The sleep hormone melatonin is listed as a new wonder drug in the US, where it is found in numerous nutritional supplements: It is not only intended to help sleep disorders, but also has a positive impact on the aging process of the cells as well as on the cancer and cardiovascular system due to its antioxidant effect Illnesses take. In fact, the effect of melatonin has so far been insufficiently researched – which is why it may only be used as a sleeping aid in Germany. Also about possible side effects of melatonin is not yet sufficiently known.
The effect of melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone that controls the day-and-night rhythm of the human being – the so-called circadian rhythm. It is made from serotonin in the pineal gland. In addition, it is also produced in other places in the body, for example in the digestive tract. However, melatonin from the pineal gland is responsible for controlling the day-night rhythm.
In the pineal gland, the hormone is released only in the dark – that’s why we get tired in the evening. The level of melatonin in the blood rises slowly and reaches its peak in the middle of the night – between about two and three o’clock. In the early morning hours, the mirror then falls off again, because light inhibits production.
But melatonin not only regulates the sleep-wake cycle, but also many biological functions associated with it. These include, for example, kidney function and blood pressure. The fact that the hormone can not only affect the sleep-wake cycle, but also other physical processes should be strictly observed before taking a melatonin preparation.
Disorders in the melatonin household
Shift work or a time delay in long-distance travel can cause disturbances in the melatonin budget. By an additional intake of melatonin, however, these disorders are supposed to be able to be remedied again: So the hormone should ensure that you can fall asleep faster in the evening in jet lag-related sleep disorders.
However, this effect of melatonin is still controversial: while the hormone in some studies had a positive effect on the sleep behavior, it showed no effect in other studies. Often, the effect occurred only after a few days of intake. Positive influence on the effect of melatonin should cross as many time zones as possible and west-east flights.
But not only for jet lag, but also for shiftwork, the additional intake to help the body to get used to the normal daily routine again. The same applies to blind people whose sleep-wake rhythm has decoupled from the day-night rhythm.
Melatonin and depression
Changes in the melatonin household are particularly common in winter, as the level of the hormone remains elevated during the daytime due to the low level of daylight. This can lead to insomnia, fatigue and winter depression. To prevent such symptoms, one should use the little daylight for walks. By daylight, the release of melatonin is more inhibited and the level in the blood drops. For severe complaints you should consider a light therapy.
Melatonin as a sleeping aid
The older we get, the less melatonin our body produces. This fact suggests that sleep disorders that occur in old age are related to the decrease in melatonin levels. That is why people sleeping over 55 years in Germany are admitted to sleep medication containing melatonin. Each tablet contains a dose of two milligrams.
The drug is suitable for the short-term treatment of sleep disorders due to poor sleep quality (primary sleep disorders). However, sleep disorders caused by a disease or certain medications can not be treated with melatonin. However, the treatment of primary sleep disorders is also controversial, because in about half of the patients, the sleep aid has no effect.
Tip: If you suffer from sleep disorders, you should definitely take care to sleep in a darkened room so that the pineal gland can disperse as long as possible melatonin.
In recent years, melatonin has made a name for itself as a wonder drug, especially in the United States, where it is contained in numerous nutritional supplements. Among other things, it should stop cell aging, burn fat, protect against hair loss and prevent or cure diseases such as AIDS, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
In Europe, melatonin is classified as a drug and therefore not included in nutritional supplements. Appropriate dietary supplements can easily be ordered over the internet. However, it is difficult for the buyer to determine how high the quality of the offered product is and what risks it entails. Therefore, the purchase of melatonin via the Internet is strongly discouraged.
That melatonin in the body has an antioxidant effect, is now considered scientifically proven: The hormone traps free radicals that damage the cells, and destroys them. Because it is both fat and water soluble unlike many other antioxidants, the hormone provides good all-round protection against free radicals.
The antioxidant effect of the hormone suggests that the aging process of the cells is related to the age-related release of melatonin. Whether this is indeed the case and whether the lower melatonin concentration is a consequence or cause of aging, but is not yet clear. Similarly, a link between the intake of melatonin and a slowing of the aging process is not scientifically proven.
The effect of melatonin is controversial
Due to the antioxidant properties of the hormone is not only attributed to a possible slowing down of the aging process, but also a positive effect on the prevention and control of cancer and the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Whether melatonin can actually prevent such diseases is currently not scientifically proven.
The impact of melatonin on cancer has been studied in a number of studies – but with conflicting results. For example, while the hormone preserved healthy cells from chemotherapy damage in some tests, the hormone in another study also protected the cancer cells from dying. According to experts, there is currently no reason for cancer patients to take appropriate preparations.
Side effects of melatonin
For a short time – ie taken over a period of a maximum of two to three months – melatonin has hardly any side effects. So far, symptoms such as drowsiness and lack of concentration have been observed, as well as chest pain, dizziness, stomach or headache. Also, the natural sleep-wake cycle can be disturbed by the intake of melatonin. In contrast to a short-term dose, the risks and side effects of long-term use are currently completely unexplored.
For safety reasons, the use of melatonin should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation, as well as in severe allergies. If the hormone is taken together with anti-epileptic drugs, antidepressants (SSRIs) and antithrombotic drugs, it may possibly lead to interactions between the various drugs.