the day through light exposure. This can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD and a worsening of PMDD symptoms. Supplementation with melatonin can have a very positive effect on people suffering from these disorders.
Melatonin can be found in very small quantities in certain foods such as meats, grains fruits and vegetables but not in large enough amounts to have an effect on sleep. Many people take melatonin supplements simply to improve their quality of sleep. It may also help those who suffer from cluster headaches, people who work a night shift or have odd working hours and may help people post-surgery with confusion and sleep disturbances. Doses can vary widely from person to person so it is good to start with a low dose initially and work up slowly as needed. Melatonin is available in capsules or liquid and is safe for children and adults.