If you have ever had problems with sleep, chances are that you have heard of melatonin supplements. A hormone produced in the pineal gland, melatonin is an effective natural sleep aid. But its benefits are not just limited to midnight hours. In fact, melatonin has many important health benefits beyond sleep. It is a potent antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory hormone that can help improve brain health, heart health, fertility, gut health, eye health and much more! Let’s look at the benefits of melatonin and tips to increase melatonin levels naturally.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally derived from the amino acid tryptophan and the neurotransmitter known as serotonin. It is produced naturally in the pineal gland, but smaller quantities are also made by other organs like the stomach. Melatonin is critical for maintaining your body’s circadian rhythm, so that you feel alert and energized in the mornings, and sleepy in the evening. That’s why you have higher levels of melatonin in the blood at night, and these levels drastically go down in the morning.
But that’s not all melatonin really does. It’s also crucial for:
- Smooth functioning of the immune system
- Aids eye function
- Reduces oxidative stress
- Controls cellular function
- Prevents cellular atrophy
- Boosts brain function, to name just a few
Melatonin levels decrease naturally with age, which is why it becomes harder to just drift off to sleep and get a good night’s rest post 60 years of age. Some studies have found that melatonin can also be used in the prevention and treatment of certain cancers, like breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer.
14 Surprising Benefits Of Melatonin
It’s a Powerful Antioxidant
Melatonin increases the production of antioxidant enzymes in the body that protect against oxidative stress and support mitochondria function. Its potent action inhibits cellular atrophy and also protects against toxins that can disrupt mitochondrial function, leading to a plethora of neurodegenerative diseases (these are diseases caused by the progressive damage of nerve cells.)
It Boosts Immunity
Melatonin supports immune function. It gives your body the strength to fight against infections, diseases and symptoms of premature aging. It also has the ability to act as a stimulant in immunosuppressive diseases because of its potent anti-inflammatory properties.
It Reverses Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders
Melatonin has the ability to shift biological rhythms. This makes it useful in the treatment of various circadian rhythm sleep disorders, such as advanced and delayed sleep phase disorders, jet lag and shift-work disorder.
It Benefits Heart Health
Melatonin offers cardio-protective benefits. Its potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities can help prevent heart attacks and strokes. Its free radical scavenger activity makes it a great natural alternative to treat and prevent cardiovascular diseases.
It Lowers Blood Pressure
Melatonin also has anti-hypertensive effect, which keeps blood pressure under control. Since melatonin acts favorably on different levels of hypertension, including organ protection and with minimal side effects, it can be used as a supporting therapy in patients with hypertension.
It Improves Gut Health
Melatonin is also produced by the stomach because it is crucial for smooth digestion. For those dealing with digestive issues, melatonin can be a natural treatment for gut dysbiosis, ulcers, stress-induced stomach damage and inflammation of the stomach. It can be effective in treating colitis, IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, and even various cancers.
It’s Useful In The Treatment OF GERD
Melatonin is a surprising remedy for acid reflux. It helps in this digestive disorder by strengthening the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Relaxation of LES is a major reason for acid reflux. Also, studies have found lower levels of melatonin in patients of acid reflux.
It Can Be Used For Migraine Prevention and Treatment
If migraines are wreaking havoc on your life, melatonin supplements can help reduce the frequency and intensity of these painful, debilitating attacks. 3 mg of melatonin is effective for migraine prevention. It can also be useful in the treatment of cluster headaches.
It’s Important For Eye Health
Melatonin supports a healthy vision by preventing the death of cone cells that help in identifying color. It also improves the functioning of nerve cells crucial for vision and protects the cells that make eye pigment. It can also decrease elevated pressure in the eye from glaucoma and prevent the death of nerve cells in the eye.
It Can Improve Insulin Function
Low night-time secretion of melatonin nearly doubles the risk of developing diabetes. In fact, melatonin improves insulin balance and protects insulin-producing cells in the pancreas from cell death. It can be used as a supporting therapy for treating prediabetes, diabetes type 2, Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and insulin resistance.
Beneficial for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease
The antioxidant abilities of melatonin can help alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer′s and Parkinson′s disease. With age, decreased melatonin activity can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Melatonin therapy improves sleep and overall rest, which can bring relief from symptoms.
Improve Thyroid Function
Aging can make the thyroid functioning rather sluggish, which is where melatonin’s protective abilities step in. For menopausal women, melatonin therapy can improve thyroid function and treat mood disorders.
Research has shown that low melatonin levels play a role in PMDD, a severe form of PMS. Melatonin therapy can keep you symptom-free through the luteal phase or the second part of your menstrual cycle. It can also be useful to treat perimenopause and menopause symptoms in older women. Scientific evidence sheds light on melatonin’s ability to treat infertility in both men and women as well.
Can Help In Managing Chronic Pain
Besides its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action, melatonin also has analgesic properties. This makes it useful for managing chronic painful conditions like fibromyalgia, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic back pain, and rheumatoid arthritis. Patients suffering from fibromyalgia – a condition that results in chronic widespread pain in muscles and connective tissues with no apparent cause, can benefit from melatonin supplements.
Is Melatonin Safe?
Short-term use of melatonin is generally considered safe. However, long term use, particularly when it’s not under the guidance of a medical expert, can result in side effects. For example, overdosing on melatonin can cause headaches, dizziness and daytime grogginess, which can all affect work productivity. Melatonin also needs to be taken with care and only under medical guidance if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or taking blood thinning medications.
Currently, there is no known safe dosage for melatonin and your dosage will depend on your particular symptoms. Those with sleep disturbances can fare well with a dose as low as 0.25mg or 0.5mg. Most doctors will prescribe anything from 2mg to 3mg for more serious health problems, which are safe when taken under directions from an expert.
In the end, it’s always better to allow your body to produce more melatonin naturally.
Natural Ways To Optimize Your Melatonin Levels
While our body produces melatonin naturally, poor lifestyle habits can result in decreased melatonin activity. Let’s look at natural ways to increase melatonin levels.
- The best way to boost your melatonin is through a natural, wholesome diet. Add these melatonin-rich foods to your diet: Bananas, tart cherries, radishes, ginger, tomatoes, pineapples, and grains like oats, barley and rice. Some foods contain tryptophan that can increase the natural production of melatonin. These include chicken, dairy, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds and seafood.
- Avoid blue light from computers, TV and LED nights for 2 hours before bedtime. Use orange or yellow lights in your bedroom and invest in blue-light cancelling eyeglasses if you must work till late.
- Expose yourself to bright sunlight upon waking to reset your natural circadian rhythm.
- Make sure your room is dark and cool at night.
- Schedule at least 15 minutes in the sun if you can’t manage it early mornings.
- Take a warm bath before bedtime to relax.