Moody snooze

Remember a few weeks ago when I talked about the many uses of melatonin? (Outside the box-spring, 5/2/13) Well recently, I learned about another surprising benefit of this popular natural sleep aid.

It seems that melatonin may also help to alleviate PMDD. Never heard of it? Let me explain.

A lot of women suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS). In fact, nearly all women have, at some point or another. For many, it’s just an annoying (and predictable) monthly reality.

So you may not think of it as a serious condition. But it absolutely can be. And this is especially true if you struggle with premenstrual dysmorphic disorder, or PMDD.

PMDD is more than just a typical case of premenstrual irritability. It’s disabling and disruptive–marked by severe bouts of depression, anxiety, mood swings, insomnia, and fatigue.

And according to a new study, it may be linked to abnormal melatonin secretion.

More specifically, researchers think that hormonal changes could disrupt your body’s circadian rhythms (that is, your natural sleep-wake cycle). And this, in turn, could cause severe mood disruptions in women who are predisposed to them.

Research on the topic isn’t extensive. But studies have noted abnormal melatonin secretion in cases of PMDD–including shorter duration of secretion and lower melatonin levels among women suffering from the condition.

This latest pilot study looked at hormone levels and mood changes in two small groups of women–five with PMDD and five age-matched controls–over the course of their menstrual cycles.

Not surprisingly, women with PMDD scored much higher than controls on symptom scales measuring depression, tension, and irritability. And as you would expect, their moods worsened significantly in the days following ovulation.

Meanwhile, researchers found that 24-hour melatonin levels dropped significantly among the PMDD sufferers when they were experiencing symptoms. They also noted big differences in nighttime melatonin levels among the two groups.

In women with PMDD, nocturnal melatonin secretion was much lower–which might explain the insomnia reports that so often accompany this condition. (Sound sleep is melatonin’s calling card, after all.)

Ultimately, the study authors proposed that abnormal melatonin secretions contribute to serotonin imbalances in women with PMDD.

Here we go again, back to serotonin… our happy chemical.

I’m not surprised that it might be a major smoking gun behind PMDD. And that’s probably why Prozac (under its new name, Sarafem) is now prescribed for this condition.

But why take risky drugs when you can just take melatonin?

I recommend a starting dose of 3mg–and no more than 15 mg–at bedtime. Stick to this routine all month long and not just during your premenstrual times.

That should help to put you and your PMDD to bed.

Pilot investigation of the circadian plasma melatonin rhythm across the menstrual cycle in a small group of women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder. PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e51929.