Considering that around half of American adults experience one or more symptoms of insomnia a week, melatonin is a godsend. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in most animals that regulates sleep cycles. As light levels decrease your body naturally releases more melatonin, signaling your body that it is time for sleep, and making you feel groggy. It is now available in a pill or liquid form so that you can stop taking synthetics sleep aids that often leave you feeling groggy upon waking. There are numerous benefits to melatonin besides sleep regulation which we will get into below.
Sleeping and Jet Lag
As I already mentioned, melatonin can be quite beneficial for those with sleeping disorders. If your body does not already release enough melatonin at the proper time to make you sleepy, you can supplement your body’s melatonin levels. This will make it easier to fall asleep at the proper time.
This also applies to people who are flying long distances and do not want to experience jet lag. By taking melatonin at a proper time during the flight, or when you land, you can reset your biological clock that regulates sleep to the time zone that you are going to.
The Immune System
We know quite well that melatonin levels interact in some way with the functioning of your immune system. It is thought that perhaps that since your body repairs the immune system during sleep, that not getting enough sleep or melatonin can negatively affect the ability of your immune system to function. We know that melatonin also increases T cell count (a type of white blood cell) and also increases cytokine production. Some forms of cancer are also thought to be related to melatonin levels.
Yes, believe it or not, this hormone also makes your dreams more vivid and longer-lasting. Though not experienced by all users of melatonin, this works by increasing the amount of time spent in REM sleep, which is the sleep cycle in which dreams occur.
Some people need to take extremely high dosages (50mg compared to the normal dosage of 1-5mg) to achieve this, but others achieve improved dream vividness and recall with just the normal dosage. Enthusiast of lucid dreaming is fond of using melatonin in order to help achieve a lucid state during a dream, as well as for its effects of increasing length and intensity.
We’ve all known people who as they have grown older, cannot sleep nearly as well as a 19-year-old. This is because as you get older the amount of melatonin produced by the body decreases, thus decreasing the ease and the amount of sleep you can get. It is thought that this is a large part of the aging process, and by supplementing your natural production of melatonin with some in a pill or liquid form, may prevent aging from happening as quickly.
Melatonin is also a very potent antioxidant, which is a compound that reduces oxidative damage caused by free radicals in the body. Damage from free radicals can cause numerous health problems including cancer. This was tested in mice and this antioxidant effect was proved as well proving that melatonin had an anti-inflammatory effect. The combination of these effects ultimately led to an increase in longevity for the mice.
Melatonin has been found to be effective in treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a form of depression that usually occurs during winter. It is also being considered for use in the treatment of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder negatively affects the natural circadian rhythm, making sleep more difficult. This is because bipolar individuals have an increased sensitivity to light, meaning that their body will always produce less melatonin than healthy individuals.