- Last Updated: 21 January 2016 21 January 2016
This is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain and used by the body to regulate sleep/wake cycles. (It is at its highest level at night). It is considered to be fairly safe and has been found to be beneficial in far lower amounts than what most formulas contain. One ME/CFS and FM specialist recommends using only about 0.3 mg and not the standard 3.0 mg dose. Several precautions need to be taken with melatonin in those with cardiovascular risks, as it can affect blood pressure and trigger abnormal heart rhythm. It should be avoided by those taking blood-thinners. At higher levels it can also raise blood-sugar levels, aggravate Crohn's disease symptoms, and disrupt other hormones (which can lead to a change in menstrual patterns, for instance).
The rootstock portion of this plant (grown in North America and Europe) is dried and has been used as a mild sedative and sleep aid for hundreds of years. It is unique in that it will usually have a calming effect, but if someone is very fatigued, it can actually have a stimulating effect. Valerian root has been studied for treatment of anxiety and shown to have good results at 100 mg given 3 times per day for a 6-month period. The average dose for sleep will be 180 - 360 mg, depending on each individual's reaction. No clear benefit has been noticed at higher doses and therefore, the daily dose should not exceed 600 mg. Lemon balm is a member of the mint family and is known for its calming effect on anxiety and digestion. It is often combined with valerian in sleep formulas, to enhance the relaxing effect.
There are an overwhelming number of sleep formulas, many specifically marketed for ME/CFS or FM. These contain a wide variety of ingredients, most often herbs such as valerian, lemon balm, chamomile, passionflower and hops. Some formulas will also include amino acids, minerals, and Chinese herbs. Therefore, making a choice can become difficult. The best approach would be to work with a naturopathic doctor or holistic practitioner who is well informed about the medicinal use of these herbal preparations. Otherwise, consider preparations with the fewest active ingredients and use herbs which are familiar to you.
Calcium and magnesium are often used at night to help relax muscles and promote sleep. These minerals offer a wide range of other benefits further described under those for improved energy. Since magnesium is an electrolyte which influences heartbeat and potassium levels (which also affect heartbeat), it is wise to only supplement with magnesium or potassium with regular checks by a doctor of serum blood levels of both minerals.