Many people use melatonin to improve their sleep patterns, but there is a lot more to this chemical compound than meets the eye.
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What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, which is located in the middle part of the brain. This chemical is closely related to our sleep cycle since it tends to fluctuate in response to our natural cycles, i.e., in the morning the levels drop, while they rise in the evening, as we prepare for sleep. When we are ready to slumber, the melatonin helps to ease the body into a relaxing state. Now, the level of this hormone in your body can be affected by a number of things, including the waking and sleep cycle you set for yourself, along with the amount of light that you get each day. The body’s internal clock is a sensitive thing, however, so even slight fluctuations in your average melatonin levels can have measurable effects.
If people are struggling with insomnia or other nervous system disorders, melatonin comes in a supplement form that can help to regulate your hormone levels. Although there is some controversy about the efficacy of this hormone, it is largely accepted, particularly by natural health practitioners. As we age, our body naturally produces less of this hormone, or may even completely stop, which can result in a myriad of health concerns, including insomnia, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), jet lag, depression, and cluster headaches. Generally speaking, regardless of how or why you are using melatonin, this hormone is considered safe, provided it is used in moderation, under the care of a medical professional. There are some side effects, but they are usually minimal.
There are many different benefits, aside from better sleep, linked to melatonin, that include the following:
- Boosted immune system
- Reduced inflammation
- Improved heart health
- Lower risk of certain cancers such as prostate and breast cancer
- Relief from jet lag
- Prevention of bladder disorders
- Lower levels of stress hormone
- Relief from menopausal symptoms
- Effective in treating autism and associated issues
If you suffer from insomnia or any other type of sleep disorder, the regular use of melatonin can get your hormonal levels back on track and ensure a restful night of sleep.
Melatonin has a number of antioxidant effects on the body, which can also help to reduce strain on the cardiovascular system. This can protect the integrity of blood vessels and arteries, while also helping to keep blood pressure under control.
A number of studies have found that this hormone is also connected to the immune system. Without a proper amount of melatonin in the body, the thymus may not be able to properly function, which is essential for immune system strength. The antioxidant effects further relieve stress on the body’s defenses.
Feeling normal after jumping time zones can be a real struggle for people, often causing days or weeks of unscheduled sleep and unexpected fatigue. Fortunately, the use of melatonin can help to rapidly get the body back on track, realigning the Circadian rhythms without the days of poorly timed fatigue.
Breast and prostate cancer, specifically, have been shown to react negatively to melatonin in the body. This chemical is actually able to force these cancerous cells to undergo apoptosis (programmed cell death), without damaging the healthy cells surrounding them.
The effect of this hormone on the body can ease the transition into menopause for women as they age. This is a time when hormone fluctuations go into overdrive, and ensuring normal sleep patterns can make this difficult time of life a bit easier to handle.
This hormone is known to soothe contractions and spasms in the urethra, which can prevent bladder disorders and “accidents”, particularly as you age.
Melatonin is well known to reduce stress hormone levels in the body, which can relieve symptoms of chronic inflammation and other nervous system disorders.
Many people with autism suffer from insomnia, and melatonin has emerged as an effective treatment for this problem, thanks to its ability to stabilize hormone levels without causing undue drug interactions.
Melatonin Side Effects
While there are a number of impressive benefits linked to the use of melatonin, there are also some side effects. Many of these are typically experienced if the body becomes dependent on the supplement, but anyone may experience some of these side effects.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Due to a lack of research, it is not known whether the effects on hormones are safe for pregnant women or those who breastfeed.
Following regular use of this compound, removing the effects from your system can have negative effects on mood, and may result in depressive symptoms. Slowly weaning off the regular use of this hormone is recommended.
Some users report unusually vivid dreams when using melatonin, which is relatively harmless, but still unexpected and potentially unpleasant.
Melatonin can help people reach a deep and peaceful level of sleep, but this can be difficult to get over in the morning, resulting in grogginess, and a higher chance of hitting the snooze button.