MelatoninPineal gland in the brain synthesizes the hormone melatonin from an amino acid tryptophan. Melatonin synthesis and secretion is stimulated in darkness and suppressed in light. It helps our body to know when to sleep and when its time to wake up. Synthetic melatonin supplements are used for various disorders, mainly related to sleep. The proposed therapeutic or preventive uses of melatonin are based on the antioxidant property of melatonin.
Health and melatonin
- Melatonin when taken orally improves alertness, reduces day time fatigue, reduces the number of days required to achieve a normal sleep pattern and diminishes the time to take to fall asleep (sleep latency). Melatonin is also a suggested remedy for jet lag reduction as more than half of the people gets benefits who take melatonin.
- Melatonin also shows promising results when used for delayed sleep phase syndrome, a condition where the onset of sleep is delayed despite of normal sleep duration and architecture.
- Melatonin when taken orally helps elderly people with insomnia and also decreases sleep latency in them.
- Melatonin may reduce sleep latency and increase sleep duration in children with various neuro-psychiatric disorders like mental retardation, visual impairment, epilepsy or autism.
- Melatonin when taken orally 30-60 minutes before sleeping increases sleep latency, feeling of sleepiness and duration of sleep in healthy individuals. Depression is sometimes also increased due to sleep disturbances, as melatonin can correct sleep abnormalities, it may even improve depression.
- Melatonin supplements may be beneficial in conditions with oxidative damage as it has antioxidant properties that help in scavenging the free radicals.
- Melatonin may help reduce side effects related to chemotherapy and may also be beneficial in advanced stage of malignancies including, breast, brain, lungs, liver, pancreatic, gastric, colorectal or testicular cancer.
- Melatonin may also be beneficial in curing headaches, marginally reducing blood pressure, effective in inflammatory bowel disease and may even stimulate platelet production.
Side effects of melatonin
Melatonin can also interact with some drugs and herbal supplements, thus it is advisable to take melatonin in recommended doses under the guidance of a health care professional.
- Melatonin is regarded safe when taken for short duration in recommended dose. However common reported adverse effects include fatigue, headaches, nightmares, sleepiness, sleep walking, irritability, disorientation, confusion, increased risk of seizures, mood change, giddiness, sadness, hallucinations, depression, retinal damage, gastric distress, nausea, vomiting or cramping.
- Melatonin should be avoided in patients with blood clotting disorders and those taking medications for the same.
- Melatonin can decrease blood pressure, thus should be taken with caution for people with hypertension, and those taking drugs or herbal supplements for the same.
- Melatonin may also affect the blood glucose levels, thus should be used with caution for people with diabetes and those taking medications for the same.
- Melatonin may even have effects on hormonal levels and if found in breast milk of lactating mothers, thus it is not recommended in pregnant and lactating ladies.