What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain which acts as the body’s internal clock, maintaining our natural circadian rhythm, also known as the sleep/wake cycle that is occurring in the background of your brain, cycling between sleepiness and alertness and also regulates other hormones.
The pineal gland also called “the third eye” is a very small endocrine gland that resembles a pine cone located in the center of the brain and produces Melatonin.
This gland contains cells that respond to light and darkness, informing the body and brain when it is time to be alert and when it is time to rest. During the day, the production of Melatonin is higher when its light outside and declines towards the evening when its dark to induce sleep.
There are many factors that can negatively interfere with the production and release of Melatonin. When we are exposed to light in the evening or none at all during the day, this can disrupt Melatonins natural cycles and throw off sleeping patterns.
In addition, stress, jet lag, shift work, exposure to light and age can also throw off our internal clock and affect the body’s natural release of Melatonin. In fact, as we age, researchers believe that we naturally produce less which would explain why we tend to go to sleep earlier in the evening and wake up earlier as we age.
Besides promoting healthy sleep and considered a powerful sleep aid, it has also shown to have significant antioxidant and neuroprotective properties. It is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and easily attach to neurons in the brain, acting to scavenge free radicals that work to improve the general health of the brain. Its neuroprotective properties have shown to be helpful in a number of neurodegenerative issues like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.
So is it safe to take Melatonin? This article will discuss how it works, the benefits, potential side effects and dosage guidelines associated with this supplement.
Melatonin Supplement Benefits As A Sleep Aid
The most common benefit associated with Melatonin is that it is capable of promoting healthy sleep. This is especially helpful for people with irregular work schedules, those that travel which can sometimes throw off their regular sleeping pattern or for individuals that naturally have problems falling asleep and do not get quality, restful sleep.
The secretion of Melatonin is regulated by the detection of light. During the day the body produces less to keep you awake and alert. At night, the body produces more and its release reduces alertness and prepares the body for sleep. The problem occurs when this natural cycle is interrupted and the difficulty of getting it going again. Additionally, we naturally produce less as we age.
Melatonin is known for helping to relieve insomnia. It has proven to be effective at reducing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and increasing quality of sleep. There have been consistent reports by users saying they feel rested, refreshed and more clear-minded when using this supplement as a sleep aid.
This may be due to Melatonin promoting REM sleep and why it is grouped with Nootropics. This is a state that stimulates the areas of the brain used in learning, promoting more effective night memory consolidation processes, so when we wake the next morning, we may experience a boost in mental performance and feel that we have a greater ability to think more clearly.
In addition, Melatonin has been linked to reducing the frequency of night urination, which when excessive can be a huge factor in disrupting normal sleeping patterns.
Melatonin may be used on a short-term basis to help with sleep issues related to shift work disorder, jet lag and sleep-wake cycle disturbances. Supplementation has also been used to help treat difficulty sleeping associated with health conditions like menopause and benzodiazepine withdrawal.
There is some evidence that suggests Melatonin may be most effective for older individuals rather than young who suffer from insomnia (not related to medical conditions) since there is less of this hormone in the body as we get older.
Melatonin Neuroprotective and Antioxidant Effects
In addition to promoting healthy sleep, Melatonin is considered to have powerful and effective antioxidant properties and is capable of readily crossing the blood-brain barrier which may encourage improved general brain health.
Melatonin has been found to scavenge highly reactive and harmful free radicals like hydroxyl in the body or unstable molecules that are associated with damaging cell structures and consequently, with diseases. It also helps protect lipids and proteins from being damaged.
In terms of its neuroprotective effects, Melatonin easily disperses into all cells, enters the central nervous system which acts to help protect the brain from free radicals and oxidative damage.
Melatonin has shown to be helpful in limiting brain tissue damage and reducing brain cell death when administered at the time of a stroke. It is thought to be helpful for numerous other medical conditions such as neurodegenerative issues related to Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.
Melatonin Side Effects & Usage
Melatonin is considered a safe supplement when taken in low and proper recommended doses but may cause drowsiness if taken during the day, so avoid driving, operating machinery or anything else that requires alertness if this is the case.
The typical dosage ranges between 1 mg-5 mg in total per day. The best way to use this supplement is to take it at night and approximately half an hour before you go to bed.
Other possible side effects include stomach cramps, headache, dizziness, irritability and short-term feelings of depression. Melatonin can worsen the symptoms of depression so if you are already suffering from depression or taking medication for it, you should avoid this supplement.
Individuals with hormone related issues should also avoid taking Melatonin since it is a hormone. Additionally, this supplement may interfere with fertility and is not recommended for women who are trying to get pregnant nor women who are pregnant.
This supplement may increase the risk of bleeding and is not recommended for people taking anticoagulant medications as well as those taking steroids or immunosuppressants since it may reduce their effectiveness.
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