Melatonin- important points to know

Melatonin is a hormone that's naturally produced by our brain's pineal gland, which plays an important role in sleep. Melatonin prepares the body for sleep and is sometimes called the "hormone of sleep" or "hormone of darkness." The production and release of melatonin in the brain are connected to the time of day, and it helps the body know when it is time to sleep and wake up. Melatonin also helps regulate the body temperature, blood pressure and hormone levels. The body makes more melatonin at night due to which the levels start to go up in the evening once the sun sets. And they drop in the morning when the sun goes up. 

It is also a supplement that many people take when they need help getting to fall sleep. Melatonin as a dietary supplement for sleep aid can come in pills, liquids, and chewables. Many people commonly use melatonin for sleep disorders, such as insomnia and jet lag. The advantages of melatonin aids are that unlike with many sleep medications, you are unlikely to become dependent on melatonin, have a diminished response after repeated use or experience a hangover effect.

Melatonin - important points to know

Why Take It?

Melatonin's main job in the body is to regulate night and day cycles and help people sleep. Some of its benefits include:

  • People who have trouble sleeping have low levels of melatonin. It is been shown that adding melatonin from supplements might help them sleep. People use melatonin when they have insomnia. Insomnia means a person has trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. People can also take it for other sleep problems including something called delayed sleep phase disorder. If someone has that, falling asleep before 2 a.m. is tough and so is getting up in the morning.
  • Melatonin is also used to treat circadian rhythm sleep disorders in the blind and folks may also try it if they have jobs that disrupt typical sleep schedules, a condition called sleep work disorder.
  • It can also be used to treat or prevent jet lag. Jet lag is the tired, run-down feeling some get when they are traveling across different time zones.
  • Children with autism are known to have abnormal melatonin pathways and lower than normal melatonin levels in their body. Few studies have shown that melatonin aids help improve sleep duration, reduce the time taken to drift off to sleep and reduce the number of night-time awakenings in these children.
  • There is also a little evidence that melatonin can relieve some headaches, in particular, severe and recurrent pain on one side of the head, often surrounding the eye known as cluster headaches.
  • Alzheimer's disease- Melatonin levels decrease with age in humans, but this reduction is more pronounced in patients with Alzheimer's disease. Research has shown that when supplied with melatonin aids it appears to slow the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's disease.
  • Tinnitus- Tinnitus is a hearing disorder characterized by a ringing sound some people hear inside their ears. There has also been evidence that the effects of tinnitus could be slightly improved by melatonin, perhaps due to improved sleep or its antioxidant properties.
  • Gallbladder stones- Melatonin is known to carry out a number of roles in the gallbladder, including the conversion of cholesterol into bile and helping gallstones move through the gallbladder. Free radical damage is known to increase the chances of gallstone development in the body. Melatonin's antioxidant properties may be beneficial in getting rid of gallbladder stones from the body.
  • Melatonin might also be useful for patients undergoing radiation therapy or for those who work in high-radiation areas. It prevents damage from free radicals when the body is under radiation.
  • Healthy melatonin levels can also support eye health. Melatonin has powerful antioxidant benefits that could help lower the risk of eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) . Studies have shown that taking melatonin daily helped protect the retinas and delay damage from AMD, without any significant side effects.
  • The antioxidant properties of melatonin can help treat stomach ulcers and reduce heartburn. However, this area of research is fairly new and future studies will help clarify how effective melatonin is in treating stomach ulcers and heartburn.

Doctors are also studying to see if melatonin can help with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and high nighttime blood pressure.

Side effects

While melatonin is generally known to brings fewer side effects than other sleep medicines, some people can still experience daytime sleepiness, headache, dizziness, stomach discomfort, anxiety, crankiness,  heavy head feeling, and short-lived depression. Some studies conducted on older adults noted some side effects that include restless legs, skin pigmentation, and thrombosis (blood clots).

Melatonin supplements might cause problems when people take them with some other medications including blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants), drugs that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants), diabetes drugs, and birth control pills.

Since melatonin may affect the reproductive system, it is not recommended for use among people who wish to become pregnant or are breast-feeding mothers. Melatonin can also cause daytime drowsiness, so people should not drive or use machinery within five hours of taking the supplement.

It is recommended to inform a doctor if you are thinking about taking any melatonin supplement, especially if you take any medicine or have an underlying health condition.

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