Chemically known as N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine, melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in humans, animals, microbes, and plants. Melatonin levels frequently vary during a routine cycle in animals and humans, and it is very closely involved in regulating sleep-wake cycles. Although patients with sleep problems are often prescribed melatonin, it has been found to be unsuitable in certain cases.
Compared to other medications, melatonin has been found to be more effective in inducing sleep, according to the findings of a Spanish study.
Melatonin is also an antioxidant.
In mammals, the pineal gland secretes melatonin into the body through the amino acid tryptophan. Because melatonin is only secreted in the dark, it is also known as the “hormone of darkness.” In humans, the highest levels of melatonin are seen during bedtime.
Melatonin has been found to control weight gain even in heavy eaters, according to a study conducted at the University Of Granada, Spain. Through the reduction of triglycerides, increase in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), and decrease in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels melatonin improves the blood lipid profile.
Infertility in women is mainly caused by poor egg quality. According to Japanese research, women opting for pregnancy through IVF (in vitro fertilization) are benefited by melatonin because it has been found to improve egg quality and double the IVF success rate.
Medilexicon’s medical dictionary defines Melatonin as: “A substance formed by the mammalian pineal gland, which appears to depress gonadal function in mammals and causes contraction of amphibian melanophores; a precursor is serotonin. Melatonin is rapidly metabolized and is taken up by all tissues. It is involved in circadian rhythms.”
Melatonin supplements are known to cause side effects such as confusion, abdominal discomfort, headaches, nightmares, daytime sleepiness, and sleepwalking.
The functioning of certain medications such as anticoagulants (blood-thinning drugs), birth control pills, diabetes drugs, and immunosuppressants may also be adversely affected by Melatonin.
Melatonin is usually prescribed only for short periods as experts believe that long term administration for more than 2 months might be harmful; however, all experts do not agree with this. People operating heavy machinery or driving must exercise caution with the consumption of melatonin.