One of the most purchased food supplements by consumers is melatonin, a molecule of natural origin known as a remedy for insomnia.
Melatonin is physiologically produced from most living things, both animal and vegetable.
In humans melatonin is very important because responsible for maintaining the sleep-wake cycle.
Melatonin causes at a certain time to feel sleepy and in the morning to wake up regardless of the alarm clock. Its production increases during nighttime stimulating the sleep, and decreases during daytime. In animals, especially in wild animals, its influence is very evident because it is closely related to the quantity of light that the eye perceives, and its secretions during the day are very variable. In humans, the artificial light emitted by smartphones, computers and televisions negatively affects the melatonin production.
When the production of melatonin is not correct, or the sleep-wake cycle is not regular (then melatonin production is inhibited), the subject may need an external integration that simulates the effect of melatonin produced by the body, promoting endogenous secretion.
Effects of Melatonin on human organism
The effects of melatonin on human organism are different. Integration is then recommended not only to solve problems of sleeplessness. Let us consider some diseases in which melatonin supplements have positive effects:
- Insomnia related diseases. These are diseases in which melatonin is most useful. In fact, taking the supplement before bed, it mimics the natural production of melatonin, inducing sleep. This is useful in all subjects who do not have a regular sleep-wake cycle, for example during times when you go to bed and wake up at very different times, but even in situations of anxiety and stress, problems of jet leg or situations that may negatively affect children’s sleep;
- Neurodegenerative disorders, as Alzheimer, benefit from the integration of melatonin because this hormone can induce to slow the degeneration by fighting it through a mechanism which is not still well defined;
- Vision problems related to degeneration of neural structures related to eyes. The mechanism of contrast, still unknown, could be the same of the neurodegenerative diseases;
- Fertility problems: melatonin acts by stimulating the pituitary gland secretions that influence reproductive function, especially of the ovaries. The hormone is related to this cycle because the estradiol as the main female hormone controlling the reproductive system, stimulates the secretion;
- Pathologies indirectly related to the reproductive system, such as endometriosis and menopause can benefit from the integration of melatonin. In fact, the hormone can reduce the symptoms that characterize them;
- Non-serious withdrawal syndromes, such as those from tobacco smoke, in individuals who are trying to quit;
- Psychiatric disorders in which, for different mechanisms still under study, were noted benefits of taking melatonin;
- For the imbalances of the immune system probably melatonin produces secondary beneficial effects due to the recovery of sleep, which we know is fundamental for the immune system. Melatonin certainly is not an immunostimulant but, by improving the general well being of the human organism, has positive effects on the immune system too.
How to take Melatonin
The main result of the consumption of melatonin is closely linked to the sleep wake cycle. As the brain produces the hormone at the end of the day, the supplement should be taken before bedtime so to add it to that produced by the organism. An intake in different hours would lose its effect, and, on the contrary, it might induce sleep at times when is not needed.
Melatonin side effects
Even if it is a natural product, before taking melatonin it is good to request a medical consultation, to understand if the supplement is suitable for the specific case.
The integration of melatonin does not involve serious risks but it can interact with certain drugs, decreasing the effect, so it should be avoided taking in conjunction with certain therapies. It can also have negative effects with the body during pregnancy, on diabetic subjects and coagulopathies (decreases blood clotting).
It is worthwhile to not match the intake of substances that have the opposite effect of melatonin, like caffeine, which completely cancels the effect.