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helping improve sleep patterns;
supporting immune system response;
improving daily moods;
helping falling asleep.
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What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormone or neurotransmitter produced in the tiny pineal gland located in the centre of the brain. Melatonin is secreted in the darkness and at night it regulates the sleeping cycle. New research indicates that melatonin does much more than help some people sleep better. This hormone produces a number of other health benefits: as a pervasive and powerful antioxidant it plays a key role in the protection of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA.
A factor in restorative sleep, melatonin’s benefits extend to neuroprotection and fighting cancer. Its powerful antioxidant effect offers important enhancements to the brain and nervous system, helping protect against age-related damage. Most exciting are melatonin’s benefits for cancer patients—relieving anxiety and improving survival from an array of cancers. Finally, migraine sufferers using melatonin may enjoy a vast decline in the frequency and severity of their headaches—leading to a tremendously improved quality of life.
While the long-term health effects of disrupted melatonin secretion are not yet fully known, some scientists have suggested that years of working nights could lead to adverse effects—even cancer. Fortunately, melatonin supplements can safely and effectively restore balance to the body’s circadian rhythm of this important hormone—helping achieve a restful night’s sleep and keeping your biological clock ticking throughout a long, healthy life span.
How does Melatonin function?
Normally, in healthy young peopleMelatonin levels peak at about 2 a.m and about 3 a.m. in elderly people. The maximum amount of melatonin released in the bloodstream of the elderly is only half of that in young adults. So, scientists believe that melatonin levels are a good marker of aging and longevity. Melatonin levels are low during the day. At sunset, the cessation of light triggers neural signals, which stimulate the pineal gland to begin releasing melatonin. This rise continues for hours, eventually peaking around 2 a.m. (3 a.m. for the elderly), after which it steadily declines to minimal levels by morning.
When the timing or intensity of the melatonin peak is disrupted—as in aging, stress, jet lag, working the night shift, or staying up all night—mental and physiological functions are adversely affected. The delay in timing and decrease in intensity of the melatonin pulse is a result of the aging process.
Melatonin and Jet Lag
Melatonin is also used to relieve jet-lag. Jet lag occurs after experiencing rapid, long distance travel through different time zones. Other behaviors that produce symptoms similar to jet lag are working all night shifts, staying up all night and working multiple shifts. All of these behaviors upset the biological clock. Through upsetting the biological clock, a person may experience fatigue, dizziness, loss of ability to think clearly or a headache.
if you have ever been on a trans-continental flight or worked the night shift, you know that after it your mind does not work as clearly as usual: you forget details and facts, you may feel irritable and have trouble making decisions. All these are because your biological clock is not ticking the way it normally does. Work and other activities that disrupt the normal circadian cycle in a way similar to jet lag are said to cause “artificial jet lag.” Whether you experience jet lag or artificial jet lag, studies show that the use of melatonin before bedtime helps reset your biological clock and almost totally alleviate—or prevent—the symptoms of jet lag.
This capacity of melatonin was observed in a study of 17 people flying from San Francisco to London through eight time zones. Eight of the subjects took 5 mg of melatonin, while nine subjects took a placebo. Those who took melatonin had almost no symptoms of jet lag. Six out of nine placebo subjects scored above 50 on the jet lag scale.
Most people sleep well with melatonin, and wake up the next day refreshed with no symptoms of jet lag although they may still have some fatigue from the wear and tear of travelling. If you take melatonin in a low dose before sleep, it increases your circulating melatonin levels to normal.
Melatonin and Sleeping Disorders
There have been many studies done on the effect that melatonin has on sleep in hopes of treating sleep related disorders. It is shown that by differing the amount of exposure to lightness and darkness, there is a possibility of abrupting the sleep/wake cycle caused by varying levels of melatonin being produced.
Study 1 in Elderly Group
Many elderly ( both healthy or unhealthy) have sleeping disorders. In 1995 melatonin used in the study on a possibility to regulate the sleep quality in 12 elderly people. Some participants were given 2 mg of melatonin for three weeks. Others were given a placebo for the same period of time. There was a great improvement in the first group in comparison to those who took the placebo. The time for the subjects to fall asleep was decreased dramatically in the first group too. The time it took them to wake up was also significantly shorter. This led researchers to conclude that the melatonin supplementation in elderly people could increase their ability to sleep. with no significant side effects.
Study 2 in Children Group
The earlier study done in 1994 on effects of melatonin supplementation in children with severe sleep disorders also revealed a positive effect. For most of the fifteen participants melatonin was considered as their last hope of giving themselves and their families rest. Some participants were given 2 to 5 mg (the other – placebo) at bedtime for up to ten days. This research found that melatonin creates a positive impact on sleep patent in most children. Some participants responded to melatonin after the first dose. Most benefited by the third dose. No side effects was identified. The researchers also noticed improvements in the mood of those children who took melatonin.
All studies above were double-blind placebo controlled experiments done in several phases. The size of the dosage did not seem to matter. The lower dosages of melatonin worked as well as the larger ones. The dosage worked at 1 mg. The best time to administer melatonin was an hour before bedtime. The participants reported no negative side-effects. The melatonin worked well in all cases.