It is not just me.
A few days ago, I started taking melatonin, not because I cannot sleep. I want better sleep. I notice that I do feel more rested, even with my cat now waking me up before the crack of dawn. She does let the sleeping dogs lie. More than this surprising discovery is my dreams. They are intense and bizarre, in a wonderful way, thankfully.
If you google (as you do) melatonin + weird dreams, the internet brings up quite a trove of stories and articles. It turns out it is not just me.
Why do people take melatonin?
Melatonin is naturally produced by the pineal gland in the range of about 0.3mg per day when it gets dark. It controls our sleep-wake cycle. Peak levels of melatonin measure at the darkest of darkness. That’s when we dream.
At a dosage of usually 1 to 3mg, melatonin is a common supplement for sleep these days, which is not unsurprising given our light pollution. (Always start with a small amount like 0.25 and 0.5mg; too high a dosage promotes wakefulness.)
Melatonin is not so much for insomnia as it is for regulating the sleep and body clock. It is also a hormone (but not a sleep hormone i.e. it does not induce sleep) so best check in with your physician. There does not seem to be strong consensus on effects of longterm use.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, research (some preliminary) shows possible other uses for melatonin – improving pregnancy rates for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, epilepsy, IBS, and sun protection. 1
MARK JOSEPH STERN, My 9-Year Love Affair with Melatonin
I dream and often remember my dreams, though I have not mastered lucid dreaming. These melatonin dreams, as Mark Joseph Stern writes, “are not just normal dreams kicked up a few notches in intensity. There are a different type of dream – more akin (I am told) to a lysergic hallucination than a typical oneiric vision.” Like him, I wake up having gone down to a deeper understanding with better processed thoughts and emotions.
Dreams = good.
Dream is the personalized myth, myth the depersonalized dream; both myth and dream are symbolic in the same general way of the dynamics of teh psyche. But in the dream the forms are quirked by the peculiar troubles of the dreamer, whereas in myth the problems and solutions shown are directly valid for all mankind.
Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces
So why are these dreams different?
Some sleep doctors suggest that those taking melatonin are already sleep-challenged and so by taking the supplement, they may just be experiencing “normal” REM.2
Melatonin impacts how good and how long the Rapid Eye Moment cycle is. REM accounts for about 25% of our sleep and occurs in cycles so we get repeated REM to process, store memories, and balance moods. That is when we dream.
Some people report experiencing vivid dreams for a short time while some like Mark Stern still does after nine years of taking melatonin, which for him, has not lessened its beneficial effects all this time.
I am enjoying these dreams, these very strange and delicious dreams that make me go “hmmm” in the morning. They certainly make for fertile self inquiry and writing.
If you need the melatonin to regulate your sleep and do not enjoy bizarre dreams, reducing your dosage should do the trick.
If you have yet to look at other factors of low melatonin (such as those listed above), that is also a good idea. Foods that increase melatonin production include sweet potatoes, cherries, almonds, flax seeds, red radish, bananas, and broccoli.
In our sleep and in our dreams we pass through the whole thought of earlier humanity. I mean, in the same way that man reasons in his dreams, he reasoned when in the wing state many thousands of years…The dream carries us back into the earlier states of human culture, and affords us a means of understanding it better.
Good sleep is indispensable for our immunity and overall health. Good REM is also needed for us to process information. If a melatonin supplement is not right for you, there are other approaches.
Sources + Additional Reading #FoodForThought
1 Melatonin University of Maryland Medical Center
2 Is There Really A Connection Between Melatonin and Crazy Dreams? by Krithika Varagur for The Huffington Post
3 Lucid Dreaming and Self-Realization by Berit Brogaard D.M.Sci., Ph.D, Psychology Today
4Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, vol. 1, p. 13; cited by Jung, Psychology and Religion, par. 89, n17 and by Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, p 13.
Melatonin Isn’t a Sleeping Pill by Empowered Sustenance
5 Surprising Foods That Make You Sleep by Melanie Haiken for Forbes News
Lucid Dreaming 7 Tricks You Didn’t Know in Social Consciousness
What is REM Sleep? Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
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