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Melatonin is a natural hormone your body produces in the pineal gland. Melatonin can be purchased over the counter as a sleep-aid. Small amounts of melatonin are also found in wine and certain types of food. Sometimes called “the hormone of the night”, melatonin slows the firing frequency of your body’s master clock, which reduces the arousal levels in the body and signals the onset of sleep.

A person with typical sleep patterns will see melatonin levels start to rise 14 to 16 hours after awakening. The melatonin cycle operates roughly opposite of body temperature cycle. Body temperature is the highest, and melatonin is the lowest, late in the afternoon and early evening. Conversely, in the early morning, the body temperature is at its lowest and the melatonin level is at its highest. Melatonin is kicked into production with the reduction of light. Melatonin plays a larger role in the body’s regulatory systems than sleep. It also aids in the body’s antioxidant defenses, helps regulate blood pressure, body temperature, cortisol levels, sexual functions, and immune functions. Melatonin is also thought to help increase rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep in sleepers who otherwise have disruptions in that phase of sleep.

REM disruptions may come from a range of factors, including alcohol consumption and more serious issues such as REM-sleep behavior disorder (RBD). Low melatonin levels in the bloodstream interrupt the body’s circadian cycles and can lead to restlessness. Supplemental melatonin taken one hour before bedtime may help you achieve restful sleep. It can also combat other sleep-related issues, like jetlag. Conversely, too much melatonin in the body can lead to drowsiness during the day and further scramble sleep patterns. In excess, melatonin can have negative side effects. At very high dosages, symptoms may include hypothermia and headache. Like other sleep aids, excessive use of this hormone can result in rebound insomnia through desensitization of receptors. Some people have light sleep issues, and a tiny dose of melatonin is all that is needed to sleep well. Others may have chronic sleep disorders and may think that higher dosages will help them sleep. That may be true, but it’s never advisable to start with large doses of melatonin. Some melatonin supplements have single-ingredient formulas. Others are supported with additional, often natural, sleep aids such as passionflower, chamomile, and sour cherry. Your body will react to these different formulas in its own way. The consumption of melatonin supplements has benefits and drawbacks. Many factors, including age, overall health, life situations and dosage affect the success you may have with using melatonin supplements as a sleep aid. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting melatonin if you are taking any prescription medications, are pregnant, or breastfeeding. Here are lists of pros and cons when using melatonin: Fewer side effects than pharmaceutical sleeping pills Multiple health benefits beyond sleep aid Largely safe to use Over the counter and easy to procure in the USA. Daytime drowsiness Nausea Depression Headache Reduced libido. Melatonin can be effective as a sleep aid and it can address biological issues beyond sleep too. Melatonin has a powerful antioxidant effects and anti-inflammatory properties. Melatonin inhibits an enzyme called cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) that produces inflammatory chemicals in the body. Unlike pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicine, melatonin does not affect the stomach lining. Furthermore, melatonin not only reduces pain perception in animal models of inflammation, but can also increase the analgesic effects of NSAID drugs.

Melatonin’s antioxidant properties are being researched to battle cognitive illnesses. As an antioxidant, melatonin works to protect proteins and lipids from damage caused by free radicals. Among these free radicals are ones that are known to be responsible for mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s. Melatonin is also known to aid cellular regeneration. It’s being experimented with to aid in cancer treatment. It has had success with tumor-reduction and reducing prostate cancer cell growth rates. Doctors increasingly explore this hormone’s use in the field of oncology. Excesses of a hormone in the human body cause hormonal imbalances that can have various effects on individuals. With women, large amounts of melatonin can affect changes in blood serum concentrations of reproductive system hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and luteinizing hormone. There are fears that melatonin consumption can stop ovulation and menstruation or induce miscarriages, although science on these questions appears to be sketchy.

Anticoagulants (blood-thinning) and anti-platelet drugs Anticonvulsants Contraceptive drugs Diabetes medications Medications that suppress the immune system.

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