September 30, 2013
236 Melatonin Benefits [30 Sept 2013]
Melatonin is well known as the “sleep hormone” but it does much more than allow us to sleep better.
Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland when the retina of our eyes are no longer exposed to light. Melatonin then tells the brain to go to sleep. After 4-5 hours, production of melatonin stops and the brain returns to wakefulness.
But the benefits of melatonin go far beyond getting a good night’s sleep (although sleep is essential for good health, as I have written previously – # 8, 104, 105). Natasha Turner, ND describes several additional benefits of optimum melatonin levels in a recent Huffington Post blog article.
PMS symptoms are significantly reduced. Research found that low melatonin levels were linked to PMS symptoms. Supplementing with melatonin on days 12-28 of the cycle should improve mood and sleep.
Low melatonin levels are a risk factor for diabetes. The Nurses’ Health Study found that the lowest melatonin levels doubled the risk of diabetes. Another study found that melatonin supplementation increased weight loss without reducing caloric intake. I previously wrote about the connection between sleep and weight (#103). A poor night’s sleep is known to cause sugar cravings on awakening. Melatonin curbs the appetite and increases satiety (feeling full).
Low melatonin levels have been linked to several types of headache including migraines. In one study, supplementing with melatonin reduced frequency of headaches by 50% and also decreased their intensity and duration.
Along with melatonin production, thyroid hormone production also declines as we age. An Italian study of menopausal women found that melatonin supplementation significantly improved thyroid function and improved mood and symptoms of depression.
Finally, melatonin has been found to slow the aging process in animal studies. It likely does this by its action against free radicals which are responsible for aging. Melatonin may be the key to looking and feeling younger!
Some of these benefits are no doubt linked to getting better sleep, but others are likely a result of the melatonin itself. Either way, it appears important to ensure that our melatonin levels are adequate which may require supplementation.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.