Discover the reality about this versatile hormone called Melatonin
While going about our daily lives, we largely follow a routine. This holds true for most people – adults, children and old people, too.
It doesn’t matter if you stay at home or you step out to work or study. You have programmed your body to follow a certain routine. As a result of which, there is a specific time at which you wake up, a specific time at which your body demands breakfast, lunch, dinner and most important of all, rest.
This system that our body follows is often referred to as the body clock, some thing that we are so worried about, all the time. Basically, it is the schedule that the body has devised for itself.
However, this is not just some unreasonable arrangement. Human body is a complex machine where even the tiniest of cell has been assigned a job, a role to play. So, a hormone called Melatonin manages body clock.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is one of the many hormones found in human body. In fact, not only humans, this hormone is found in animals, plants, fungi and bacteria too.
In human beings, melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland, a small gland that is found in our brain. Once secreted from the pineal gland, it circulates in blood and travels through our body, introducing some discipline to it!
This hormone is responsible for the circadian cycle that the body follows. Circadian cycle here refers to a 24-hour routine of our body that is not affected by day and night.
Interestingly, Melatonin is just a form of amino acid tryptophan. Its synthesis occurs in the pineal gland, retina, bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract, and bile. This important synthesis happens at night as the Melatonin production is stimulated only in the dark. Which is why you can call it the ‘hormone of darkness’!
In fact, when your bedtime is approaching, serum melatonin levels increase like a miracle. This happens every night, till some thing disrupts your routine and then you start having trouble going to sleep.
For now, just remember – if you want Melatonin synthesis to occur, you better stick with a routine and sleep tight at the set time every night!
Why does our Body need Melatonin?
Good question, for it has many answers.
Melatonin is an excellent juggler. In addition to monitoring the body cycle, it has several other roles to play, a multi-tasker indeed! Read on to understand this versatile hormone that influences a lot of our bodily functions.
Melatonin Controls Sleep Cycle
It is this hormone that gets to work to give you a sleep cycle. How this occurs is the level of Melatonin in your blood begins to rise in the evening and it reaches its peak just before bed time. This is called the Dim-Light Melatonin Onset (DLMO) and it prepares your body for the state of sleep. Also, the body temperature is brought down, which is another prerequisite for sleep.
However you must also understand that while melatonin generates a signal to regulate your sleep-wake cycle through drowsiness and lowering the body temperature, the actual sleep is regulated by your central nervous system. But melatonin and the response to light and dark cycles is vital for sleep too.
Melatonin is Rich in Anti-oxidant Properties
It has been successfully proven that Melatonin has some anti-oxidant properties. Very correctly, it is often referred to as a free radical scavenger.
It fights the free radicals present in the body and saves the healthy cells from them. Therefore, it can be safely assumed that it maintains the overall health of the body. However, melatonin is different from other antioxidants as it does not undergo redox cycling or ‘reduction and oxidation repeatedly’ and therefore is not available for reuse. In simple terms, it means once melatonin gets oxidized, it cannot resume its former state. That is why, melatonin is sometimes also called suicidal or terminal antioxidant.
But it is a very useful antioxidant that protects us against oxidative injuries even of brain and thus may help in brain disorders like Parkinson’s disease along with being useful for heart diseases like arrhythmias etc. Researches are under progress to find out whether the antioxidant properties of melatonin can fight off cancer too.
Melatonin has Anti Aging Properties
Many researches have found out that melatonin has positive effects on everything may it be heart disease, diabetes, obesity or health of bones. Emerging findings are now indicating that this hormone may protect genetic material and against age related disease and deterioration. Based on scientific evidence, it is now claimed that melatonin has an important role to play in various metabolic functions including antioxidant effects and neuroprotection, anti-inflammatory benefits and support for immune system. These are some reasons why melatonin is said to be affected by aging
- Melatonin plays important role in life processes and its secretion declines gradually over time.
- Melatonin has immunomodulatory properties. An immunomodulator is a chemical agent that changes the immune response or the functioning of the immune system. A suppressed immunity accelerates the aging processes.
Melatonin Decides the Skin Tone
Melatonin impacts our skin color. Going by that, we can thank Melatonin for the diverse complexions that the world has. Melatonin has a control over pigmentation changes causing the skin to change color. This behavior of melatonin also contributes to give paler skin to elderly people as well as those suffering from insomnia.
Other reasons you can’t afford to have low Melatonin levels
In addition to the above-mentioned points, there are evidences that Melatonin also has anti-cancer, anti-aging, and anti-depressant properties, as well.
In some researches, it has surfaced that certain diseases have a direct connect with low levels of Melatonin. These could be heart diseases, multiple sclerosis, neurological issues like epileptic attacks and women-centric diseases like post menopausal osteoporosis (weakening of bones that occurs after menopause).
How much Melatonin is normally secreted?
It is important to note that Melatonin secretion isn’t the same in every body. There are people who secrete more Melatonin as compared to others.
So, there are people whose Melatonin level reaches between 54 -75 pg/ml during peak hours at night. Those who secrete less Melatonin could secrete an amount ranging between 18-40 pg/ml.
10 Amazing Benefits of Melatonin
1. Melatonin Benefits for Sleeplessness in Insomniacs
Owing to the role it plays in the sleep cycle, Melatonin has been increasingly used in treating insomnia. It is used to help insomniacs go to sleep. Usually, doctors prescribe it in the form of sedative pills that put one to sleep.
Since overdose could be lethal, it should be consumed only after one has consulted a doctor. In fact, while earlier people could easily purchase sleeping pills from drug stores, you now need a prescription letter to be able to lay your hands on them.
2. Melatonin Benefits for Disrupted Body Clock
The nature created Melatonin hormone primarily for controlling body-clock. Quite understandably, it is what Melatonin does best. If you have a set body clock, you must be wondering is that such a big deal? Well, for some people, it is! Just ask those who work in shifts and even those who travel all around the world and know what a pain jet lag is for them!
That is why Melatonin is like a blessing for those whose body clock is unruly.
It is widely used to help people cope with jet lag. When people fly from one time zone into another, their body clock gets disturbed and they have trouble going to sleep. For such people, Melatonin therapy works wonders. Many a time, it is used with bright light therapy to put the patient’s mind at ease and eventually, put him or her to rest.
The result – sleep rhythm is normalized and the patient is able to return to a normal sleep cycle.
It is, as mentioned earlier too, helpful for people who have to work in different shifts. They have to frequently change their sleep hours, which is when Melatonin dosage comes to rescue. The amount of Melatonin prescribed is between 0.3 to 8 mg but it is always recommended to consult doctor before taking melatonin supplement.
3. Melatonin Benefits for Depression
There are definitely more ways than one in which Melatonin dosage can prove helpful.
It is very beneficial in the treatment of depression and other similar illness. In fact, there are indications that it helps fight cancer. Medical studies have shown that oral dosage (10-50 mg daily) of Melatonin has helped fight certain cancers (breast cancer, non-small-cell lung cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, and brain metastases) better.
In addition to the above-mentioned merits, it also helps bring down blood cholesterol level, mainly LDL.
Clearly, it is a hormone that works hard to keep us healthy.
4. Melatonin Anti-oxidant Benefits in Oxidative Injuries
This wonder hormone has a load of anti-oxidant properties, meaning it fights the free radicals and stops them from damaging healthy body cells.
How Melatonin functions is simple to understand. It diffuses through cell membranes and the blood-brain barrier, as it feeds on free radicals like OH, O2−, and NO.
Owing to its unique anti-oxidant properties, it proves beneficial in battling oxidative injuries. This includes threatening brain disorders like Parkinson’s disease, and heart diseases like arrhythmias to mention a few.
5. Melatonin Benefits for Immune System
Melatonin safeguards the immune system from infectious diseases. It keeps the immunity intact by stimulating cytosine formation. Simply put, it works to keep you away from disease. Clearly, no one can really afford to have low levels of Melatonin!
6. Melatonin Benefits for Anti Aging
By now, you know that melatonin hormone is produced by the pineal gland and that the darkness triggers this gland to release melatonin in your bloodstream. This helps you fall asleep. Deep sleep is essential for your body cells to grow, to get rejuvenated and to heal. However, with age, production of melatonin decreases and thus older people face difficulty in falling asleep or do not need to sleep so much. This lack of sleep may lead to various health issues that may include mental health problems, stress, heart disease, etc. and these conditions then contribute to the aging process. Melatonin, by making you sleep better, help you in staying healthy and younger! But this is not all. There are many studies that have pointed at a possible relation between Melatonin and its anti-aging effects. Fortunately, there are results that support it, too.
- According to Dr. Walter Pierpaoli- one of the authors of scientific bestseller book, ‘The Melatonin Miracle’- melatonin is the ‘Master Hormone-Modulating Molecule.’ It regulates almost all the hormones in your body and not just the circadian cycle. Resetting your body’s age clock with the help of melatonin can slow down the process of aging. A research on animals showed that the pineal gland of an old animal, when transplanted into a young animal, slowed down its bodily systems and function. Therefore, it was concluded by Dr. Pierpaoli that melatonin keeps the body young, healthy and strong by transmitting essential signals to your body.
- According to Stephen Bondy and Edward Sharman who have written ‘Melatonin and the aging brain,’ the neuroprotective properties of melatonin seem to activate specific melatonin receptors that lead to modulation of transcription factors and consequent altered gene expression. This further leads to increase in antioxidant enzymes and decrease in inflammation. Melatonin therefore has this potential of slowing down the normal aging of brain. It is also helpful in treatment of neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
7. Melatonin Benefits for Menopause and PMS
Now this is something that would be loved by women! Yes, melatonin has special benefits for them. Melatonin is able to modify the hormonal and psychosomatic conditions in their perimenopausal years and this is proved by research. According to Dr. Walter Pierpaoli, menopause is the end of hormonal fertility program of women and this program can be modified. Ovaries do not get depleted over time but they simply atrophy or get wasted away as decided by their genetic program which is controlled by hormones. When nocturnal melatonin is administered to a perimenopausal woman, it reconstitutes the juvenile hormonal conditions and produces a fast regression of all the neurovegetative and psychic changes of menopause, This way, melatonin also help deal with the symptoms of menopause, particularly the conditions of nervousness, anxiety and depression.
Now look at this as to how melatonin helps a woman with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). A study conducted by Douglas Mental Health University Institute found out that low levels of melatonin is related to premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD can be defined as a condition where the symptoms of PMS are more severe. And what is worse is that it doesn’t just affect a week in the month. The PMDD sufferers go through a reduction in their melatonin levels even during the second half of their menstrual cycle when progesterone level is at its highest. If you are a woman and suffer from severe PMS, you may try taking melatonin on days 12-28 of your menstrual cycle but of course, after consulting your doctor.
8. Melatonin Benefits for Migraine Relief
Some of the recent researches suggest that some of those people who suffer from migraine might be deficient in melatonin. A study published in ‘The Journal of Headache and Pain’ stated that melatonin treatment decreases trigeminal neuron sensitivity based on experiment done on an animal model of headache. This supports a potential role for melatonin in prevention of migraine. As far as melatonin’s effects on human migraine is concerned, sleep researchers from the São Paulo Headache Center found that 3 mg of melatonin was more effective as compared to 25 mg of amitriptyline in reducing monthly migraine frequency. Amitriptyline is a common antidepressant which also aids in sleeping.
9. Melatonin Benefits for Skin
As we have read earlier that melatonin has broad antioxidant and radical scavenger properties. Due to these properties, melatonin may protect skin from damage caused by UV radiation. Some clinical studies have found out that melatonin can prevent sun damage only when it is administered before UV radiation apart from being present in relevant concentrations directly at the site affected by such radiation.
Melatonin is also important for rejuvenating skin as it interacts with major skin cells like keratinocytes and fibroblasts. Melatonin protects keratinocytes by preventing cell death and it also stimulates the growth of fibroblasts that produce the essential proteins collagen and elastin. These skin proteins only provide structural support for your skin. Here are some more insights into how melatonin is related to skin.
- It is said that manipulation of melatonin secretion into the skin can be beneficial in the treatment of many common skin disorders like atopic eczema and psoriasis.
- Deficiency in melatonin in your body may reduce skin thickness and increase lipid peroxidation as well as induce skin degenerative changes. Melatonin treatment have shown positive effects in all such conditions.
- Melatonin is also beneficial in case of aging skin due to its powerful antioxidant properties. Research shows that when skin is pre-treated with topical melatonin, it can provide strong protection against ultraviolet (UV) light-induced erythema or sunburn by way of suppressing oxidative damage.
- You may or may not have noticed but studies show that sleep deprivation delays healing of any wound on your skin. Topical application of melatonin can not only speed up wound healing but also prevent scar formation.
However, you must remain cautious against some side effects of melatonin on skin too. Melatonin activates the skin’s melanocytes or the cells that produce pigment. If you are giving efforts to combat age spots, melatonin might be counteracting these skin-care efforts. Therefore, before using melatonin supplement internally or topically, you must once consult your doctor.
10. Melatonin Benefits in Treating Cancer
Apart from all its benefits due to its anti-aging, anti-oxidant, immunity-boosting, anti-inflammatory and sleep-inducing properties, melatonin has anti-cancer benefits too. This hormone inhibits the spread of a wide range of cancer cell types. It also prevents cancer cell apoptosis or self destruction of cells. Melatonin also interferes with new blood supply that tumors require for rapid growth. Not only in preventing and treating cancer, melatonin is also useful in post treatment of cancer as it decreases the toxicity of cancer chemotherapy.
Is Melatonin free from Side Effects?
This is a tricky topic and has seen many rounds of discussions and debates in the medical world. In fact, there are still many speculations that are being considered.
We just read all the benefits of Melatonin and how important it can be in helping an individual lead a normal, healthy life.
However, the important point to remember is the dosage. It is very crucial to consume the right amount that has been recommended by a qualified doctor who knows your health history.
In fact, when it comes to any medication, supplement or extra dosage, you can’t be your own doctor and pop some pills. These days, it is difficult to even get certain medicines without prescription. Even if certain medicines are readily available, it is best to be careful. After all, it is about your body and priceless life!
It is noteworthy that when consumed for a short period of time, Melatonin has known to cause negligible side effects. In fact, when healthy people took Melatonin as pills for a time period of three months, absolutely no side effects were reported.
Another important point to remember before considering Melatonin pills is that these are very, very strong, much stronger than the Melatonin produced by the body. Therefore in some cases, there could be some side effects if the dosage is not paid heed to!
Possible Side Effects of Melatonin
Impact on body temperature: If some reports are to be believed, it can bring the body temperature down, some times lower than normal.
Affects blood flow: There are evidences that the blood flow might slow down when it is taken over a long period of time.
Induces drowsiness: When the dosage is not monitored, Melatonin is likely to cause drowsiness. Therefore, anyone whose job requires presence of mind and agility should really exercise a lot of care before considering Melatonin dosage.
Affects blood pressure: There have been cases where the condition of patients suffering with thermostatic worsened when given Melatonin. For those who don’t know, orthostatic hypotension refers to a condition where there is a sudden fall in blood pressure whenever a person stands upright.
Melatonin seems to worsen the condition by reducing nerve activity.
Interferes with psychomotor activity: Melatonin could cause disorientation, lethargy, headaches and dizziness when not taken under supervision of a qualified doctor.
There are many other reports of Melatonin consumption causing gastrointestinal disorders like severe diarrhea. There are indications that it increases the risk of seizures. It is advised that women who are expecting and breastfeeding shouldn’t take Melatonin without consulting their doctors, as it could prove lethal.
For that matter, if you are on medication for some other condition then you need to maintain your distance from Melatonin. When taken with other drugs, it could cause blood-clotting abnormalities and even increase the risk of urinary diseases.
The best course of action would be to consult your doctor if you are thinking of taking melatonin supplement for any reason. He is the only one who can tell you how and what dosage of melatonin you should take and whether you need melatonin supplement at all!