A natural hormone synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan by the pineal gland, melatonin acts as a powerful regulator of sleep and the body’s daily rhythmic cycles. Melatonin is also an important antioxidant, acting as an effective scavenger of free radicals. Many factors can cause a decrease in natural melatonin levels, including aging—with some older adults making very small amounts or none at all— insufficient exposure to natural light, and certain medications. As melatonin is naturally activated by darkness and depressed by light, irregular schedules can disrupt its production. Supplementation with melatonin has proven to be beneficial for the elderly, those with shift work hours or suffering from jet lag, and people who have difficulty falling asleep.
Patient One Melatonin plays an important role in regulating the body’s daily and annual biological rhythms, the sleep/wake cycle. When taken before the onset of the natural melatonin secretion, melatonin can promote sleep. It is believed that melatonin potentiates the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) via direct interaction with GABA receptors, resulting in relaxation. Researchers have indicated that melatonin supports the quality of sleep as it relates to falling asleep, sleep efficiency (percent of healthy sleep to total time in bed), and awakening.
Studies suggest that melatonin also supports antioxidant activity, cardiovascular health and immune function. Intracellular melatonin is concentrated in the mitochondria, a major site of oxidative metabolism. Melatonin has also been found to support extracellular antioxidant activity, support glutathione production, and stimulate production of intracellular antioxidant enzymes.