Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the body. It is generally secreted at night, where in most people, levels are the greatest during the normal hours of sleep.
At night melatonin is produced to help our bodies regulate our sleep-wake cycles. The amount of it produced by our body seems to lessen as we get older. Scientists believe this may be why young people have less problem sleeping than older people.
The level of melatonin in the body rapidly increases in the late evening, peaks after midnight and decreases toward the morning. It promotes sleep by fixing abnormalities in sleep-wake cycles and by releasing a direct soporific effect, namely when taken during the day. However, melatonin supplements should be taken in the evening.
Studies also suggest that Melatonin affects the immune response to cancer, possibly by creating effects on cytokines, which inhibit the growth of tumors by killing infected cells.
Melatonin is used for two primary reasons:
- Sleep related problems
- jet lag
Melatonin became popular as a sleep aid in the 1990's. This usage has been supported repeatedly by scientific studies. As a sleep aid it appears most effective in those suffering mild and occasional insomnia or trouble falling asleep. The second most common usage for melatonin is as a counter agent for jet lag. A review of nine clinical trials in 2002 revealed that taking 5 mg of melatonin between 10 p.m. and midnight at the destination helped travelers fall asleep faster and sleep better.
How this supplement works in your body.
- Promotes restful nights of sleep.
- Contains melatonin and valerian to promote healthy sleep patterns.
- Provides other ingredients that promote feelings of relaxation.
- Produces more restful sleep patterns, resulting in less fatigue and stress throughout the day.
Your body makes melatonin at nightfall -- and makes less of it as you age. This is one reason seniors often sleep less. A study in people over 55 with insomnia found that a prolonged-release melatonin pill improved sleep quality and morning alertness.
Melatonin in Cherry Juice
In a small study, insomniacs who drank 8-ounces of cherry juice twice a day slept an impressive 84 more minutes per night than they did when given a placebo juice. Researchers point to the cherries naturally occurring hormone melatonin as the key soporific ingredient. Look for juice made from Montmorency tart cherries, which have the highest concentration of melatonin. Source: Experimental Biology 2014 annual meeting.
No RDA for Melatonin
There is no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for melatonin -- it's manufactured in the body, and isn't directly available from food. However, foods that are high in the amino acid tryptophan, like turkey, help the body make more melatonin.
Synthetic melatonin supplements are also safe and available, and will probably be helpful to those who need to change their sleep patterns or even occasional help falling asleep. Steer clear of supplements made from cow pineal glands as they could contain viruses or impurities. Slow release melatonin supplements may not be as effective as standard quick release formulations in fighting sleep disorders.
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