Melatonin – What Is It and How It Works?

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Melatonin is a hormone that plays an important role in regulating a person’s sleep wake cycle. The natural levels of this hormone are highest at night.

Research indicates that melatonin supplements that are taken at the correct time are helpful in treating sleep disorders associated with the dissociation of a person’s natural biological clock with the real time night and day pattern. In addition, melatonin can also help reduce the time it would take a person to fall asleep.

Melatonin may be more effective in treating specific types of sleep disorders like delayed sleep problems and those sleep disorders that affect the circadian rhythm.

Side Effects and Drug to Drug Interactions 

Like any other medications and supplements, there are side effects associated with taking melatonin. The most common ones include headaches, daytime sleepiness and dizziness. Melatonin may also cause other side effects like mild anxiety, abdominal discomfort, irritability, short term depression and confusion.

If ever you are experiencing severe side effects of this medication, you should consult your health care provider right away.

Since melatonin supplements is like any other medications, this type of supplement has the tendency to interact with other drugs like immunosuppressant drugs, anticoagulants, diabetes drugs, and birth control pills. If you are taking any medications at the moment and you are considering taking melatonin supplements, you should consult your health care provider first.

Your doctor can advise on whether or not you should take the supplement. Moreover, your doctor can also determine the right dose for you depending on your needs. Your health care provider will also determine the length of time when the supplement is used. Typically, this supplement is taken on a short term basis only. However, certain cases may require extended use of this supplement.

How Does Melatonin Work?

Melatonin plays an important role in regulating the body’s cycle of wakefulness and sleep. There are some claims over the theory that melatonin has anti oxidant properties which has anti cancer as well as anti aging effects. However, this claim has not been established yet. Moreover, research and trials are still ongoing.

When it comes to sleep, the level of melatonin in the blood will start to increase about two hours before bedtime. That being said, at the same time sleepiness will occur and the body’s core temperature will start to go down.

Melatonin also controls the timing as well as the release of female reproductive hormones. This can help determine when a woman will begin to menstruate. Moreover, this can also determine the frequency as well as the duration of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Lastly, this can determine when a woman will begin to experience menopausal symptoms. Some research also indicated that low levels of this hormone can help determine if a woman is at risk of pre-eclampsia, which is a pregnancy complications associated with elevated blood pressure.

According to some research, the levels of melatonin in the blood are also related to aging. For instance, in children, the highest levels of melatonin are measured at night. Such reading drops when a person ages. Lower levels of this hormone are associated with sleep problems which are commonly experienced by older adults.

Uses of Melatonin

This hormone supplement offers various uses. This can be used to manage insomnia, menopausal symptoms, and chronic pain. This also helps determine the risk of certain conditions like cancer.

  • There are studies that suggest that this hormone supplement can help people with altered circadian rhythms like those who are suffering from jet lag and those who are working on a night shift. Taking this supplement can help these people sleep better. Studies show that this supplement can reduce the time needed to fall asleep, increase the hours of sleep and boost alertness during the day.
  • This supplement can help women who are suffering from sleeping problems due to menopause. Ultimately, this can help restore the quality of life as well as prevent any bone loss among those women who are already on the menopausal age. While this can help with sleep problems, this supplement does not help relieve the other symptoms of menopause like hot flashes.
  • Heart Disease. Studies show that this hormone comes with cardio protective properties as well as anti oxidant and anti inflammatory effects. Moreover, this can help lower the blood pressure and improve levels of cholesterol in the blood. Thus, this may help people suffering from heart diseases.
  • Chronic Pain. Studies show that melatonin has a significant effect on certain types of pain. For instance, some studies suggest that this hormone plays an important role in painful conditions like migraines. However, people who are suffering with chronic should talk to their health care provider first before taking any melatonin supplement.
  • Prostate Cancer. Melatonin may block the growth of prostate cancer cells as indicated in some studies. The studies show that men with prostate cancer have lower levels of melatonin compared to those who do not have the disease. However, more research is indicated for this field of interest.
  • Breast Cancer. According to some research and studies, low levels of this hormone are associated with the risk of developing breast cancer. For instance, research shows that women with breast cancer have lower levels of this hormone compared to those who do not have breast cancer. Studies show that low levels of this hormone actually stimulate the growth of specific types of breast cancer cells. That being said, the studies also show that when melatonin is added to this specific type of breast cancer cells, the cell growth is delayed.

Aside from the abovementioned uses, melatonin also has significant effects on conditions like sunburn, epilepsy, irritable bowel syndrome and sarcoidosis. Experts claim that skin care products like gels, ointments and lotions containing melatonin can help protect against sunburn and other skin conditions. This hormone supplement can also help reduce the frequency as well as the duration of seizures in children suffering from epilepsy. However, this claim is yet to be proven. It is best to consult a health care provider before giving this supplement to epileptic pediatric patients. Taking this supplement also suggest improvements of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and pulmonary sarcoidosis.


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