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hegemonicon comments on Open Thread: April 2010 - Less Wrong

4 Post author: Unnamed 01 April 2010 03:21PM

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Comment author: [deleted] 01 April 2010 05:46:36PM *  15 points [-]

After the top level post about it, I bought a bottle of Melatonin to try. I've been taking it for 3 weeks. Here are my results.

Background: Weekdays I typically sleep for ~6 hours, with two .5 hour naps in the middle of the day (once at lunch and once when I get home from work). Weekends I sleep till I feel like getting up, so I usually get around 10-11 hours.

I started with a 3mg pill, then switched to a ~1.5 mg pill (I cut them in half) after being extremely tired the next day. I take it about an hour before I go to sleep.

The first thing I noticed was that it makes falling asleep much easier. It's always been a struggle for me to fall asleep (usually I have to lay there for an hour or more), but now I'm almost always out cold within 20 minutes.

I've also noticed that I feel much less tired during the day, which was my impetus for trying it in the first place. However, I'm not sure how much of this is a result of needing less sleep, and how much is a result of me falling asleep faster and thus sleeping for longer. But it's definitely noticeable.

Getting up in the morning is not noticeably easier.

No evidence that it's habit forming. I'm currently not taking it on weekends (I found myself needing a nap even after getting 10-11 hours of sleep), and I don't notice any additional difficulty going to bed beyond what I would normally have.

I seemed to have more intense dreams the first several days taking it, but they seem to have gone back to normal (or I've gotten used to them/don't remember them).

Overall it seems to work (for me at least) exactly as gwern described, and I'd happily recommend it to anyone else who has difficulty sleeping.

Comment author: alasarod 01 April 2010 11:54:18PM 4 points [-]

I took it for at least 8 weeks, primarily on weekdays. I found after a while that I was waking up at 4am, sometimes unable to get back to sleep. I had some night sweats too. May not be a normal response, but I found that if I take it in moderation it does not have these effects.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 April 2010 02:57:29PM 3 points [-]

I wonder if you need to get back to sleep after waking up at 4 AM.

Comment author: gwern 08 June 2012 08:35:36PM 0 points [-]

I found that if I take it in moderation it does not have these effects.

So you are still using it after those 8 weeks?

Comment author: Matt_Simpson 02 April 2010 06:37:36PM *  2 points [-]

I've been trying it as well for ~2 months (with some gaps).

Normally I have trouble falling asleep, but have no problem staying asleep, so the main reason I take melatonin is to help fall asleep.

Currently, I take 2 5mg pills. Taking 1 doesn't have a very noticeable effect on my ability to fall asleep, but 2 seems to do the trick. However, I have to be sure that I give myself 7-8 hours for sleep, otherwise getting up is more difficult and I may be very groggy the next day. This can be problematic because sometimes I just have to stay up slightly later doing homework and because I can't take the melatonin I end up barely getting any sleep at all.

I haven't noticed any habit forming effects, though some slight effects might be welcome if it helped me to remember to take the supplement every night ;)

edit: its actually two 3mg pills, not 5mg. I googled the brand walmart carries since that's where I bought mine from, and it said 5mg on the bottle. Now that I'm home, I see that my bottle is actually 3mg.

Comment author: Liron 02 April 2010 12:12:21AM 2 points [-]

I also tried it out after reading that LW post. At first it was fantastic at getting me to fall asleep within 30 minutes (I'm a good sleeper, it would only take me 30 minutes because I would be going to sleep not tired in order to wake up earlier) and I would wake up feeling alert.

Now unfortunately I wake up feeling the same and basically have stopped noticing its effects. The only time I take it is when I want to go to sleep and I'm not tired.

Also: During the initial 1-2 week period of effectiveness, I had intense and vivid and stressful dreams (or maybe I simply remembered my normal dreams better).

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 01 April 2010 07:29:46PM 2 points [-]

The easily available product for me is a blend of 3mg melatonin/25mg theanine. 25mg is a heavy tea-drinker's dose, and I see no reason to consume theanine at all (even dividing the pills in half), so I haven't bought any.

Does anyone have some evidence recommending for/against taking theanine? In my view, the health benefits of tea drinking are negligible, and theanine is just one of many compounds in tea.

Comment author: JenniferRM 02 April 2010 05:58:43AM *  5 points [-]

Theanine may be "one of many compounds found in tea" but, on the recommendation of an acquaintance I tried taking theanine itself as an experiment once (from memory maybe 100mg?). First I read up on it a little and it sounded reasonably safe and possibly beneficial and I drank green tea anyway so it seemed "cautiously acceptable" to see what it was like in isolation. Basically I was wondering if it helped me relax, focus, and/or learn better.

The result was a very dramatic manic high that left me incapable intellectually directed mental focus (as opposed to focus on whatever crazy thing popped into my head and flittered away 30 minutes later) for something like 35 hours. Also, I couldn't sleep during this period.

In retrospect I found it to be somewhat scary and it re-confirmed my general impression of the bulk of "natural" supplements. Specifically, it confirmed my working theory that the lack of study and regulation of supplements leads to a market full of many options that range from worthless placebo to dangerously dramatic, with tragically few things in the happy middle ground of safe efficacy.

Melatonin is one of the few supplements that I don't put in this category, however in that case I use less than "the standard" 3mg dose. When I notice my sleep cycle drifting unacceptably I will spend a night or two taking 1.5mg of melatonin (using a pill cutter to chop 3mg pills in half) to help me fall asleep and then go back to autopilot. The basis for this regime is that my mother worked in a hospital setting and 1.5mg was what various doctors recommended/authorized for patients to help them sleep.

There was a melatonin fad in the late 1990's(?) where older people were taking melatonin as a "youth pill" because endogenous production declines with age. I know of no good studies supporting that use, but around that time was when the results about sleep came out, showing melatonin to be effective even for "jet lag" as a way to reset one's internal clock swiftly and safely.

Comment author: Kevin 02 April 2010 06:15:44AM *  2 points [-]

That reaction sounds rare. Do you think 20 cups of tea would have triggered a similar reaction in you?

There is a huge variation based on dosage for all things you can ingest: food, drug, supplement, and "other". Check out the horrors of eating a whole bottle of nutmeg. http://www.erowid.org/experiences/subs/exp_Nutmeg.shtml

Comment author: gwern 03 April 2010 01:36:15AM 0 points [-]

Do you think 20 cups of tea would have triggered a similar reaction in you?

Who knows? I doubt she'll ever find out. 20 cups of tea is a lot. 10 or 15 cups will send you to the bathroom every half hour, assuming your appetite doesn't decline so much that you can't bring yourself to drink any more.

Comment author: wedrifid 01 April 2010 09:01:41PM 0 points [-]

From memory it is a 'mostly harmless' way to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. This is a relatively rare result given that things with an anxiolytic effect often produce dependence. Works mostly by increasing GABA in the brain, with a bit of a boost to dopamine too. Some people find it also helps them focus.

See also sublutamine, a synthetic analogue. It is used to promote endurance, particularly the kind caused by residual lethargy that sometimes hangs around after depression. Also provides a stimulant effect while also being relaxing, or at least not as agitating as stimulants can tend to be.

Comment author: Jack 02 April 2010 12:30:42AM 0 points [-]

Thanks. It would be really helpful if people talking about their experiences would describe the entirety of their psychostimulant usage since how they interact and whether or not other drugs can be replaced are important things to know about Melatonin.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 April 2010 03:56:40AM 1 point [-]

I am not any other drugs or medication. The only thing that would qualify as a stimulant is caffeine - I have a coffee in the morning and a soda at lunch.