Melatonin is a natural substance produced in the pineal gland. It helps regulate circadian rhythms. As day turns into night, the body produces more melatonin to signal that it’s time to sleep, eat, and wake. It’s often called the “sleep hormone” because in high levels the natural sleep aid helps you fall asleep faster.
When you sleep, the body produces high levels of melatonin. But if you have sleep deprivation, your body doesn’t produce enough to regulate your sleep cycle. Melatonin supplements are popular for people with a sleep disorder like insomnia or feel jet lagged. It’s also a powerful antioxidant, which may offer other health benefits.
The Academy of Sleep Medicine says that melatonin may alleviate specific sleep disorders, such as a sleep phase disorder, jet lag, sleep problems connected to shift work, and some sleep disorders in children. Sleep phase disorder is when a person goes to bed late at night and sleeps late into the day, creating an off biological clock.
The effectiveness of melatonin in one clinical trial had mixed results for insomnia in adults, but other studies show it may slightly shorten the time it takes to fall asleep. Anecdotal evidence from countless people using the sleep aid report melatonin effectiveness for falling asleep faster.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that studies show that melatonin improves sleep for blind people. Sleep patterns for blind people can become imbalanced because they cannot sense light. Light plays a role in healthy sleep patterns since light signals it's time to wake up and darkness signals it's time to produce higher levels of melatonin to encourage a restful slumber.
Some studies suggest that melatonin helps reduce high blood pressure. One small study of 15 men showed that repeated daily use reduced hypertension. However, other studies showed that if you’re taking other blood pressure medications, melatonin might interact poorly with it.
Since melatonin is an antioxidant, it may help protect the eye against diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). One study showed taking melatonin daily protected the retinas and alleviate AMD symptoms.
Winter blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects over 20% of adults in the United States. Some studies suggest bright light and sleep cycle plays a vital role in sadness levels. If your melatonin levels decrease due to sleep disruptions or problems, then it could cause seasonal depression.
Human growth hormone (HGH) is also produced in the pituitary gland and released during the sleep cycle. Young men produce HGH at high levels, and as they age, less of the hormone is generated. Some studies indicate that more melatonin might increase more growth hormone in the body. In a nutshell, melatonin and HGH might work together to help build muscle, regulated body temperature, and getting a good night's rest.
Melatonin is a natural sleep aid that provides many health benefits. The main one being it helps those who struggle to get some well-deserved zzzzs. But it also may have some lesser known benefits of improving eye health, blood pressure, and helping men feel young again. Melatonin may be safe and effective for a wide variety of health concerns.
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