The Benefits of Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone. It is often known predominantly for its ability to improve sleep, thus coined the “sleep hormone”. Produced naturally in the body, it begins to decline at puberty. Melatonin plays a significant number of roles in the maintenance of good health.
  • Strengthens immune system
  • Reduces migraine headaches
  • Cancer
  • Depression(sad)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Protects bone mass

Melatonin Regulates the Sleep-Wake Cycle

Our bodies respond to a circadian rhythm. It is the biological clock responsible for having us rise in the morning for productivity and sleep in the evening to rest and rejuvenate from the day. Melatonin production is therefore highly sensitive to the signals from this circadian rhythm, and the sleep-wake cycle is of particular importance to its optimisation.

Melatonin levels are highest as the day moves into night. Located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the brain (SCN), which is part of the hypothalamus, one will find the Biological Clock. Based on signals of light and darkness, the SCN communicates with the pineal gland telling it when to secrete melatonin and when to turn it off.

melatonin benefits
Those of us who work nights or have social lives which prevent us from seeing much daylight are doing our bodies a great injustice, for it disrupts melatonin’s natural production. To avoid sunlight altogether, exposing oneself to artificial lighting only, is dangerous for one’s health and should be prevented as much as possible. In fact at night, even turning on the light to avoid stumbling when nature calls disrupts melatonin production. Rather, a red light should be installed to illuminate the passageway between one’s bed and the bathroom, since red and orange wavelengths do not suppress melatonin production.

In this digital age, people are using their computers and phones with frequency and doing so at night must be avoided for this suppression of melatonin production keeps you awake for longer. Even having an alarm clock with a blue LED screen will stunt production.

working on devices at night stunts melatonin production

Melatonin Benefits and The Immune System

High levels of melatonin receptors are found on immune cells, and the spinal cord indicating the melatonin hormone has immune regulating and pain reducing factors. In fact, melatonin receptors are present within every cell in the body including cancer cells.

Melatonin and Cancer Prevention

Melatonin may impact cancer in the following ways:

  • Evidence points to melatonin being a valuable adjunct to the treatment of cancer for it helps protect the body against the damaging effects of radiation therapy.
  • Melatonin is in and of itself cytotoxic. It has the potential to induce tumour cell death. It boosts production of interleukin-2 which helps identify and attack mutated cells that lead to cancer.
  • Melatonin slows the spread of cancer by inhibiting the development of new tumour blood vessels.
  • Retards cancer progression by activating the cytokine system, which helps inhibit tumour growth, and by stimulating the cytotoxic activity of macrophages and monocytes
  • Antioxidant – limits oxidative damage to DNA
  • Inhibits tumour growth by counteracting oestrogen. Counteracts oestrogen’s tendency to stimulate cell growth.
  • Melatonin is proactive in its protection of sex hormone-driven cancers, including ovarian, endometrial, prostate, testicular and breast cancers
Melatonin Levels and Incidences of Breast Cancer
  • The journal Epidemiology concluded increased breast cancer risk to women working predominantly night shifts
  • Women living in highly illuminated neighbourhoods have a higher risk for breast cancer; according to an Israeli study.
  • Participants of the Nurses’ Health Study indicated that nurses who worked the night shift had 36 percent higher rates of breast cancer
  • Blind women studied, had a significant production of melatonin due to the fact their eyes cannot detect light. Their breast cancer risk is much lower than the average rates.
Lung Cancer Improved with Melatonin Supplementation
The Life Extension Foundation collaborated in 2004 with Cancer Treatment Centers of America on the first clinical trial to determine melatonin’s effect in patients with lung cancer.

In conjunction with the 2014 American Society of Clinical Oncology Meeting, these results showed:

  • Participants treated with melatonin at night received a tumour response over 29 percent
  • In comparison, those treated in the morning had a response rate of just under 8 percent.
  • 10.5 percent was the response of placebo recipients.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal Affective Disorder and Melatonin
Otherwise known as the winter blues, SAD is associated with a lack of sun exposure. Scientists will tell you that full spectrum light therapy is far more efficient at beating the winter blues than prescribed medications like Prozac or Zoloft.

Recent research indicates that light therapy may also be preferable for major depression, outperforming Prozac in many instances. The reason this works so well has to do with the fact that bright light helps reset the biological clock.

Supplementing with melatonin also works, but not to the degree that bright light during the daytime can offer. Light may also provide therapeutic benefits similar to antidepressants by regulating neurotransmitter function.

Light Therapy

Comparing the effectiveness of light therapy alone and in conjunction with the antidepressant Prozac, an eight-week long trial commenced including 122 adults between the ages 19-60 who were diagnosed with moderate to severe depression. The participants of the study were divided into four groups.

Group 1

Light therapy for 30 minutes per day upon waking.

10,000 lux Carex brand day-light device
Placebo pill

Group 2

20mg Prozac per day
Deactivated ion generator (placebo light device)

Group 3

Light therapy plus Prozac

Group 4

Placebo light device
Placebo pill (control group)

The results of the study found that the combination of light therapy and Prozac was the most effective at treating the patient’s depression. Light therapy by itself came in a close second followed by the group receiving a placebo. The drug treatment turned out to be the least effective of all.
Melatonin and its benefits for Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis and Melatonin Levels
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder. Much like SAD, MS has been linked to a vitamin D  deficiency (lack of sunlight).

Recent research indicates that a drop in autumn and winter relapses have a potential link to peak melatonin levels which occurs during the darker months.

Conversely, spikes in relapses that occur during spring and summer may be related to decreased melatonin levels.

The study was led by neuroscientist Mauricio Farez at the Dr RaĂşl Carrea Institute for Neurological Research. There were 139 participants in the study., all MS patients living in Buenos Aires.

Thirty-two percent of them experienced a reduction in relapses during fall and winter. This was also compared to spring and summer.

The Scientific American reported:

Patients with MS will have fewer flare-ups during warmer, brighter months due to increased sunlight exposure and Vitamin D (anti- inflammatory properties) This study indicates that relapses do increase in the spring and summer which says that there are other environmental factors to consider such as melatonin levels.

To test their hypothesis:

  • The study used mice with autoimmune encephalomyelitis (the animal model of MS)
  • Treatment of daily melatonin injections
  • Resulting in reduced symptoms and harmful T cells, which are pro-inflammatory.
  • Regulatory T cells were increased.

Melatonin is found to protect bone mass

A study involving Twenty 22-month-old male rats (elderly rats) were randomly divided into two assigned groups.

The first group received melatonin treatment for ten weeks.

The second group was left untreated.

The rat femurs were then collected and analysed. What they discovered was that the rats treated with melatonin had a higher bone volume and thickness than the untreated control group. Bone tissues were examined using microscopes and confirmed the increase of bone volume in the melatonin-treated rats. The melatonin-treated rats also exhibited a higher bone stiffness withstanding greater tension than the untreated rats.

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