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Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone, which is naturally secreted in our body. It plays an integral role in regulating your sleep-wake cycle. An abnormal level of melatonin has been associated with a higher risk of sleep disorders including insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and even sleep apnea.

A study counted at the Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment has revealed that a lack of sleep linked to a low melatonin level can also affect the cognitive skills of a person and reduce his productivity at the workplace.

 

1. What Are Melatonin Hormone Functions?

The primary function of melatonin is to induce a sound sleep and maintain a circadian rhythm. However, it is also known to perform various other functions. Let us have a look at how does melatonin help to maintain your health and fitness through a range of actions.

 

1.1.  Maintains Circadian Rhythm

A circadian rhythm is a biological process, which displays an entrainable and endogenous oscillation of activities that are repeated after about every 24 hours, such as your sleep-wake cycle and your meal timings. This 24-hour rhythmic cycle has been widely observed in humans as well as plants, and animals.

Melatonin hormone has been found to support the body’s ability to regulate the circadian rhythm and thus, improve the sleep pattern.

The circadian rhythm basically responds to the changes in the light and darkness in the environment. It trains a person to stay awake during the daytime when there is a bright sunlight and sleep at the night when it becomes dark.

Exposure to light results in the stimulation of the nerve pathways from the retina in your eyes to a part of the brain known as the hypothalamus. The Suprachiasmatic Nucleus to SCN is a special center in the hypothalamus. It responds to this stimulation by sending signals to the other parts of the brain. It controls the production of hormones and body temperature.

On the other hand, the SCN delays the release of the sleep-inducing hormones like melatonin till the darkness arrives to allow a person to stay awake till the evening hours.

Later, once the darkness sets in, the melatonin production increases due to which a sense of sleepiness or drowsiness sets in to allow a person to get a spend sleep.

A systematic analysis of the research studies published in the Sleep Medicine Reviews have shown that melatonin can significantly lower the time period you need to enter a deeper phase of sleep after you lie down on the bed. This period is called the sleep onset latency. Thus, Melatonin can improve the sleep efficiency and the total sleep duration.

Therefore, the regulated pattern of the production of melatonin depending on the activities of the SCN can maintain the circadian rhythm or the body’s internal biological “clock” and help a person follow a healthy sleep-wake routine.

 

1.2.      Acts As an Antioxidant

Research published in the Journal Of Pineal Research has proven the antioxidant properties of melatonin.

The results of this study have indicated that melatonin is highly effective in protecting the body from oxidative stress. It can protect the digestive system as well as the brain and nervous tissues against the damage caused by the free radicals. Melatonin can also restore the health and functions of these organs.

 

1.3.      Regulates Fat Cells

A lower melatonin production is linked to a higher risk of obesity. A research published in the Obesity Reviews has shown that this hormone can improve the fat burning rate and support weight loss. This benefit of melatonin can offer an effective way for the management of obesity.

 

1.4.      Binds With Metals

A scientific research published in the Journal Of Pineal Research has shown that Melatonin has the ability to form complexes by binding with metals such as aluminum, cadmium, and copper.

This property of melatonin may help in supporting the natural detoxification processes of the body by stimulating the elimination of toxic metals like aluminum.

This is beneficial in the management of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, which is often triggered due to the accumulation of excess aluminum in the brain tissues.

Hence, patients diagnosed with neurodegenerative diseases are advised to follow measures to improve their melatonin levels to control the symptoms.

 

1.5.      Regulates Immune System Functions

A clinical research conducted at the International Journal of Molecular Sciences have shown that melatonin can help in regulating the immune system functions. Melatonin may work like a buffer for the immune system.

This means it can work like a stimulant under immunosuppressive conditions and reduce the risk of infections in the immunocompromised patients.

It can also control the excessive response of the immune system by acting as an anti-inflammatory agent and minimizing damage to the body’s own tissues due to autoimmunity or allergy.

This proves that the higher levels of melatonin might be beneficial in the management of inflammatory and allergic diseases like pancreatitis, uncreative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, rhinitis, and eczema.

 

2. What Is The Time Of Melatonin Secretion?

A research published in the Science in 1975 based on the amount of melatonin in the urine samples of the healthy adult volunteers showed that the secretion of this hormone is linked to the body’s circadian rhythm.

The production of melatonin is lower during the daytime when the body is exposed to the sunlight. The secretion begins to increase gradually after the onset of darkness. The levels of melatonin in the body are at the peak between 11 PM and 3 AM signifying the ability of this hormone to induce a deep, restorative sleep.

The levels of melatonin tend to fall sharply before the sunrise or the time the body is about to be exposed to the sunlight.

The evidence provided by the clinical research conducted at the New England Journal of Medicine has indicated the seasonal variation of Melatonin secretion in the pineal gland. It was found that the melatonin secretion increases during winter and fall while it reduces in the summer and spring.

This seasonal variation can be linked to the change in the amount of sunlight during different seasons.

 

3. Where Is Melatonin Produced?

Melatonin is synthesized in the Pineal gland. It is a small, pea-sized gland situated above the middle part of the brain between the two hemispheres.

 

4. What Are The Main Functions Of The Pineal Gland?

The primary function of this gland is to secrete melatonin and regulate the body’s internal biological clock or the circadian rhythm.

It can help in the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle and improve the quality of sleep. A sound sleep executives can enjoy due to the higher production of melatonin by the pineal gland can allow them to feel fresh and alert during the daytime. It can improve the productivity of executives and managers and improve the quality of life.

 

Some Other Functions Of The Pineal Gland Include:

– Regulates the metabolism of the bone tissues and maintain the bone mass.

– The glial cells, a form of brain cells in the pineal gland, can support the functions of the neurons. This can regulate the transmission of information from the brain to other parts of the body.

– Reduces the risk of mental health conditions linked to the loss of sleep such as depression, and seasonal affective disorder.

– Regulates the secretion of hormones by the pituitary gland. This can affect the development of the testes and ovaries and improve the reproductive functions.

– A healthy pineal gland can slow down the degenerative changes associated with aging.

– A pineal gland plays a role in providing a sense of direction, which can support the spatial navigation skills.

 

5. The Location Of The Pineal Gland

The pineal gland is a pea-sized gland, about 1/3-inch long, situated just above the middle part of the brain between the two hemispheres. It is shaped like a pine cone and reddish-gray in color.

This gland is comprised of cells called pinealocytes, which produce melatonin. Pineal gland appears calcified in the x-rays due to the presence of calcium, fluoride, and phosphorus deposits, which usually build up with age.

The pineal gland is inactive during the daytime due to which the secretion of melatonin is lower. Following the sunset, as darkness occurs, the gland is activated by the SCN, which results in the active production of melatonin.

 

6. How To Increase Your Melatonin?

A disturbed sleep cycle due to work-related stress and pressure to reach business goals is common in the executives. Besides, executives are more prone to experience jet lag as a consequence of frequent business travel that involves crossing different time zones. This can affect the production of melatonin and create imbalances in their sleep-awake cycles. Hence, there is a higher need for the managers to take steps to improve the melatonin production in order to restore the circadian rhythm and prevent the consequences of lack of sleep.

Here are some natural ways that can stimulate the production of melatonin in the pineal gland and help you enjoy the benefits of this hormone including a sound sleep.

 

6.1. Sunshine

The exposure to the bright sunlight during the day can shut down the melatonin production thus allowing you to feel more alert and energized. In this manner, the exposure to the sunlight can be beneficial for regulating the melatonin levels and supporting the circadian rhythm.

Also, the exposure to the sunlight during the daytime can provide a body with a healthy dose of Vitamin D. This nutrient is integral for the production of melatonin at night.

 

6.2. Block Artificial Lights at Night

The exposure to darkness can stimulate the brain to send appropriate signals to the pineal gland to produce melatonin.

Hence, executives who wants to experience a sound sleep should protect their sleep from light at night. Blocking the artificial lights entering the bedroom by using dark shades or blinds is recommended to promote the melatonin production in the night.

 

6.3. Avoid Blue Light Exposure

Blue light is the light emitted by smartphones, laptops computers, TV, and tablets. It can disrupt your natural sleep-wake cycle by creating an impression of daytime during the night.

The artificial light from these gadgets enter the eyes, which, in turn, send signals to the brain. As a result, the brain is tricked into believing that it is still the daytime, which prompts it to lower the melatonin production.

Research studies conducted at the University of Haifa has also shown that the exposure to blue light can significantly reduce the synthesis of melatonin, while the exposure to red light does not interfere with the melatonin production and helps to maintain it at a normal level.  The researchers also explained that the impaired melatonin production due to the exposure to blue light reflects a considerable disruption of the body’s biological clock.

That is why executives are advised to limit the blue light exposure after evening hours to boost the melatonin production and get a sound sleep. They should also avoid working for long hours during evening or close to the bedtime on the laptops or watching digital screens which emit blue light.

Reducing the exposure to the blue light about 2 to 3 hours before the bedtime can restore a healthy production of melatonin. It helps executives to experience a sound sleep.

 

6.4. Limit The Consumption of Stimulants

Alcohol and caffeinated beverages like coffee, and carbonated drinks can increase the alertness levels by acting as stimulants. This can lower the melatonin secretion.

A study conducted at the Science Translational Medicine has shown that the intake of caffeine-rich double espresso about 3 hours before the bedtime can influence the human circadian timing and delay of the production of melatonin. Hence, the consumption of these stimulants must be avoided after evening hours.

 

6.5. Take Melatonin Pills

Managers who suffer for insomnia due to mental stress, irregular work schedule or frequent traveling can also take melatonin supplements. A research conducted at the Pharmacy and Therapeutics has shown that the administration of exogenous melatonin before the bedtime promotes a phase shift in the circadian rhythm thereby promoting sleep.

At the same time, when the exogenous melatonin is taken in the early morning, it induces a phase delay. Hence, the use of exogenous melatonin in the afternoon and evening hours is recommended to alleviate the symptoms of jet lag.

Executives are advised to correlate the administration of exogenous melatonin with the time zone they are traveling to in order to adjust their sleep-wake cycle accordingly.

In the case of flights which cross more than seven time zones, the use of exogenous melatonin should be initiated two to three days before the day of travel to acclimate to the new time zone.

 

6.6. Eat foods rich in melatonin

Executives who suffer from insomnia or the other disorders linked to a lower production of melatonin, such as jet lag, can consume the foods rich in this hormone. It is advisable to consume these foods for the dinner or as a nighttime snack to get a sound sleep.

 

7. What Are Foods With Melatonin?

A research study published in the Nutrients has evaluated the natural sources of melatonin. The results of this study indicated that the following foods contain a higher amount of melatonin.

The foods that contain melatonin include: Eggs, fish, nuts, wheat, barley, oats, rice, grapes, cherries, strawberries, mushrooms or bell pepper.

Including the foods that improve the melatonin production in the pineal gland in combination with the tips mentioned above can improve the circadian rhythm. This can have a positive impact on your sleep-wake cycle and improve the quality of sleep.

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