Melatonin

Background

Melatonin, also known as N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine, is a natural hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain and a neurotransmitter most known for its regulation of sleep. Melatonin production and release in the brain is naturally related to time of day, rising in the evening and falling in the morning. Generally, light at night blocks its production. Melatonin dietary supplements have been studied for sleep disorders, such as jet lag, disruptions of the body’s internal “clock,” insomnia, and problems with sleep among people who work night shifts.[1]

Benefits

Most people are now turning to Melatonin supplements because the primary benefit of Melatonin supplementation is the ability to help them get to sleep easier and improve overall sleep quality. When you do not have enough sleep, this can lead to fatigue during the day, lack of alertness, poor attention and concentration as well as generally diminished cognitive functions. So, people use Melatonin supplement as a sleep aid or as a nootropic for lucid dreaming states.
At present, Melatonin is regarded as one of the most important anti-aging supplements available, also known to improve a number of cognitive functions related to memory consolidation, daytime alertness and creative thought. Melatonin has strong antioxidant effects that may help strengthen the immune system. The other health benefits of Melatonin may include:

  • Strengthens immune system [5]
  • Promotes mood [6]
  • Supports overall cognitive function [7]
  • Reduces stress and anxiety due to sleep deprivation [8]
  • Helps with jet lag [9]
  • Lowers blood pressure levels [10]
  • Improves heart health [11]
  • Improves eye health [12]
  • Relieves the symptoms of menopause [13]
  • Helps with breast cancer [14]
  • Helps with bladder dysfunction or prostate cancer [15]
  • Helps promote sleep in children with ADHD or autism [16]
  • Helps people who have Alzheimer’s Disease [17]

Melatonin supplements may help people with disrupted circadian rhythms, such as people with jet lag or those who work the night shift, and those with low melatonin levels, such as some seniors and people with schizophrenia, to sleep better.
It also helps control the timing and release of female reproductive hormones, meaning to help determine when a woman starts to menstruate, the frequency and duration of menstrual cycles, and when a woman stops menstruating (menopause). Low levels of melatonin may help recognize women at risk of a pregnancy complication called pre-eclampsia.[2][3]

How it works

Pineal melatonin is synthesized and secreted in close association with the light and dark cycle. Melatonin is responsible for maintaining your body’s circadian rhythm which is the fancier term for your own person internal clock, which also runs on a 24-hour schedule just like the day. This internal clock plays a critical role in your falling asleep as well as waking up.
In darkness, your body produces more melatonin, but in light, the production of melatonin goes down. This is why people who are blind or work night shifts can have problems with their melatonin levels. But for anyone, a lack of exposure to light during the day or exposure to bright lights in the evening can disrupt the body’s normal melatonin cycles. When you are exposed to light, it stimulates a nerve pathway from the retina in the eye to an area in the brain called the hypothalamus. This is where the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is located, and the SCN initiates the turning on of the pineal gland. Once the SCN turns on the pineal gland, it starts making melatonin, which is then released into your bloodstream.[4]

Considerations

Melatonin is usually considered to be well-tolerated and safe but there might be some side effects associated with its usage such as confusion, abdominal discomfort, headaches, nightmares, excessive tiredness during the day, and sleepwalking. Melatonin may also adversely affect with some medications including blood thinners, birth control pills, diabetes drugs, and immunosuppressants. Consider to take dietary supplements under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.

Recommendations

The usual dosage range for Melatonin is between 0.5 and 5 mg. However, the most commonly used and recommended doses can be between 1 and 3 mg for helping to promote sleep. But the recommended dosage for people with cancer symptoms could be as high as 50 mg per day. You are suggested to seek out doctor advice before considering this treatment route. Again, if you are a new user, start with the lowest effective dose and then only increase after becoming more familiar with the effects, both positive and negative.

Sources