Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by our brain. It is made by the pineal gland in the brain and it is closely responsible for our sleeping process. Melatonin regulates the internal body clock’s cycle of sleep and wakefulness, which is essential for our wellbeing and health.
However, some people experience disturbances in melatonin production, which often results in sleep deprivation and insomnia. One of the most effective ways of compensating for the lack of natural melatonin in our bodies is by taking melatonin supplements. It is believed that taking melatonin can have numerous benefits for our health, other than inducing sleep in sleep-deprived people. In the following paragraphs, we’ll take a look at some of the most notable benefits. So, let’s get started!
Melatonin: Quick Overview
- Melatonin is the only hormone produced by the pineal gland.
- It is released in response to darkness, hence the name ‘hormone of darkness’.
- Melatonin is a serotonin-derived hormone; this means it is produced from serotonin or made from tryptophan.
- Melatonin supplements are prescribed to patients with sleep disturbances; it has shown effective in treatments of sleep disorders like jet lag, chronic sleep deprivation, and insomnia.
- Melatonin reduces sleep onset, latency, increases sleep efficiency, and sleep duration.
- Melatonin supplements do not cause withdrawal or dependence symptoms like sleeping pills.
As mentioned before, melatonin is a neurohormone produced by the pineal gland in our brains. This hormone is responsible for the regulation of one’s sleep-wake cycle or the circadian rhythm. The brain usually produces melatonin in the evening. So by the time one goes to bed, they will already feel sleepy, therefore fall and stay asleep easier. However, because some people lack natural melatonin, they often take melatonin supplements to combat issues like chronic sleep deprivation or insomnia.
Melatonin supplements are available widely and can be found in food stores or pharmacies. Currently, more than 3 million adults and half-million children take melatonin supplements as a form of sleep aid or natural sleep remedy. There are also other reasons so many people take melatonin; it does not only regulate sleep but also manages the immune system and its function, keeps the blood pressure at normal levels, as well as manages cortisol levels.
However, it seems that some researchers and studies show that there is a limit to this hormone’s effectiveness. There also seem to be several side effects that can cause harm to people who take it regularly and in higher doses. Nevertheless, melatonin does have a set of benefits, which make it an exceptional alternative to sleeping pills and similar, long-term harm causing sleep remedies.
- Regulates the sleep-wake cycle or the circadian rhythm – melatonin intake can restore the circadian rhythm, and with it improve one’s health, behavior, mood, development, intellectual function, etc.
- Promotes central nervous system development – studies have shown that melatonin plays an important role in human reproduction and early nervous system development. Namely, melatonin circulates in maternal blood and stimulates the growth of the adrenal gland and promotes the establishment of the fetal circadian rhythm.
- Promotes biological functions in the body – by regulating the circadian rhythm, or the circadian clocks, melatonin plays a role in establishing and promoting the biological functions of the pancreas, liver, kidney, heart, lungs, gut, etc. These biological functions depend and reflect changes and adaptation to the environment, meaning melatonin helps these organs and their function adapt to a day-night cycle.
- Has immuno-enhancing effects – melatonin promotes the production of cytokines, which are a large group of proteins and peptides secreted by specific cells of the immune system. Indirectly, melatonin has an immuno-enhancing effect and helps the immune system fight off or at least decrease inflammations in the body.
- Regulates body and bone mass – melatonin helps prevent the accumulation of body mass or body fat that comes with age. That is why it is essential to always get enough sleep and prevent excess weight gain. Moreover, melatonin also regulates bone mass by promoting bone formation.
Melatonin has shown therapeutic effects in numerous disorders, especially when it comes to cardiovascular diseases, tumors, or psychiatric disorders. Let’s take a look at what melatonin does and how it helps with these conditions;
- Therapeutic effects in tumor cases – melatonin has shown beneficial effects in cases of breast cancer, ovarian carcinoma, melanoma, prostate cancer, and intestinal tumors. The reason for this lies in melatonin’s anti-oxidative role, which means it prevents oxidative stress to initiate, promote, and help the growth of cancers and tumors.
- Therapeutic effects in blood pressure and cardiovascular function – studies show that regular melatonin intake reduces systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with hypertension and cardiovascular issues. Melatonin helped reduce nocturnal blood pressure in these patients as well.
- Therapeutic effects in psychiatric disorders – melatonin has shown beneficial effects in secretion disturbances of the pineal gland, which have been associated with psychiatric disorders. Decreased nocturnal melatonin secretion has been noticed in depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorder. Regular melatonin intake helps regulate the nocturnal melatonin production, and in turn, decreases the effects and symptoms of the psychiatric disorders.
- Therapeutic effects in autism spectrum disorder – sleep disorders occur in 50-80% of individuals with autism. Melatonin helps regulate the nocturnal awakenings and insomnia in such individuals, also promoting better sleep and behavioral improvement.
- Therapeutic effects in stroke cases – studies show that melatonin acts as a brain and neuroprotection in animal models of stroke. Melatonin improves neuronal survival and reduces the inflammatory response of the body to the stroke. Neuronal survival is associated with the protection of the behavior, motor, and coordination skills.
Other Melatonin Benefits
- Blocks the secretion of stomach acids – increased or high secretion of stomach acids is associated with conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. The disease often results in heartburn, nausea, vomiting, or belching. Studies show that melatonin intake decreases the production of stomach acids and prevents acids to enter the esophagus. That is why it is often used in GERD or heartburn treatment.
- Prevents eye cell damage – because melatonin is high in antioxidants, it plays a major role in the protection of eye cells, or to be more precise, it protects your eyes and sight. Studies show that regular melatonin intake helps protect the retina and restores visual clarity. It also helps treat age-related macular degeneration and retinopathy.
Melatonin: More FAQs You Should Know
How To Take Melatonin Properly?
It seems that the daily doses between 0.3mg to 5mg are the most effective when it comes to sleep improvement and regulation. It also seems that doses higher than 5mg have no significant advantages for sleep improvement. Let’s take a look at some dose recommendations for other conditions and effects;
Read More: Can You Overdose On Melatonin?
Is Melatonin Safe?
Melatonin is generally considered to be safe for both adults and children, if properly dosed. However, there have been some safety concerns on the rise. It seems that melatonin supplementation is not recommended to people who have diabetes, because it can boost blood sugar in diabetes patients.
There also seems to be an issue with the melatonin supplements packagings. Melatonin supplements are not regulated as much as prescription drugs, so the bottles often don’t contain as much melatonin as indicated on the bottles. Some can have more than 4 times more melatonin as indicated, which can mess up one’s doses and how melatonin affects their health.
Not to mention that melatonin, just like any other supplement, can have some side effects. From nausea, sleepiness, drowsiness, to difficulties in breathing and even passing out; high and long-term melatonin intake can surely affect you, possibly negatively. Therefore, it is essential one discusses melatonin intake with their doctor, who will establish a suitable dose.
How To Increase The Effects Of Melatonin?
- Avoid melatonin interruptions, like alcohol – alcohol is known to interact badly with melatonin, and completely diminish its effects. The combination of alcohol and melatonin can result in serious side effects. Therefore, avoid drinking alcohol to emphasize the sedative effects of melatonin.
- Turn off the lights before bedtime – to let melatonin take effect, it is essential you do not get exposed to blue light. Artificial or blue light disrupts the natural melatonin production and prevents the supplementation to induce sleep. So, instead of feeling sleepy, you’ll become more awake and alert.
- Stay active – sedentary and indoor lifestyle can disrupt the effects of melatonin. The reason for this lies in the fact that activity and exposure to daylight halt the daytime melatonin production so that the body can focus on melatonin release in the evening. But, by staying inside, the natural melatonin in your brain, or the supplementation will make you feel sleepy, even though it is daytime.
- Focus on eating healthy – try eating healthy and avoid cheap, junk food. Fast food impacts the melatonin effects and natural melatonin production. Instead, try eating food that is rich in melatonin itself, like leafy greens, cherries, lean/white meat, bananas, nuts, figs, milk, dark chocolate, cottage cheese, etc.
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Melatonin intake has proven effective in sleep-deprived people as well as people with other conditions. But, because melatonin doesn’t work the same with everybody, it is essential you consult with your doctor before trying it out. You should see which dose suits you and your needs the best, and focus on improving your overall lifestyle. If you start experiencing side or adverse effects of melatonin, you should stop taking it and address the issue with your doctor.