Ever wonder why your body tends to wake up about the same time every morning? Or why your body wears out around the same time each day? Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by your body, usually made at night to help you sleep.
Melatonin regulates hormones and the body’s circadian rhythm, or its biological or internal clock. It’s what gives your body its sense of timing, and keeps your body on schedule, knowing when to wake you up, when to make you feel tired, or when it’s time to go to bed at night.
Light and Melatonin
Light plays a big role in melatonin production, slowing down the production during the day, while darkness increases production to help you sleep. Light signals the melatonin, which is usually why we wake up when we do, and why we usually feel tired at night, when less light is readily available. It also helps protect your skin against damage from light and the sun.
It can sometimes mess with schedules in our body, or our internal clock. For instance, time changes can mess with the body, and make you not sure when to feel tired. Or you feel tired when you don’t think you should, or are awake when you don’t feel you should be. When something upsets your body’s circadian rhythm, sleep patterns become more erratic, stressing your body and making it more and more difficult to fall or stay asleep.
Melatonin is also linked to aging. Older people tend to have less melatonin later in the day than young children, which is one reason people tend to rise earlier than they do when they were younger. Sleeping patterns are more difficult to regulate as you get older as your body changes its melatonin production.
The use of melatonin supplements helps your body regulate its internal clock, and get into a more predictable schedule. They help you stay wider awake during the day and fall asleep faster at night and are particularly helpful with people suffering from insomnia.
Not just for older people, these supplements also help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder sleep better (although it doesn’t necessarily improve behavioral problems). It helps to regulate their hormone levels and sleeping patterns.
Benefits for Cancer Patients
Cancer patients also benefit from melatonin supplements. Women with breast cancer tend to have lower levels of melatonin than women without the disease. By adding melatonin supplements, the rate of growth of cancer cells slows. Melatonin helps chemotherapy treatments and prescriptions by regulating platelets in the blood, one of the side effects of chemotherapy.
Men with prostate cancer have lower levels of melatonin than men without the cancer. Just as with women and breast cancer, melatonin helps block the growth of cancer cells and aids in cancer-fighting prescriptions and chemotherapy.
Check With Your Doctor
Even without insomnia or cancer, melatonin produces good hormones for the body. Extra melatonin helps your skin fight sun damage, when used in a lotion or gel. However you add melatonin, whether you through a gel, pill, or lozenge, make sure to start with a small dose to see how your body reacts and adjust your intake accordingly. Just beware, adding supplements should always be done under a doctor’s supervision.