How Melatonin Can Improve Both Your Sleep and Overall Wellbeing

Melatonin, often referred to as the sleep hormone or MT receptor, is mainly produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It plays a key role in regulating a person's circadian rhythm. Because of this, some people call it a natural pacemaker for sleep cycles.

Both the body's internal clock and the amount of light exposure influence how much melatonin the pineal gland produces. Typically, melatonin levels start to rise after sunset, stay high throughout the night, and then drop after sunrise, prompting a person to wake up. Scientists believe that melatonin can promote wellness in various ways, including the following:

Melatonin

1. It Helps People Fall and Stay Asleep

As mentioned earlier, melatonin helps regulate a person's internal clock and aids in falling asleep. It lowers the amount of dopamine in the eyes, a hormone that helps people stay awake. Melatonin also binds to receptors in the brain to promote relaxation by reducing nerve activity. People with insomnia often don't produce enough MT, so they take supplements to help them sleep.

Thinking about trying melatonin supplements? They are taken orally, with each capsule containing between one and ten milligrams. Most experts suggest taking the tablets 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. It's a good idea to consult with an herbalist to find the best dosage for you.

If you prefer to "eat your medicine," you're in luck. Some foods are rich in melatonin, such as barley, cherries, cow's milk, olives, rice, strawberries, tomatoes, and walnuts.

Natural light can also boost melatonin production. Shortly after waking, expose yourself to sunlight by opening curtains or going outside for some exercise. The sunshine will help you feel energetic and alert. As the sun sets, the hypothalamus detects the change in light and signals the pineal gland to produce more MT, preparing you for sleep.

2. It May Treat Eye Diseases

Melatonin contains antioxidants, and most mammals' eyes have mechanisms for synthesizing MT. Researchers note that it is an antioxidant that protects the eyes from free radicals and stimulates the production of other antioxidants. They speculate that it may be used as a treatment for eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma, both of which can cause blindness.

In 2005, the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences described a study in which scientists worked with 100 patients who had age-related macular degeneration. The researchers had the patients take oral supplements over six to 24 months. They found that the patient's eyes did not get any worse. Thus, they concluded that the supplements protected them.

3. It May Relieve Heartburn and Ulcers

The hormone's antioxidant properties can help people with stomach ulcers or heartburn.

In 2011, the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology described a study in which researchers worked with patients who had ulcers. The scientists divided the patients into three groups. While all the patients received a drug called omeprazole, one group also got MT, a second group received L-tryptophan, and the third group got a placebo.

The researchers observed that the groups given MT or L-tryptophan along with their medication showed faster and more significant healing than the group that took the placebo.

Similarly, the science journal BMC Gastroenterology published a study involving patients with Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). They discovered that combining omeprazole with MT accelerated the healing process. MT also helped protect the digestive tract from ulcer damage and reduced heartburn.

4. It May Reduce Tinnitus

Tinnitus, often called "ringing in the ears," is a condition where a person hears a continuous ringing or other noise in their ears. It usually worsens when there is little background noise or when someone is trying to fall asleep.

A science journal named The Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology detailed a 2011 study where scientists examined the effects of MT on 61 patients with chronic tinnitus. They found that patients given MT had milder symptoms and slept better than those given a placebo. Interestingly, MT was most effective in men without a history of depression. It also worked best on people with severe tinnitus who had not been treated before and on patients with a history of noise exposure.

5. Melatonin May Help Reduce Seasonal Depression

Seasonal Depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or "winter blues," is a common condition that may affect around 1/5 of American adults. The condition may be linked to changes in light exposure and shifts in their internal clock.

In 2006, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America published a study connecting seasonal depression to abnormalities in the patient's internal clock. People with jet lag or those who worked odd hours had similar abnormalities, as did some blind individuals. The researchers noted that bright light is often used to reset a patient's internal clock. They also tested the effects of MT on patients by administering treatments at different times of the day. They found that most patients with seasonal depression benefited the most when they took a small dose of MT in the afternoon.

The scientists acknowledged that more research is needed to confirm this finding.

6. MT May Increase the Production of Growth Hormone in Young Men

Like MT, the human growth hormone is produced by the body during sleep. The science journal Clinical Endocrinology published a 1993 study where researchers examined the effects of MT on human growth hormone production. They found that MT could stimulate growth hormone production, at least to a small extent.

Six years later, Clinical Endocrinology shared a small study where researchers administered MT to eight healthy young men. They also found that MT could stimulate growth hormone production.

7. MT Helps Children with Autism

As with other people, melatonin can help a child with autism fall asleep more easily.

MT can also alleviate other issues related to the condition, such as depression, digestive problems, and anxiety, thereby enhancing a child's overall well-being.

In 2018, Current Developmental Disorders Reports published a review outlining how MT can assist children with autism. The authors highlighted that other body parts besides the pineal gland could produce MT. These include the retina, digestive system, lungs, and kidneys.

The authors noted that some studies found children with autism often have irregular MT production, affecting their ability to fall and stay asleep. As a result, many children with autism suffer from insomnia and similar issues. They are also more likely to experience anxiety and depression, and some clinical trials have shown that MT can help with both. MT has also been found to reduce pain, which can benefit children who are hypersensitive to environmental stimuli. Researchers are still unsure what causes MT's pain-relieving properties.

8. Melatonin May Help Lower Your Blood Pressure

MT is one of the supplements that may help reduce blood pressure. Others include Vitamin D, folic acid, and anthocyanins.

In 2004, the science journal Hypertension reported a study where researchers worked with men who had high blood pressure. They had them take MT an hour before bedtime every day for three weeks. While the treatment did not affect the subjects' heart rates, it did lower both their diastolic and systolic blood pressure.

9. MT May Defend Against Cancer

People with higher MT levels may be less prone to certain types of cancer. The Natural Medicine Journal published a 2010 review of various studies indicating that MT reduced the risk of breast cancer. Conversely, people with naturally low MT levels had a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Similarly, higher MT levels may protect men from prostate cancer. Since MT has antioxidant properties, it can stimulate white blood cells, which then attack cancer cells.

Some doctors use MT as a complementary treatment for various cancers, including prostate, gastrointestinal, lung, breast, and brain cancer. They also use it to help alleviate some side effects of chemotherapy, such as weakness, nerve pain, and weight loss.

Final Thoughts on Using Melatonin for Better Health

While MT can come in topical and spray forms, it works best with precise dosage. Therefore, doctors usually recommend oral forms like capsules, lozenges, or liquids. They also advise taking it at the same time every day before bedtime.

There is some evidence that MT has contraceptive effects, so women trying to get pregnant should avoid it. People taking any prescription medication should consult their doctor before using MT to prevent drug interactions.

MT causes drowsiness for several hours. Therefore, people should not drive or operate machinery until the effects wear off.

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