Melatonin: The Basics You Want to Know Melatonin is a hormone produced by a small gland in the brain known as the pineal gland. Melatonin functions by controlling sleep and wake cycles. Very little amounts of it can be sourced from meats, fruits and vegetables, grains and other similar foods. You can as well purchase it as a supplement. What is the exact action of natural melatonin in the body? Your body possesses its own internal clock which regulates your natural sleeping and waking hours. Your body clock dictates in part the amount of melatonin your pineal gland makes. Generally, melatonin levels start to increase in the mid- to late evening, stay high for most of the night, and then decrease in early the following morning.
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Light influences how much melatonin your body will make. During winter when days are shorter, your body usually makes melatonin either later or earlier in the day than typical. This can cause seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or winter depression symptoms to surface. A person’s natural melatonin levels drop gradually as a person grows older. In some older adults, production can be very limited or totally nonexistent. Why melatonin as a dietary supplement? Sometimes, melatonin supplements are used to treat insomnia or jet lag. Scientists are also currently exploring other uses for melatonin, including: > treatment of SAD (seasonal affective disorder); > control of sleep patterns for night workers; > prevention or reduction of post-surgery sleeping and confusion issues; and > chronic cluster headache management. Is melatonin dietary supplementation safe? Usually, melatonin supplements are safe for long-term and short-term use when the dose is kept low. However, you should talk to your doctor before taking any to be absolutely safe. Kids and pregnant or nursing women,in particular, should not take melatonin – at least, without consulting a physician first. Does melatonin use have side effects? Lower body temperature, sleepiness and a small increase in blood pressure are some common side effects of melatonin. None of these is serious, however, and all are temporary (disappear when treatment is stopped). Driving or operation of any machinery must be avoided when taking melatonin. If you’re about to take a health exam, inform your doctor that you are taking melatonin. If you have insomnia, make it known to your doctor too as it could be related to a medical problem. How much melatonin is effective and safe enough? Based on the reason for using melatonin, adults may take between 0.2mg to 20.0 mg of the supplement. The exact correct dose will, of course, vary from one person to another. Talk to your doctor to know what dosage will good for you.