Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by the body to maintain a normal sleep-wake cycle, also called as circadian rhythm. On an average, an individual sleeps for 8 hours and is awake for the remaining 16 hours during which he or she performs his or her everyday chores. This level of this hormone increases during night, especially between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. and then it starts to come down. During daytime, natural melatonin is barely noticeable in the body. The sleep-wake cycle of the body is controlled by the levels of Melatonin.
What is the Mechanism of Action of Melatonin?
The main job of melatonin is to control the circadian rhythm of the body. Darkness causes the body to produce more melatonin and prepares it for sleep. Daytime or light decreases its production and the body is awake. People with sleep problems even at night have a low level of melatonin and thus may require melatonin as a medicine to fall asleep. There are quite a few herbal supplements that are available which have melatonin in them which can be used to improve patterns in individuals who have a problem with sleeping through the night.
What are the Uses of Melatonin?
The main use of melatonin is to overcome jet lag. Individuals coming from one continent to another have problems with sleeping due to a change in the sleep-wake cycle. This is where melatonin is useful till the time he or she gets accustomed to the local time zone. Melatonin can also be used for people who work in the night shift as their sleep-wake cycle gets reversed and to get a restful sleep melatonin is quite effective.
Visually impaired people who have difficulty in maintaining a day-night cycle can also be helped by Melatonin. Melatonin is quite effective in treating conditions like insomnia. It is also quite useful for people who have REM sleep disorder. People who have ADHD also have problems sleeping and melatonin can be used for such individuals to make them sleep. Melatonin is also useful for people who tend to develop hypertension medication related insomnia like beta blockers.
Melatonin is also useful in people who have quit smoking and have withdrawal symptoms like not being able to sleep. In some cases melatonin has also been used for conditions like COPD, endometriosis, dementia, fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome, nonalcoholic liver disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. Melatonin also acts as a calming agent for individuals who are about to undergo surgery to calm them down before the procedure.
What are the Side Effects of Melatonin?
Some of the side effects of melatonin are:
- Melatonin tends to worsen bleeding in individuals who have a bleeding disorder
- It also tends to make depression worse
- Melatonin also increases blood sugars and hence if taken by diabetics strict blood sugar monitoring an control is recommended
- Melatonin tends to also increase blood pressure and hence people with hypertension are recommended to avoid using Melatonin
- Melatonin can also worsen seizure disorder and hence should be avoided in individuals with this condition.
Melatonin increases the immune function of the body and thus may interfere with immunosuppressive therapy given to individuals who have just undergone an organ transplant. It is recommended that such patients should not be given melatonin.