Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. Its secretion is inhibited by environmental light and stimulated by darkness. By the age of 60, a person's natural production of melatonin decreases significantly. Melatonin has received substantial publicity for its ability to regulate natural sleep patterns and as an anti-oxidant. Low levels of melatonin in humans have been associated with depression, fibromyalgia, insomnia, some seizure disorders, and other conditions. Melatonin does not occur in the diet, making supplementation the only source outside the body. Supplemental melatonin should be synthetic since organic melatonin derived from animals carries the risk of possible contamination with viruses and other toxins.
Popular Uses for Melatonin
Insomnia (0.5mg to 5mg at bedtime): Melatonin is best known for its ability to help people get a more restful night’s sleep. Research indicates that low melatonin levels are a frequent cause of insomnia in the elderly. Studies of low dose, oral melatonin (0.3 -1.0mg.) in healthy adult volunteers given melatonin consistently shows that time to sleep onset, stage-2 sleep, and REM sleep are decreased without affecting the percentage of time in REM sleep or alertness after waking. Further research indicates that melatonin supplementation can induce sleep in people of all ages and be of benefit to women experiencing menopause related insomnia.
Jet Lag (0.5mg to 5mg at bedtime for up to 5 days):Studies showed that melatonin can minimize jet lag symptoms such as loss of appetite, distorted estimation of time, distance and space, irritability, gastrointestinal disturbances, disorientation, difficulties concentrating, depression, and sleep disorders. Many top athletes take melatonin regularly to reduce the negative symptoms associated with jet lag.
Anti-oxidant: Melatonin has been reported to be an effective free radical scavenger. The studies reviewed indicate that providing supplemental melatonin during periods of massive free radical production greatly lowers the resulting tissue damage due to free radicals during an antioxidant challenge. Melatonin is readily absorbed and crosses the blood-brain barrier and the placenta, and it seems to enter all parts of every cell where it prevents oxidative damage.
Growth Hormone: Studies showed that nocturnal increase of melatonin may influence pituitary hormone secretion. Melatonin reportedly regulates the release of growth hormone in men. In a study with new born rats, Melatonin prevents phototherapy-induced hypocalcemia (low calcium levels) suggesting that Melatonin may have an affect on bone metabolism in humans.
Melatonin and Women's Health: There is a distinct level of Melatonin between premenopausal women and postmenopausal women. Studies show that menopausal women taking melatonin reported a better mood and less signs of depression. Low melatonin levels in women may be correlated with increased breast cancer risk. Recent studies suggest that melatonin may inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells and may enhance the effectiveness of certain chemotherapy drugs.
Recommended Dosage: 0.5 to 3mg daily 30 minutes before bedtime. Take 3 mg in case of resistant insomnia, as anti-oxidant or as preventive treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Melatonin should be used as needed only. Long term side effects of Melatonin over a year has not been studied. Melatonin should not be used in children unless recommended by your physician. Side Effects: Light drowsiness may persist on waking up the day after the intake. Some other rare side effects have been reported, such as nausea, headache and stomach ache.