Melatonin is a hormone produced in humans, animals, and plants. It is produced by the pineal gland in the brain and is responsible for a wide range of roles in the body. There are a few foods that contain melatonin like tart cherries. Melatonin is also available in pill form as a supplement.
The most well known and best-understood function of the hormone is its role in the regulation of sleep and wakefulness. Your sleep/wake cycle is also known as your circadian rhythm. The cycle of sleep and waking is a natural part of life, but scientists are just beginning to understand its relation to daylight and darkness.
Exposure to light or darkness is key to the way human sleep is regulated. The connection is made through a nerve pathway in the eye upon exposure to light. This pathway is connected to the hypothalamus in the brain, and this area contains a mechanism called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN).
This special area gauges light levels and initiate signals to other areas of the brain. The signals release hormones that cause sleepiness or alertness. Cortisol is one of these hormones. The SCN is like a clock that starts working upon exposure to the first light of day. It controls things like body temperature.
The signal from the SCN prompts the pineal gland to produce melatonin, which is then released into the blood. This gland is only active after the sun goes down and darkness occurs. It releases melatonin at night and suppresses it during the day. Artificial indoor lighting can also prevent the release of melatonin.
As melatonin levels in the blood rise, you will feel more drowsiness. Melatonin levels are very high at night and barely detectable during the day. The supplement is used to treat a variety of medical conditions, but the primary medical use is the treatment of sleep disorders. Melatonin is also used to treat radiation exposure, tinnitus, and Alzheimer’s disease.
It is a very powerful antioxidant and has an anti-inflammatory effect on the immune system. The hormone also serves a preventative role in neurodegenerative diseases and acute pancreatitis. Melatonin works across many systems, including the brain, cardiovascular system, liver, intestine, and kidneys.
Melatonin receptors in animals synchronize their sleep-wake timing, seasonal reproduction, and blood pressure regulation. It also serves as an antioxidant, especially by preserving cellular components such as DNA. The production of melatonin in plants provides protection to them against oxidative stress.
Why is Melatonin for Sleep Very Important?
The benefits of melatonin for a good night’s sleep have been demonstrated through research studies involving children and older adults. Most people produce enough melatonin for sleep on their own, but a large number of people suffer from insufficient amounts or disruptions in production.
Approximately 50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder according to the American Sleep Association. Insomnia is the most commonly reported kind. Melatonin has been used to treat a variety of sleep disorders. Short-term treatment of melatonin was found to be safe and effective for insomnia in older adults.
Participants experienced improved quality and duration of sleep. They also reported improved daytime alertness as a result. Melatonin is very important to sleep because lack of it may disrupt sleep patterns and cause a host of problems. Poor sleep is linked to fatigue, mood swings, and low energy levels. Insufficient amounts of melatonin have been associated with seasonal affective disorder, which is a kind of depression that’s connected to changes in seasons.
The reduced level of sunlight may be one of the causes of this disorder. The body’s production of melatonin may be erratic during the winter months because the days are shorter and darker. This tends to disrupt your natural sleep cycles. Reduced sunlight also causes a reduction in serotonin levels, and this may trigger depression.
Patients with Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy body disease often suffer from REM sleep behavior disorder. It causes sufferers to act out their dreams. They may get up and engage in activities such as sleep talking, shouting, or screaming. Melatonin is being used as an alternative treatment for this sleep disorder because it’s safer than other treatments. In addition, administration of melatonin has been proven safe and effective for the management of sleep problems in children with neurodevelopmental disorders like autism.
Children suffering from these disorders can have low levels of melatonin because of abnormal melatonin pathways. Studies have also shown that melatonin reduces the number of night-time awakenings in children suffering from certain types of sleep disorders. Melatonin may be especially beneficial for the treatment of delayed sleep phase syndrome, which afflicts children and adults. This disorder causes sufferers to fall asleep very late and wake up late the next day. Their circadian rhythms may be too long. Patients with this disorder are particularly responsive to melatonin for sleep.
Melatonin can also help with conditions that result from jet lag and odd work hours. People who travel frequently often experience jet lag. Melatonin can reduce the effects by boosting the reset of the body’s sleep-wake phase. The timing of treatment must be accurate or the adjustment can be delayed. People who work rotating or night shifts may also benefit from melatonin’s ability to correct or improve the function of our internal clock. Sleep is very important for our overall health. An insufficient amount or poor-quality sleep is associated with numerous health problems. Research shows an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression also result. Many external factors influence melatonin levels. You can get extra melatonin by taking a supplement or consuming foods that contain melatonin, such as tomatoes, walnuts, olives, rice, barley, strawberries, cherries, and cow’s milk.
What is the best Melatonin for Sleep Dosage?
Melatonin is the only hormone that can be purchased over-the-counter(OTC) in the United States. The hormone is sold as a dietary supplement because it’s contained naturally in some foods. The U.S. Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 allows it to be sold OTC, and the supplement does not require approval from the Food and Drug Administration. They are handled in the same manner as vitamins and minerals.
There’s no control or regulation over them like prescription drugs. Synthetic melatonin is made in factories, so the actual amount in a pill may not match what’s listed on the package. This means you should be very careful about how much you’re taking. Check with your doctor for recommended dosages before starting a treatment plan. Most available dosages will cause very high levels of melatonin in the blood. The amount will be much higher than what is naturally produced by your body.
A typical dose of 1 to 3 milligrams may raise your blood melatonin levels by as much as 20 times the normal amount. Melatonin has to be taken correctly for maximum effectiveness. The correct dosage, method and time of day it is taken must be customized for your particular sleep disorder. Your biological clock and sleep may be affected negatively if melatonin is taken incorrectly or at the wrong time of day. There isn’t much cause for concern, however. There haven’t been any reported cases of proven toxicity or overdose of melatonin.
It’s wise to start your treatment plan with smaller doses because higher doses of melatonin can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, or irritability. A typical dose for adults with insomnia or occasional sleeplessness is between two-tenths of a milligram and five milligrams. It’s best to take it 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.
The dose for children should be smaller. Children with neurodevelopmental disorders use melatonin for sleep frequently because it’s been found to help them sleep longer. They often have trouble falling and staying asleep. Children with developmental disorders, including cerebral palsy and autism, can take larger doses. Check with your healthcare provider for the correct dosage before administration.
If you are taking melatonin for jetlag, try starting your treatment a few days before your trip. Your dose should be taken about two hours before you will go to sleep at your destination. Don’t use melatonin for sleep if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. People with an autoimmune disorder, a seizure disorder or depression should not use melatonin.
Melatonin supplements can negatively interact with many different medications. Check with your doctor before taking the sleep-inducing aid. Melatonin may raise blood-sugar levels and blood pressure if taken with hypertension medications. Patients with diabetes should also discuss its use with a doctor.
Melatonin is still being researched to take advantage of its full potential as a treatment for illnesses. Melatonin is effective and safe to use for some types of insomnia in children and adults. Studies are being conducted to determine the exact nature of the hormone’s functions within the human body.
Research has shown clear evidence of its effectiveness for shortening the time it takes to fall asleep and reducing the number of awakenings. It’s also effective for resetting the body’s clock. Exposure to light may be more effective for some sleep disorders, but studies are inconclusive. Ongoing studies are being carried out to determine the hormone’s ability to help treat headaches, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, tinnitus, gallbladder stones, and other conditions.
Patients who use melatonin for sleep should stop using it if it doesn’t help after a week or two. For those who meet with success, it’s safe for most people to take nightly for one to two months. Use all resources available to you when trying to get a good night’s sleep. You can include melatonin-rich foods in your diet, and make it a priority to relax before bedtime. Preparing your bedroom to be as comfortable as possible will produce the most favorable results.
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