With increasing prevalence of sleep-related issues, melatonin has gained popularity. Melatonin is a hormone that controls the body’s circadian rhythm —an internal system that regulates sleep and wakefulness. Production and release of melatonin is controlled by darkness and suppressed by light. Melatonin levels in the blood are maximum just before bedtime.
Many of those who have trouble sleeping have been found to have low levels of melatonin. This explains why melatonin supplements have gained popularity among people suffering from insomnia. Research on older adults suggests that taking melatonin half-an-hour before sleep time may decrease the amount of time required to fall asleep.
Melatonin was first isolated in 1959 by Dr Lerner, a dermatologist who used it on himself and was the first one to report its hypnotic properties. Many people use supplements of melatonin to fight jet lag these days. According to studies, melatonin taken on the day of travel and a few days later helps recover from disturbed sleep patterns during travel. However if timing is wrong, it may worsen adjustment. Many studies have found benefits of melatonin to manage sleep disorders among night shift workers. However, the studies are small, conflicting and evidence is inconclusive.
Melatonin also helps release of female reproductive hormones and determines the timing of menstrual cycle and menopause . It has been used to treat menstrual irregularities like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and menopausal complaints. It has powerful antioxidant qualities too. It is also used for treating arthritis, migraine, headache, stress, anxiety, heart disease , alcoholism and cancer. It has also been reported to be useful in fighting infectious diseases, including viral, HIV and bacterial infections.
A recent study published in Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2002 highlighted melatonin’s potential use in cancer treatment. It appears that it protects healthy cells from radiation-induced and chemotherapeutic drug induced toxicity.
The food items rich in melatonin are cherries, bananas, tomatoes, pomegranates, asparagus, olives, olive oil,grapes, wine, broccoli, cucumber, corn, rice, barley and oats. The good news is, it that it can be naturally boosted in the body by regular exercise, yoga and meditation.
The downside of using melatonin is possible drowsiness the following day. Regular use can make you dependent and amplify insomnia and disturb natural synthesis by the body by desensitising the gland. This could lead to potential increased inflammation. It is best taken as a substitute of sleeping medicine with your physician’s knowledge.