Melatonin is said to be the hormone that gives you a good night's sleep and, consequently, a better life. However, melatonin is not only responsible for the quality of sleep, but also strengthens immunity, acts as an anti-inflammatory, protects the heart and performs many other functions in the body. It is priceless support for our health, especially for those who do sports and take care of their shape. In this article, you will learn how melatonin works and why you should include it in your supplementation.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone (actually a neurohormone) produced by the pineal gland, one of the endocrine glands. It is responsible for synchronizing the 24-hour cycle and our internal biological clock. Melatonin is secreted in the organism daily. During the day, its concentration is low, and the highest occurs between midnight and 3 am. This is why melatonin makes it easier to fall asleep, is responsible for the quality of sleep, as well as whether we wake up or sleep comfortably during the night.
How is melatonin produced?
The hormone is produced almost entirely in the dark when the nerve fibres of the sympathetic nervous system are stimulated. Melatonin secretion decreases when sunlight falls on our eyes. Melatonin production involves not only cells of the pineal gland, but also neurons of the visual pathway (nervous system). Surprisingly, retinal photoreceptors perceive not only natural light but also artificial light, i.e. the light produced by lamps, computer screens or telephones. That is why before going to bed we should put away electronic devices, which distract our body and can lead to sleep disorders.
What is the concentration of melatonin in the human body?
Different, depending on age: the highest in childhood (at the age of 2-5 years), stable until the age of 40, and the lowest after the period of puberty. It is worth knowing that the concentration of melatonin with age decreases only at night - during the day it remains at the same level.
Melatonin for sleep, but not only
- It is also a great antioxidant, that slows down the ageing process and positively affects the functioning of the human body. What is important, scientific research confirms that melatonin, as an antioxidant, also works as well as vitamin C or E, or even better.
- Other research shows that melatonin can affect the gonads (sex glands that have an important function in reproduction).
- It supports the body in some disorders of the digestive system - for example, peptic ulcer disease, reflux, or irritable bowel syndrome. In addition, melatonin slows down digestive processes, so that the absorption of vitamins and trace elements is increased.
- It also influences other hormones and affects glucose metabolism, which is why it is crucial for diabetics.
- That's not all. Melatonin supports the body in the struggle against high blood pressure, protects the cardiovascular system and positively affects the circulation system. It lowers cholesterol levels and regulates blood pressure.
- It prevents cancer, and inhibits the activation of cancer cells, for example, glioma, melanoma, and breast cancer.
- Melatonin has neuroprotective effects, which means it protects our brain cells (neurons).
Melatonin and the immune system
As you can see, melatonin has important functions in the body. One of them is strengthening the immune system. Immunity becomes weaker with age. Melatonin supports the production of macrophages, granulocytes, NK cells, and T cells, so our immune system "gets younger" and has a chance to defend itself better. Furthermore, melatonin prevents the damage to the immune system that stress generates (corticosteroid release).
Melatonin vs obesity
This news will make people who are struggling with weight gain happy. Not everyone knows that even in adulthood, there is both white and brown body fat that generates heat. It burns calories by consuming glucose and fatty acids while slowing the accumulation of unnecessary body fat. Melatonin is responsible for brown tissue size and activity. In addition, the hormone regulates the intensification of leptin synthesis which is responsible for our appetite.
Melatonin as a supplement. When is it worth taking?
Melatonin is available on the market in the form of pills, available without a prescription, an example of which is OstroVit Melatonin 300 tablets with a dose of 1 mg of melatonin per tablet. Supplementation is recommended primarily for:
- people who have problems with falling asleep, or have a bad night's sleep
- people who want to improve their quality of sleep
- frequent travelers, especially those changing time zones (jet lag)
- people who work shifts or late hours
- blind people
It is good to know that melatonin supports the body and helps to rest better, but it will not treat insomnia caused by diseases, for example, depression. In case of serious, long-lasting sleep disorders, supplementation itself may not be enough and you should consult a specialist as soon as possible.
What are the symptoms of melatonin deficiency?
Mostly it is caused by disrupted sleep rhythm (frequent waking up), shallow sleep, tiredness and sleepiness during the day. Feeling of a badly slept night, as well as generally bad mood, headaches or problems with concentration. In such situations, it is worth supplementing with synthetic melatonin, which will support the proper functioning of our internal clock.
It is important to remember that melatonin deficiency is also related to the current lifestyle: computer screens, phones and other electronic devices emit large amounts of blue light on us. In the evening, instead of observing sleep hygiene, we often use the phone, watch movies or TV series, which can affect melatonin deficiency, and as a result, sleep problems. Melatonin deficiency may also be caused by improper diet, stress or an overactive lifestyle (for example, workaholism, too much physical activity, alcohol abuse).
Can you test the level of melatonin?
If you have any doubts about the concentration of melatonin in your body, then of course such a test is possible. At 3 A.M., when the level of hormone is at its peak, you should take a saliva sample using a kit collected from the laboratory. The test is not cheap and you have to wait at least two weeks for the results. On the other hand, it is not invasive, painful, or complicated.
How to improve the quality of your sleep, without supplementing melatonin?
The best way is to follow the principles of sleep hygiene, which means:
- Avoid drinking coffee and tea 3-4 hours before going to bed
- Limit blue light exposure, at least one hour before going to bed
- Avoid exercise immediately before bedtime
- Avoid working late at night
- Eat healthy and balanced meals. It is also worth enriching your diet with products that contain melatonin, for example, bananas, almonds or coriander
When should melatonin not be supplemented?
After alcohol consumption, because melatonin increases sedative (tranquilising) effects so that serious balance disorders and extreme drowsiness can occur. In addition, preparations with melatonin should be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women, children and people with liver diseases.
We already know that melatonin is a very important hormone that affects the human body and is responsible for our health and well-being: sleep. It is worth making sure that it is a peaceful and quality one.