Melatonin regulates sleep and strengthens the immune system
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a manmade form of a hormone produced in the brain that helps regulate your sleep and wake cycle.
Melatonin has been used in alternative medicine as a likely effective aid in treating insomnia (trouble falling asleep or staying asleep). It is also likely effective in treating sleep disorders in people who are blind.
Melatonin is also possibly effective in treating jet lag, high blood pressure, tumors, low blood platelets (blood cells that help your blood to clot), insomnia caused by withdrawal from drug addiction, or anxiety caused by surgery. A topical form of melatonin applied to the skin is possibly effective in preventing sunburn.
- Restorative sleep. “Restorative sleep is essential, enabling our bodies to reengage functions associated with rejuvenation, such as healing, muscle growth, and repair, and to restore organs, cells, and tissues,” Block says.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). According to the National Institute of Mental Health, melatonin may help people living with SAD, a form of depression. Some people may see relief from doses administered early morning, while others may need to take their dose mid-afternoon, Block says.
- Cancer and stroke risk. Melatonin is among the most potent antioxidants our bodies manufacture, Block says. Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals, and can help prevent cancer, stroke, heart disease, and other conditions. Studies have also linked low levels of melatonin to breast, prostate, liver, and other cancers.
- Chemotherapy. Several studies show that pairing melatonin with standard chemotherapy dramatically improved cancer patients’ survival. Melatonin has been shown to improve the response of people with advanced solid tumors, such as metastatic breast cancer, gastrointestinal cancers, and head and neck cancers, as well as people with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, and leukemia, Block says. Moreover, several Italian studies have demonstrated that using melatonin in conjunction with a chemotherapy regimen not only helped reduce treatment-related resistance but also improved survival.
- Other benefits. In addition to all of these potential applications, melatonin also may benefit those with migraine headaches, may help boost the immune system, and may one day play a role in helping people with Alzheimer’s disease, Block says.
Before taking this medicine
You should not use melatonin if you are allergic to it.
Before using melatonin, talk to your healthcare provider. You may not be able to use this medicine if you have certain medical conditions, especially:
a bleeding or blood clotting disorder such as hemophilia;
high or low blood pressure;
epilepsy or other seizure disorder; or
if you are using any medicine to prevent organ transplant rejection.
It is not known whether melatonin will harm an unborn baby. Do not use this product without medical advice if you are pregnant.
High doses of this medicine may affect ovulation, making it difficult for you to get pregnant.
It is not known whether melatonin passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not use this product without medical advice if you are breast-feeding a baby.