Melatonin and Sleep

April 7, 2009

Melatonin is a hormone that is released by the pineal gland of the central nervous system (the brain). It has been known to regulate circadian-rhythms or sleep-wake cycles. Everyone has a sleep-wake cycle – a biological clock that naturally tells us when to go to bed at night and when to wake up in the morning (or vise versa, if you work the 3rd shift). Usually, melatonin levels rise at night, supposedly putting us to sleep, and then levels drop off as we begin to wake up.

People with sleep disorders such as insomnia have been researched for the amount of melatonin they release at night. People with insomnia have been shown to release less melatonin at night than the average person.

If melatonin is a hormone that puts us to sleep as levels rise, and people that have insomnia have been shown to release lower levels of melatonin at night, then the case can be made that increasing the amount of melatonin in a person with insomnia can help alleviate the condition.

This is not to say that everyone with insomnia suffers due to a lack of melatonin. There can be other reasons. For example, one may suffer from excessive anxiety and worry, which could keep anyone awake at night. Another could be that they don’t have good exercise and dieting habits. In these cases, melatonin would not be related to insomnia and would be irrelevant in this case.

So what has been done for ridding insomnia from people who don’t secrete enough melatonin? MIT researchers reported that precise doses of melatonin can help older adult insomniacs obtain a good night’s sleep. The study conducted by Richard Wurtman and other MIT researchers examined the doses needed to restore nighttime melatonin levels and healthy sleep patterns in adults over the age of 50. The research found that pills containing 0.3 milligrams of melatonin restored sleep. The adults who would periodically wake up during the course of the night were able to get a full night of rest – what a relief!
Links:
http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2001/melatonin-1017.html
neurology.health-cares.net/insomnia-melatonin.php
http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/tc/melatonin-overview

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