Melatonin, “The Sleep Hormone”
Melatonin, also called the “sleep hormone ” is produced by the pineal gland at dusk. Melatonin thus plays a fundamental role in regulating our body clock as is responsible for the sleep/wake cycle. The pineal gland is sensitive to light and production of melatonin will reduce in the morning to onset awakening. Taken in excess of 1 mg, it helps reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.
Melatonin is widely known to help your body adjust to jet lag. When you travel through different time zones your pineal gland doesn’t adjust straight away to the new dusk “time”, delaying your onset of sleep. Tricking the body by giving it melatonin helps adapt to the new time zone until your body adjusts its circadian cycle.
Not only inducing sleep, melatonin is known to also improve the quality of your sleep during periods of stress. Indeed the overall studies published since 2001 show it influences the time needed to fall asleep.
Melatonin works well to treat delayed sleep-phase disorder. This problem is related to a disturbance of the circadian rhythm. Sufferers fall asleep between 3 am to 6 am and wake up around midday to 3 pm.
Researchers have found that people with certain health problems had melatonin levels below average. They have also made a connection with the consumption of melatonin during the day that could help reduce some psychological stress-related disorders such as depression, anxiety and agitation. Researchers conducted a study taking into account stress as a major contributing factor to depression and demonstrating the importance of resynchronization of circadian rhythms for effective treatment of depression. This study highlighted the melatonin potential as an antidepressant.
Finally, it has also been shown to help people suffering from migraine, irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia, as it can reduce chronic pain.
Consumption of melatonin at a reasonable dose is relatively safe, however it should be used with caution and moderation and restricted to short term use. Prolonged use could have some physiological side effect on your body’s natural production of melatonin. Your pineal gland could become lazy or stop its production if you substitute it with synthetic melatonin.
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