Melatonin is a hormone that is released from the pineal gland present in the brain. It is secreted during deep sleep. This hormone controls the activity of other hormones and the functioning of the 24 hour clock that has a very important role at the time we get up and when we sleep. The production of melatonin in the body increases when it is dark and decreases in light. If an individual gets exposed to too much light at night and too much darkness during the daytime, the production cycle of melatonin gets affected.
Melatonin also affects the release of female reproductive hormones. It determines when to menstruate, and the frequency and duration of menstrual cycle. Some research links the melatonin level to ageing. The level of melatonin drops with ageing. Therefore, children have very high amount of melatonin in their body. Melatonin also has potent antioxidant effects. For this reason, it is believed to enhance the immune system as well.
Health Benefits of Melatonin
People with very low level of melatonin have sleep disorders. Often they suffer from insomnia, a disorder in which the affected person cannot sleep. It reduces the time taken to fall asleep and increases the number of sleeping hours. It enhances alertness during daytime. People with enough melatonin level sleep better and wake up refreshed in the morning.
Many studies have suggested that melatonin possesses heart friendly properties along with antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties. Melatonin reduces the bad cholesterol level and maintains normal blood pressure.
Melatonin improves the sleeping patterns among menopausal women. It also prevents the loss of bone density among them.
Studies have found that women suffering from breast cancer and men suffering from prostate cancer have lower level of melatonin. Low melatonin may stimulate the proliferation of breast cancer and prostate cancer cells, whereas healthy melatonin level decreases their growth. Melatonin may increase the effect of certain drugs related to these two types of cancer. Despite all these benefits of melatonin, people suffering from these cancers should consult a doctor before consuming melatonin supplements.
· Melatonin may support normal sleep among children suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and autism.
· Some studies show that creams, lotions, ointments, etc., containing melatonin protect the skin from damage, like sunburn.
· Research says that people with irritable bowel syndrome may benefit by consuming melatonin as it may reduce the symptoms, like abdominal pain.
People who are sensitive may benefit by consuming very low dosage of melatonin. However, different people experience different results from the dosages of melatonin. It is recommended to start with a low dose, which should be less than 0.3 to 5 mg per day.
Melatonin supplements are widely available in the market in the form of liquids, tablets, chewables, etc. The interaction of melatonin with other drugs may cause health concerns. Therefore, the supplements should be consumed with care under the guidance of a medical practitioner.