First off, let's begin with what melatonin actually is. Melatonin is a hormone naturally made by your body and is produced in the brain by the pineal gland and is also found in other areas including eyes, gut, and bone marrow. Melatonin is oftentimes referred to as the "sleep hormone" because having and maintaining high levels of melatonin can help you fall and stay asleep.
This is where melatonin is widely misunderstood. Many people believe melatonin by itself puts you to sleep. This is not true. By itself, melatonin will not put you to sleep, it simply lets your body know its time so you can relax and fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer at night.
Melatonin works together with your body's circadian rhythm—which is your body's internal clock and lets you know when it is time to sleep, wake up, and eat. There is also strong evidence that melatonin helps regulate your body temperature, blood pressure, and even hormone levels. Melatonin also binds to receptors in the brain, reducing nerve activity, helping you relax. Individuals who don't get enough or have high enough levels of melatonin tend to have a difficult time getting to and staying asleep.
As Vitagene stated, "melatonin is a super clever and versatile hormone that can help with anxiety and depression, relieve pain from chronic disease, prevent cancer cell growth, and decrease the effects of estrogen on tumor growth. With so many amazing benefits, it’s in your best interest to check your melatonin level—and supplement if necessary."
Evidence shows that taking melatonin before bed or even low doses during the day can help you fall asleep and stay asleep at night. Scientists found in an analysis that included 19 different studies of people with sleep disorders that melatonin helped reduce the time it took to fall asleep by an average of 7 minutes. A majority of the participants also reported better sleep quality as well.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), commonly known as the winter blues is estimated to affect over 10 million adult Americans in 2020. There is evidence that melatonin supplementation can possibly help reduce seasonal depression by helping with the sleep/wake cycle.
Human growth hormone is a hormone naturally released during sleep. HGH plays a fundamental role in maintaining body composition, cell repair, and metabolism. Human growth hormone also increases muscle growth, strength, and even exercise performance. Human growth hormone is naturally released during sleep. Taking melatonin may help increase hormone growth hormone levels in healthy young individuals. Recent studies have shown that melatonin can make the pituitary gland more sensitive and release human growth hormone more frequently.
Healthy melatonin levels have shown the ability to support eye health. Melatonin has powerful antioxidant benefits that could help lower the risk of many common eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), in which 11 million people in the United States are affected from each year. That number, is expected to double by 2050 to 22 million.
The powerful antioxidant properties of melatonin could be an effective treatment for stomach ulcers and may even help alleviate heartburn. One recent study that included 21 individuals found that taking tryptophan (an essential amino acid) and melatonin in addition to omeprazole—a common medication for acid reflux experienced healing in stomach ulcers caused by the bacteria H. pylori faster. Melatonin also helped reduce heartburn in the individuals in the study.
Melatonin is safe, non-toxic, and not addictive. People may experience mild side effects including sleepiness and possible nausea. Individuals who are on blood thinners or blood pressure medication should speak with their doctor when beginning melatonin supplementation or products that contain melatonin.
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