July 31 2021
It is estimated that a large number of the population is suffering from sleep disorders. About 30 per cent of adults are susceptible to some form of sleep disturbances and receive less than the mandatory six hours of sleep every night. Though day to day’s irregular activity patterns is a major contributor to the erratic sleep patterns, poor sleep can have severe unwarranted consequences on the normal functioning of the body.
Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally synthetic in the body in the pineal gland in the brain as well as in the eyes, bone marrow and the gut lining. The excess levels of melatonin in the body are known to induce sleep. Hence, melatonin is also known as the sleep hormone. Melatonin can make us relax and helps to fall asleep easily. People suffering from insomnia and jet lag often prefer the intake of melatonin supplements to help them sleep better.
The characteristic feature of melatonin is its antioxidant property due to which it may be beneficial in a plethora of functions such as supporting eye health, treatment of stomach ulcers, heartburn, increasing growth hormone levels in men and relieving the symptoms of tinnitus.
Mechanism of melatonin action
Melatonin functions in sync with the circadian rhythm of the body which is regulating the internal clock and lets us know when it is the right time to sleep, wake up or eat. Melatonin also plays a key role in setting up the body temperature, regulating the blood pressure and optimising the hormone levels in the body. When it gets dark outside, the levels of melatonin increases in the body indicating that it is the time to sleep and thus decreases the alertness. It enables us to relax by binding to the receptors in the body such as in the brain where it regulates the nerve activity.
Melatonin also decreases the levels of dopamine which is a hormone which enables us to remain awake thereby regulating the day and night cycle of the eyes. The presence of light inhibits melatonin secretion by which we can make out that it is the time to be awake. Because melatonin assists the body in the preparation of sleep, people who cannot synthesise enough melatonin at night have difficulty in getting sleep.
The various factors which are responsible for the decrease in melatonin levels in the body are stress, smoking, exposure to excessive light at night, not getting adequate sunlight throughout the day, shift work which disturbs the circadian rhythm and ageing. Intake of melatonin supplements may help to balance the low melatonin levels and regulate the body’s internal clock. Alensleep Alvizia’s melatonin capsules counter the deficiency of melatonin produced in the body and help in achieving a sound sleep. Ingestion of melatonin supplements before going to bed helps in getting sleep easily. It has been studied that melatonin supplements decrease the time it takes for the body to fall asleep by around seven minutes. It also enhances the quality of sleep.
Melatonin supplementation is also found to be beneficial in jet lag which is a temporary sleep disturbance. Jet lag happens as a result of the body’s circadian rhythm is out of sync with the new time zone. This type of reaction is also common in shift workers who have an erratic work schedule usually when it is the time to sleep. Melatonin syncs the body’s internal clock with the desired time zone changes thereby reducing the jet lag.
Melatonin levels in moderation have been known to support eye health. The antioxidant property of melatonin helps in reducing the risk of contracting eye disease including age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Including melatonin supplements in the diet daily help in protecting the retinas and defer the damage caused by age-related macular degeneration.
Melatonin with its characteristic property of antioxidants helps in the treatment of stomach ulcers and also reduces the incidence of heartburn. Studies show that stomach ulcers caused by the bacteria H. Pylori are progressively healed by the combination of melatonin, tryptophan and omeprazole which is a medication indicated to be used in conditions such as acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
The condition of constant ringing in the ears is called tinnitus. This problem aggravates when there is significantly decreased background noise specifically in the night when we are trying to fall asleep. Melatonin supplements have been found to decrease the symptoms of tinnitus and enable the faster onset of sleep. Taking melatonin before going to bed continuously for about a month has been found to profoundly cause an improvement in sleep quality.
During sleep, human growth hormone (HGH) is released which is further increased in healthy individuals by the regular uptake of melatonin. Melatonin is effective in increasing the release of human growth hormone as it stimulates the pituitary gland which is the organ which releases human growth hormone. Research shows that a combination of melatonin supplements and resistance training exercises significantly increase the levels of human growth hormone in men and turn lowers the levels of somatostatin, which is a hormone responsible for inhibiting human growth hormone.
Melatonin supplementation should be started with a lower dosage initially the ideal quantity being around 0.5 mg to 1 mg about half an hour before going to bed. If this dosage is insufficient in inducing sleep, slowly melatonin supplements should be increased to about 3 to 5 mg. It is a misconception that a larger dose of melatonin enables us to sleep faster. The real deal is to achieve the lowest dosage that will be successful in inducing sleep faster.
The mild side effects of melatonin supplements include dizziness, headaches, nausea and vomiting. The intake of melatonin supplements is considered to be largely safe, non-toxic and non-addictive. Melatonin has been studied to have interaction with a large number of medications such as sedatives, blood thinners, anticonvulsants, antihypertensives, oral contraceptives, anti-diabetic medications and immunosuppressants. If any associated allergic conditions are present, physician consultation is essential before taking melatonin supplements.