Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep / wake cycle, stimulates the immune system response and protects the central nervous system. Let’s find out better.
Meaning of melatonin
Melatonin is a fat-soluble and water-soluble hormone, produced by our body to regulate the sleep/ wake cycle in response to the light or dark of the external environment, which performs the function of providing the body with information on the duration of the day and night.
For this reason it is defined as a sort of ” biological clock “, which allows our body to adapt to the surrounding environment.
Where is melatonin found
Melatonin is secreted by one of the endocrine glands , the epiphysis (pineal gland), located at eye level in the center of the brain.
The production of melatonin occurs during the night as a response to the dark, reaches its maximum level in the middle of the night (between 2 and 4), progressively decreasing as the morning approaches, as its synthesis and distribution in the body are inhibited. from the light .
The secretion of melatonin is therefore influenced by exposure to sunlight : when the light stimulus reaches the retina, a signal is transmitted to the epiphysis, which blocks its secretion; while the dark, as we have said, stimulates its release.
For these reasons, plasma concentrations of melatonin during the night are 3 to 10 times higher than those recorded during the day.
Properties and use of melatonin
Melatonin has a sedative effect : the increase in its blood concentration is a signal that informs the body that it is dark and that therefore it is time to sleep and rest, thus regulating our sleep / wake rhythm (circadian cycle) ; stimulates the response of the immune system ; and protects the central nervous system.
This substance is not a sleeping pill, but a sleep regulator and therefore acts with different mechanisms than these drugs. Thanks to its central action on the synchronization of hormonal cyclicality, it restores a physiological rest regime; that is, it contributes to resolving insomnia, recreating the natural periodicity of sleep.
It is effectively recommended to overcome the effect of jet lag, a nuisance that occurs when crossing various time zones (usually more than two time zones), as occurs in the case of a long journey by plane. In these cases, when you arrive at your destination you are sleepy , tired or confused .
The phenomenon occurs due to the alteration of normal circadian rhythms; to restore them, this substance is used.
Contraindications of melatonin
Melatonin must always be taken at the same time and not just before going to bed (less than 1 hour), as the effect on the body could be unfavorable and sleep could be delayed. This happens because the body has not been given enough time to assimilate the ingested melatonin.
It can cause drowsiness during the next day, tachycardia and depression : it is therefore inadvisable to use melatonin for those taking heart and mood modulation medications ; the doctor’s opinion, in this case, is essential.
Melatonin is contraindicated if you suffer from liver disease ; kidney ; autoimmune diseases (where the body is “attacked” by its own immune system).