Melatonin is an endogenously produced hormone that is present in animals, plants and microbes. In mammals, melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. Initially melatonin was discovered as the regulator of circadian rhythm and sleep, however its uses and roles within the body have been shown to go far beyond this.
What causes melatonin deficiency?
Numerous causes have been implicated in the deficiency of melatonin:
- Disruption to regular sleep patterns (e.g. shift work, late nights, jet lag)
- Drugs (e.g. alcohol, antidepressants (SSRI’s), anti-inflammatories)
- Exposure to light (e.g. computers, tablets1, fluorescent lights2)
- Age: Melatonin peaks in early childhood and decreases for the rest of life
- Genetics: differences in pineal gland activity
Uses of melatonin
- Insomnia in older adults: Melatonin levels are lower in older people. Melatonin supplementation has been shown to shorten the duration of time it takes for older people to fall asleep and also improve the quality of sleep3.
- Children: Children with conditions such as autism4, ADHD, visual impairment, epilepsy, psychiatric disorders or genetic predisposition to sleep disturbances have been shown to benefit from melatonin supplementation.
- Jet lag/Shift work: Melatonin is useful in re-establishing a regular circadian rhythm.
- One meta-analysis found a 34% risk reduction in death for patients being supplemented with melatonin in conjunction with traditional treatments or alone5.
- Other studies have found that melatonin in conjunction with chemotherapy for breast cancer enhanced the effectiveness of chemotherapy6,7,8.
- Similar results have been found in patients being treated for solid tumours of the lung, chest, digestive tract and neck9. Furthermore, the use of melatonin in these patients seemingly led to lower incidence of side effects, reduction in anxiety and an increased survival rate.
- Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and can neutralize oxidative stress and delay the ageing process.
- There are growing reports of the effectiveness of melatonin in preventing migraines, cluster headaches and tension headaches.
- As a powerful antioxidant, it has been theorized that melatonin may reduce the degeneration of blood vessels associated with sexual potency.
- Melatonin appears to restore libido-enhancing sex hormones to their peak levels.
Other Promising Uses
- Obesity: melatonin may reduce high levels of blood cortisol which has been linked to obesity.
- Gall bladder stones
- Protection from radiation
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome: melatonin receptors are found throughout the gastrointestinal tract.
A prescription is required for any supply of melatonin in Australia.
Melatonin may be taken as capsules, troches, suspensions, and drops. A doctor may prescribe a slow-release or immediate-release formulation, depending on how an individual responds to treatment.
If you would like to learn more about melatonin don’t hesitate to call.
- Wood B, Rea MS, Plitnick B. Light level and duration of exposure determine the impact of self-luminous tablets on melatonin suppression. Appl Ergon.. 2013 Mar;44(2):237-40
- Gooley J, Chamberlain K, Smith K, Khalsa SB, Rajarathnam SMW, Zeitzer JM, Lockley SW. Exposure to room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin onset and shortens melatonin duration in humans. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Mar; 96(3): E463-E472
- Olde Rikkert MG, Rigaud AS. Melatonin in elderly patients with insomnia. A systematic review. Z Gerontol Geriatr. 2001 Dec;34(6):491-7
- Melke J et al. Abnormal melatonin synthesis in autism spectrum disorders. Mol Psychiatry 2008 Jan;13(1): 90-98
- Mills E, Wu P, Seely D, Guyatt G. Melatonin in the treatment of cancer: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials and meta-analysis. J Pineal Res. 2005 Nov;39(4):360-6
- Lissoni P, Barni S, Meregalli S, et al. Modulation of cancer endocrine therapy by melatonin: a phase II study of tamoxifen plus melatonin in metastatic breast cancer patients progressing under tamoxifen alone. Br J Cancer. 1995 Apr:71(4):854-6
- Cos S, et al. Estrogen-signaling pathway: a link between breast cancer and melatonin oncostatic actions. Cancer Detect Prev. 2006; 30(2): 118-28
- Sanchez-Barcelo EJ, et al. Melatonin-estrogen interactions in breast cancer. J Pineal Res. 2005 May:38(4): 217-22.
- Lissoni P, et al. Decreased toxicity and increased efficacy of cancer chemotherapy using pineal hormone melatonin in metastatic solid tumour patients with poor clinical status. Eur J Cancer. 1999 Nov:35(12)1688-92