N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine, melanocyte-contracting principle, skin-lightening factor
Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland. This is a small endocrine gland at
the base of the brain. Secretion of melatonin is controlled by exposure to light.
Melatonin isn’t a nutrient.
Melatonin may play a part in the diurnal cycle. This is the regular cycle of wakefulness
and sleep linked with day and night. Studies show above-average serum levels of melatonin
in people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is a type of depression. It’s
linked with the short daylight hours in winter.
The pineal gland is the remainder of midline light receptors. It’s still found in
some lower animals. It’s the tie to light that first indicated its job in the pineal
gland. It also later found the link of melatonin to controlling the day-night wake
and sleep cycle. Since that time, melatonin has been studied for its tie to the circadian
rhythm and sleep.
Medically valid uses
Taking melatonin can shift the circadian (24-hour) clock by about one hour. This makes
up for one hour of jet lag. But studies show that jet lag due to travel through more
than two time zones cannot be quickly corrected by melatonin.
Please note that this section reports on claims that have not yet been substantiated
Melatonin is said to help ease sleep disorders, such as insomnia. It may also help
treat depression. It may also improve how the immune system works. Melatonin is also
claimed to slow the aging process. It may even help manage some cancers when taken
with other medicines.
Melatonin comes in both rapid-release and slow-release forms. The range being studied
is 0.5–5 mg per day. A recommended amount hasn’t been set.
You should take melatonin two hours or less before your regular sleep time.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare providers
before taking any supplements.
Side effects, toxicity, and interactions
Melatonin may increase how often you have seizures if you have a certain type of seizure
Large doses of melatonin may get in the way of how the ovaries work. Melatonin has
interfered with sexual development in animals who received the supplements.
You shouldn’t drive or use machinery for several hours after taking melatonin. The
natural secretion of melatonin may be affected by several factors. These include stimulants,
such as coffee, late night exercise, late night snacks, and light in the bedroom.
There are no known food or drug interactions with melatonin.