There are many melatonin benefits to our health. And it its not just for sound sleep. The pineal gland in the brain produces and secretes melatonin. This gland is responsible for our sleep-wake cycle. We all have an internal clock that's located in the brain. This clock is set or kept in rhythm by regular exposure to light and dark.
Melatonin is also known as a sleep regulator or "clock setter."
Darkness stimulates the secretion of it and conversely it is inhibited by light. The secretion of this hormone increases in the evening hours, peaking about 2:00 AM and drops in the early morning hours.
This is why it is beneficial to reduce your exposure to light as the evening progresses. Melatonin hormone levels are low during the day and peak at night which induces the feeling of sleepiness and lowers our body temperature slightly. However, as we age the brain secretes less of this hormone.
Melatonin Benefits as an Antioxidant
As a nurse I constantly remind patients, friends and family, well anyone who will listen to me, the important role of sleep in maintaining one's health. There are many chemical and physiological processes going on during sleep that help to repair and restore health. Another benefit of the natural production of the hormone melatonin is its role as antioxidant.
Look at this research published by Molecular Medicine in the article called, Melatonin: An Established Antioxidant Worthy of Use in Clinical Trials. And I quote:
"A number of studies have shown that melatonin is significantly better than the classic antioxidants in resisting free-radical–based molecular destruction. In these in vivo studies, melatonin was more effective than vitamin E, β-carotene, and vitamin C, and superior to garlic oil.
Beneficial antioxidant effects of melatonin have been recently shown in clinical settings for several chronic diseases, including patients with rheumatoid arthritis, elderly patients with primary essential hypertension, and females with infertility."
Mol Med. 2009 Jan-Feb; 15(1-2): 43–50.
Melatonin Benefits and Cancer
Did you know that there is research that links exposure to light at night to cancer? People who consistently work night shifts may be at an increased risk for developing cancer according to the research of Dr. Eva Schernhammer, M.D.
"Exposure to light at night suppresses melatonin production, and night-shift work (a surrogate for such exposure) has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer."
The conclusion of her research states:
"These prospective data support the hypothesis that higher melatonin levels, as measured in first morning urine, are associated with a lower risk of breast cancer."
Journal of the National Cancer Institute 005 Jul 20;97(14):1084-7.
This is not a paper to support melatonin supplements, but rather the importance of increasing natural melatonin production by reducing exposure to light at night.
Melatonin Benefits and Jet Lag
Jet lag is a sleep disorder that affects travelers who have gone through different time zones. The natural circadian rhythm is disrupted by the changes and the brain gets somewhat confused about it being day or night. The farther one travels the more one's sleep is disturbed by early wakefulness or difficulty falling asleep.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
"As a jet lag remedy and sleep aid, melatonin has been widely studied, and it is now a commonly accepted part of effective jet lag treatment. The latest research seems to show that melatonin does indeed aid sleep during times when you wouldn't normally be resting, making it of particular benefit for people with jet lag."
It is recommended that one take your melatonin supplement about 20 minutes before you want to fall asleep.
A Natural Sleep Aid or Not
Do you have trouble sleeping at night? If so, you probably know how stressful it is to lye awake at night when you know that your body needs sleep. Many people struggle with sleep and find themselves turning to different pills or medications in hopes to find a way to fall asleep more quickly. You may have tried a variety of medications and may have found that nothing seems to work.
Humans produce melatonin naturally. There are ways that you can produce and increase your own melatonin naturally through your exposure to light and darkness. Learning how to use light and darkness has greatly helped me get consistently better sleep. Learn how you can too ....
How to Increase Your Own Melatonin Production and Sleep Soundly
There are lots of ways melatonin benefits our bodies, our moods and our well being - but the best way to to do that is to let your body produce it's own.