What is melatonin?

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Melatonin is the primary hormone that helps regulate normal sleep patterns.  It is secreted by the pineal gland which is found near the center of the brain.  At night time, more melatonin is secreted and produced by the pineal gland to help people get to sleep.  At day time, fewer melatonins are released to make people wake up and be alert for the day’s activities.  With melatonin produced in normal amounts by the pineal gland, the body’s so-called circadian rhythm will be functioning efficiently.  When the body detects tiredness by around late afternoon for example, this particular hormone will help signal the brain to make the person rest and perhaps go to sleep to re-charge and re-energize.

The problem with melatonin is that its production can be disrupted with changes in work schedule or sleeping habits for example.  For people that work at night and those that sleep very late may have problems in terms of melatonin production and regulation. When there is a concern regarding this hormone, sleep problems may result.  Some people will have difficulty getting to sleep or maintaining sleep.

For people with sleeping problems, some doctors may prescribe them with melatonin supplements.  These supplements are said to help those doing work shifts at night and those that travel to different countries with different time zones. Whenever the body’s circadian rhythm is disturbed, the production of melatonin will also be disturbed.  And this is the time wherein melatonin supplements may be very helpful.  There are also studies that indicate the benefits of melatonin in terms of alleviating anxiety cases and depression.  There are also ongoing research regarding the health benefits of melatonin supplements to other medical conditions like cancer and epilepsy among others. Short-term use of melatonin supplements has been found to be safe.  There are concerns though regarding long-term use because of limited research.

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