Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland located deep in the center of the brain. It is produced in response to darkness and its production is inhibited by bright light. Melatonin is produced from serotonin which is produced from the amino acid tryptophan. Melatonin is responsible for the sleep/wake cycle of the body. These factors come into play in the case of night workers and shift workers as well as travelers who experience jet lag.
As melatonin production peaks in adolescence and declines with age, it is one of the factors that contribute to less quantity and quality of deep sleep in aged adults. It has also been noted that melatonin is lower in patients with coronary artery disease.
Benefits of Melatonin
There are many benefits of melatonin including:
- Improved sleep pattern
- Improved sleep quality and less trouble going back to sleep after waking at night
- Increased slow wave sleep with a consequent increase in growth hormone production
- Dreams are usually vivid and many people report dreaming as a pleasure that they have not experienced since a younger age.
- Since melatonin is brought on by darkness and decreased by light, it may reset the sleep cycle
- Melatonin has been shown to be a potent chemotherapeutic agent in solid tumors
- It counteracts the effects of stress
- Melatonin acts as a potent antioxidant, free radical scavenger, and immunostimulant
- May reduce elevated cholesterol
- Melatonin is an excellent agent for the prevention of migraines (especially cluster headaches)