What is Melatonin? In our bodies, melatonin is the molecule naturally produced within the pineal gland, the glandular organ nestled between the cerebral hemispheres that the great French philosopher Descartes once proposed to be the "seat of the soul." We find melatonin everywhere in the biological world, from unicellular organisms to the vertebrates. Melatonin is the “Master Hormone-Modulating Molecule” but it is misleadingly called a “hormone.” This is because it is the body’s regulator of all hormones, the molecule which controls the production of almost every other human hormone. Melatonin also helps regulate our “sleep/wake”, or circadian cy-cles. Melatonin production reaches its peak in puberty and then continues to decrease as we grow older, resulting in the physically degenerative condition commonly referred to as “aging”. As we “age”, our bodies become vulnerable to a host of illnesses and diseases, including insomnia, immune dysfunc-tions, heart disease and cancer. But research shows that taking small doses of synthetic melatonin supplements at the time of life when naturally produced melatonin levels decline can halt and even reverse the negative effects of aging
What Does Melatonin Do? Melatonin is vital to protect our hormonal system, regulate immunity and repair our body’s cells. It is commonly used by shift workers and also to treat jet lag and age related sleep disorders, but its abilities go far beyond simply its sleep inducing properties.
How does Melatonin work? Melatonin’s main job in the body is to regulate night and day cycles or sleep-wake cycles. Darkness causes the body to produce more melatonin, which signals the body to prepare for sleep. Light decreases melatonin production and signals the body to prepare for being awake. Some people who have trouble sleeping have low levels of melatonin. It is thought that adding melatonin from supplements might help them sleep.
Can melatonin reduce let lag? If flying eastward, you need to go to sleep earlier and get up earlier. If flying westward, you need to stay up later and sleep later. For the first few days after crossing multiple time zones, you are likely to be both sleepy during the day and restless at night. Taking melatonin at the right time may help jet travelers adapt faster. Timing is critical. If you take melatonin at the wrong time, your body clock may travel in the wrong direction. You might leave New York en route to Paris, for instance, but send your body clock to Honolulu. While timing, dosages, and length of use are still being worked out, reducing jet lag is the best-tested application for melatonin, and it may be among the safest, as low dosages are taken for only a few days. The plan below has been used in several studies without causing serious side effects. It assumes that the goal is to sleep during normal nighttime hours at the travel destination.
When traveling east:
On the day of departure, between 6 and 7 p.m. on home time, on the flight if necessary, a dose of melatonin is taken. Cautionary note: melatonin may lower alertness. If it is taken before departure, the traveler should not drive himself or herself to the airport.
On the day of arrival, melatonin is taken at the new local bedtime and continued for four days.
If the stay is less than four days, and travel is going to continue further in an eastward direction, melatonin is taken between 6 and 7 p.m. the day before departure, not at bedtime.
On the day of arrival, melatonin is taken at the new local bedtime and continued for four days.
When traveling west:
Melatonin offers little or no advantage on trips of fewer than five time zones westward. The body normally takes only a day or two to adapt to such changes.
When crossing more than five time zones westward, starting on the day of arrival, a dose of melatonin is taken at local bedtime, and continued for four days.
Melatonin’s Effects on Longevity Melatonin’s effect on longevity is well documented; in fact laboratory tests on rats and mice have demonstrated that melatonin increased their lifespans by 20%. Experts believe melatonin is a vital anti aging product because of its positive effect on the aging immune system, its protection of the cardiovascular system, its ability to increase growth hormone production and above all its capacity to limit free radical damage
How Much Melatonin Should I Take? Take half to one 3mg tablets at bedtime only. Never take more than two. Only use Melatonin Zn Se when you are prepared to sleep and have the light switched off, because light entering the eye destroys Melatonin.
The Antioxidant Effects of Melatonin Melatonin is an extremely effective antioxidant, in fact on a molecule to molecule basis, melatonin has proved to be significantly more efficient in neutralizing the toxic hydroxyl radical than the two well-known free radical scavengers, glutathione and mannitol. Likewise, melatonin is roughly twice as effective as vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) at scavenging the peroxyl radical which is generated during lipid peroxidation.
Does melatonin have that morning-after hangover effect of sleeping pills? No. You should normally wake up well refreshed and full of energy. If you wake up feeling a little tired you should reduce your dosage until you wake up feeling well refreshed
Can melatonin help people fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly? Melatonin induces sleepiness and lowers body temperature slightly, perhaps a further aid to sleep since temperature normally falls around the time sleep begins. Several small studies of individuals suggest that some people with trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep may benefit from taking melatonin at bedtime. However, there have been no large-scale controlled studies as yet. Responses vary considerably between individuals. Again, one should start with the lowest possible dose, and monitor responses and increase doses, if necessary, under a physician's supervision. People who have trouble falling asleep at a conventional bedtime - often staying awake until 3 a.m. or later - but then sleep well may have a disorder of sleep timing called the delayed sleep phase syndrome. Taking melatonin two hours before their current bedtime may help them fall asleep earlier. They would gradually move back the hour they take melatonin until they reach their desired bedtime. Other people have the opposite problem. They cannot resist falling asleep earlier than a conventional bedtime: 9:00 p.m., for example. They then may awaken fully alert around 3 a.m. and be unable to fall back to sleep. Some people with this problem, called the advanced sleep phase syndrome, benefit from taking melatonin if they awaken between 2 and 5 a.m. Persons who are totally blind (lack all light perception) may notice cyclic trouble staying alert during the day and sleeping at night. Because synchrony of daily rhythms ordinarily requires daylight exposure, their melatonin secretion pattern may not be anchored to the normal 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. rest period. In experimental studies, tests of blood, saliva and urine have been used successfully to track the melatonin rhythm, determining when it is in synchrony with the desired bedtime. With this information, blind persons may be advised to take melatonin at bedtime from then on to keep their body rhythms in line. One impressive study of a series of cases of totally blind children with irregular sleep patterns, including daytime sleep, found major improvement when they were given melatonin at bedtime. People who live in at a northern latitude and/or spend most of their time indoors with little daylight exposure also may suffer from a disturbed sleep/wake rhythm. Elderly persons who live in nursing homes or other institutions may be most susceptible to this problem. Taking melatonin at an appropriate bedtime may help provide stability, but concerns about possible interactions with other medication, especially in the elderly, demand caution. As yet, there have been no studies testing the effect of melatonin in demented elderly persons. For healthy young adults with normal sleep, there are probably no benefits from taking melatonin, but there may be dangers in long term use. Insomnia is a symptom of many disorders, including neurological and other medical disorders and psychiatric problems, and requires evaluation by a physician. Melatonin may not be an appropriate treatment.
Please note: You should always consult a primary care physician/health practitioner of choice when considering the use of any products for health purposes, especially when undergoing treatment for an existing condition.
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