Anyone who has ever lain awake at night staring at the ceiling knows that a melatonin deficiency is nothing to laugh about. They may not know that melatonin is what they are deficient in or that melatonin supplements can ease their long nights, but they know they are miserable.
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the body that is sometimes called the ‘hormone of darkness’. The reason for this nickname is that the body only produces melatonin at night. Humans, animals and even some other organisms like algae produce melatonin.
Insomnia can be the result of a melatonin deficiency and can be remedied with the use of melatonin supplements. Other people, in particular shift workers, must sleep during the daylight which is in complete contrast to the body’s natural production of melatonin.
The Melatonin Hormone
The pineal gland is a small gland located near the center of the brain that is responsible for producing the melatonin hormone. This hormone controls the circadian rhythm or the body’s 24-hour clock that controls when people feel sleepy.
Melatonin hormone release is only stimulated by the presence of darkness, in fact, except in abnormal situations, the body prohibits the production of melatonin in the presence of light. This is what causes shift workers to suffer insomnia; they are going against the body’s natural pattern.
Travelers often suffer similar experiences when they cross time lines that take them out of their routine day/night pattern. Insomnia can have a negative impact on health which is why melatonin supplements are helpful in regulating sleep patterns.
Resetting the Body’s Clock
Resetting the body’s clock is important in getting a sleep pattern established if a melatonin deficiency occurs, such as in the elderly whose melatonin production may be decreasing or in the case of shift workers as mentioned earlier.
Melatonin supplements can help to get the circadian rhythm re-established and induce much needed sleep. It only takes a small amount of melatonin to reset the body’s clock. For example, shift workers should start with 1 mg. and if necessary increase the dosage up to 3mg. If insomnia persists after 3 mg. a visit to the doctor may be necessary.
Melatonin production in the body can also be stimulated by eating certain foods. Foods that are rich in tryptophan are known for stimulating melatonin production, these foods include milk, eggs, turkey, shrimp, salmon, and yellow-fin tuna to name just a few.
Sleep is an important factor in good health, it gives the body a chance to heal and repair itself. During sleep cell growth and repair take place as do other important functions that help the body maintain itself and properly function.
Sleep deprivation can lead to a weakened immune system, irritability and slower brain functions. Scientists stress that at least six hours of sleep are necessary for good health. If insomnia is an issue, melatonin supplements are usually the only remedy needed.