What is Melatonin? - Benefits & Side Effects of Taking Melatonin
Melatonin, a hormone produced from the pineal gland; Apart from the structure in the brain, it is a neurochemical substance that can be found in the retina, bone marrow, intestine, skin, and various blood cells and works in harmony with the body's natural rhythm. Melatonin regulates the day-night cycle, in other words, the sleep-wake cycle.
What Are the Benefits of Melatonin?
Since the blood level of melatonin, one of the naturally occurring chemicals in the body, increases during sleep, it can also be defined as the sleep hormone. Conditions such as insomnia or jet lag may benefit from melatonin supplements. Apart from its contribution to sleep quality, melatonin can also regulate the immune system, body temperature, blood pressure, and cortisol hormone levels.
There are many areas where the hormone melatonin contributes to the normal functions of the body:
• Melatonin and Better Sleep
As a result of studies on the effect of melatonin on sleep have shown that it can increase the duration and quality of sleep in both adults and children and shorten the time it takes to fall asleep. It is also effective in regulating jet lag symptoms and reducing daytime sleepiness.
• Melatonin and Seasonal Depression
Seasonal depression is a common problem and is estimated to affect approximately 1 in 10 people. Seasonal depression got its name because it occurs simultaneously each year and generally around the end of autumn and the beginning of the winter season. Due to the connection between the body's daily rhythm and the hormone melatonin, it is thought that this situation, which occurs with the seasonal transitions, may occur due to the shortening of the day length.
• Melatonin and Growth Hormone
Growth hormone, which has a cellular growth and development stimulating effect, is an essential hormone for muscle mass and strength in adulthood. As a result of various studies, data have been obtained that increase the level of melatonin can also increase growth hormone levels.
• Melatonin and Eye Health
Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant. Thanks to this feature, it can positively affect visual health by protecting eye structures against cellular damage.
• Melatonin and Reflux Disease
Reflux disease occurs due to stomach acid and its contents escaping back to the esophagus and moving upwards. Since the hormone melatonin inhibits stomach acid synthesis, melatonin can reduce the symptoms of reflux disease.
How to Increase Melatonin Level?
The melatonin synthesized in the body directly enters the bloodstream without being stored, and its half-life is approximately 40 minutes. Melatonin is metabolized by the liver and then excreted in the urine.
On average, the highest levels of melatonin in the bloodstream are between 2 and 4 at night. Melatonin level is higher in women than men. The period when the level of melatonin naturally produced in the body is highest in women is during pregnancy. Babies in the womb can receive the hormone melatonin from the mother's blood through the placenta. Thus, it is ensured that the baby develops awareness of the concepts of night and day in his postnatal life. Melatonin secretion in infants starts spontaneously approximately in the 3rd month after birth.
In old age, the level of melatonin hormone is decreased by 20% compared to young individuals. Calcification in the pineal gland or the development of light perception disorders due to problems with vision is blamed for this situation. At the same time, harmful habits such as tobacco use or excessive and regular alcohol consumption can also cause low melatonin levels.
For the use of melatonin supplement products, it is recommended to choose products with low-dose content first. For example, the recommended amount and time of use for the beginning is to take 0.5 or 1 milligram of melatonin supplement product approximately half an hour before bedtime. The thought that the time to fall asleep will gradually shorten with the use of high doses of melatonin is wrong, and the target amount of melatonin should be determined as the lowest dose that can be effective in the use of melatonin supplement products for sleep-related problems.
Due to its effects on sleep, the standard dose range of melatonin hormone to be used is between 1 and 10 milligrams. There is no consensus yet on how much is the most appropriate dose to be used. Since melatonin supplement products may differ from company to company, their warnings should be read; it is essential to get detailed information from the family doctor or other specialists before using them. Breastfeeding mothers should be conscious about whether or not to use these supplements, especially since there is a possibility that melatonin can pass from breast milk to the baby.
It may be possible to increase the amount of melatonin hormone in the body in some natural ways. Avoiding artificial light sources such as smartphones, tablets, televisions a few hours before bedtime, making maximum use of sunlight during the daytime, or managing the stress of daily life in the best way is among the applications that can be done to increase the level of melatonin naturally.
What are the Side Effects that May Occur with the Use of Melatonin?
Melatonin supplements are often used for sleep-related problems. Studies examining the severe side effects that may occur with melatonin have concluded that melatonin does not cause any serious undesirable effects. At the same time, one of the results revealed by these studies is that melatonin supplement products do not cause any addiction or withdrawal syndrome in the person.
If the substances usually produced in the body are taken ready-made from the outside, sometimes the production of these substances in the body may be interrupted. Various studies show no such effect in the short term after melatonin is taken externally with supplements.
There is not enough information about the use of melatonin supplement products in children yet. Therefore, melatonin supplement products are not recommended for individuals still in the growth and development stage.
For the use of melatonin supplement products, times before sleep at night are recommended. In the case of the use of supplements containing melatonin during the daytime, irresistible sleepiness may occur. On perception and attention, melatonin supplements or injections have no effect at any time of the day.
Although it is known that the use of melatonin supplement products is safe and not addictive, some side effects may occur in people after the use of these products:
Apart from these side effects, it should be noted that the hormone melatonin may interact with some drugs used for other health conditions:
- Sleeping pills or tranquilizers
- Blood thinners
- Medicines that prevent seizures (anticonvulsants)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure) medications
- Birth control pills (oral contraceptives)
- Diabetes (diabetes) medications
- Immunosuppressants (immunosuppressants)
People who are currently using the specified drugs should not start using melatonin supplement products without the knowledge and recommendation of their physician.