What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in the body. It is produced by the pineal gland, a pea-sized gland which is located just above the middle of the brain. Melatonin helps the body know when it’s time to sleep and wake up.

Normally, the levels of melatonin start to go up in the evening once the sun sets and then drop in the morning when the sun rises. In other words, the amount of melatonin produced is larger at night time and smaller at day time.

It is how much of light you get each day together with your own body clock that determines the amount of melatonin your body makes. Darkness makes the body produce more melatonin while light decreases the melatonin production.

Melatonin can be taken through supplements. It comes in natural or synthetic forms of pills, liquids, and chewables. The natural melatonin are made from the animals’ pineal gland.

How does melatonin work?

Melatonin’s primary function in the body is to regulate the so-called sleep-wake cycles. An increased amount of melatonin signals the body to prepare for sleep while a drop in this hormone’s level tells the body to prepare for being awake.

People who experience troubles with sleeping have low levels of melatonin.

What are melatonin used for?

People take melatonin when they suffer from insomnia- a condition that causes them trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Melatonin is also taken for other sleep problems, including delayed sleep phase disorder. Delayed sleep phase disorder makes it almost impossible for the patients to fall asleep before 2 a.m as well as get up in the morning.

People may also use melatonin for sleep work disorder- a condition arising if they have jobs that disrupt typical sleep schedules.

Melatonin is taken to treat or prevent jet lag as well. Jet lag is the feeling of tiredness and exhaustion people experience when they are traveling across time zones.

Specialists are currently studying to see if melatonin is effective for:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cancer
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • High nighttime blood pressure
  • Sleep problems in children with autism spectrum disorders

What are the side effects of melatonin?

Generally, melatonin is safe for short-term use. One of the highlights of melatonin over many other sleep medications is that it does not seem to make users become dependent to the drug. Moreover, takers do not undergo a diminished response after repeated use or experience a hangover effect.

The most common melatonin side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness

Other, less common melatonin side effects may include:

  • Short-lasting feelings of depression
  • Mild tremor
  • Mild anxiety
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Irritability
  • Reduced alertness
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Hypotension

In addition, melatonin can interact with various medications, including:

  • Anticoagulants and anti-platelet drugs
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Contraceptive drugs
  • Diabetes medications


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