What is Melatonin?

What is Melatonin?

The pineal gland found close to the middle part of the brain produces the natural hormone, melatonin. It has been given the name “Dracula of hormones” because this hormone is only released when it is dark.

At daytime, the pineal gland is not active. But at night, this gland starts to do its work releasing melatonin into your bloodstream. This hormone is responsible for making you feel sleepy.

Effect of High and Low Levels of Melatonin

The National Sleep Foundation states that the melatonin levels in your bloodstream stays elevated for approximately 12 hours. At soon as daylight comes, the melatonin levels in your blood goes down.

A person’s normal melatonin cycles may be disrupted when ones exposure to light changes. This may happen when you are exposed to very bright light during the night or when you do not have enough light exposure during daytime. The pineal gland will not release melatonin normally as it should.

Some medical experts believe that aging can cause the melatonin levels to decrease. This idea still needs further research to be proven true.

However, this declining melatonin levels may be the explanation as to why old people sleep earlier at night and get up earlier in the morning compared to when they were young.

What Else Does Melatonin Do?

Melatonin primarily plays a big role in the sleeping pattern of people. Aside from that, it performs the following functions as well.

  • It plays a role in the timing of the female reproductive cycles, including the monthly menstrual period and the beginning of menopause.
  • There is evidence that it helps strengthen the body’s immune system because of its strong antioxidant property.

What You Should Know Before Buying Melatonin Supplements

Melatonin supplements may be purchased without a doctor’s prescription from the United States market.

The Food and Drug Administration does not certify the safety or effective usage of melatonin supplements just like many dietary supplements available in the market.

If you are planning to take melatonin for some reason, be sure to consult with your doctor first.

Uses of Melatonin Supplements

Many people are taking melatonin supplements to address some of the health conditions listed below. It should be noted, however, that more research should be conducted to further understand how safe and effective melatonin is for these conditions.

  • Insomnia
  • Reproductive issues
  • Menopause
  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Pain
  • Benzodiazepine withdrawal
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD
  • Sunburn
  • Autism
  • Epilepsy
  • Digestive problems
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Sarcoidosis

Reading Sources
Melatonin and Sleep published on the National Sleep Foundation website.
Melatonin published on the University of Maryland Medical Center website.

Photo credits: Melatonin by Michael Reuter via Flickr, CC by 2.0

Categories: Health

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