Melatonin is a hormone that is produced in the body to regulate sleep habits. The amount of melatonin is dependent on the person’s surroundings at the time of sleep. The benefits of melatonin consist of determining metabolism rates and regulating circadian rhythm and sleep patterns so the body receives adequate rest. Melatonin supplements can help with jet lag, delayed sleep phase syndrome, and insomnia.
The theory that melatonin levels decline with age was used to explain the sleep difficulties many older people experienced. This theory has lead to the popularity of melatonin supplements for use as a sleep aid. Some people also experience a number of sleep disorders such as jet lag, delayed sleep phase syndrome and insomnia.
The suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN, is a cluster of nerves in the brain that sets the circadian rhythm in the human body. The circadian rhythm regulates several body functions, including sleep. A disruption to the circadian rhythm occurs, causing jet lag, when a person travels across time zones. Melatonin supplements help to boost daytime alertness and reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. The benefits of melatonin for jet lag symptoms are most noticeable when supplements are taken on the first travel day at bed time.
Another circadian rhythm disorder is delayed sleep phase syndrome. This occurs in people who cannot fall asleep until late at night. These people also find it difficult to wake up naturally in the morning. Melatonin benefits for this syndrome might establish a regular cycle for sleeping and waking up.
Older adults are thought to experience insomnia more often, although this sleep disorder can occur in younger people as well. The time it takes to fall asleep may decrease if melatonin is taken between 30 minutes and two hours before bedtime. The length of time to fall asleep decreases, but evidence does not prove melatonin can help with staying asleep.
Melatonin is not limited to regulating sleep habits. The health benefits of melatonin can boost the immune system as an antioxidant against free-radicals. The powerful antioxidant qualities of melatonin supplements can work as well as Vitamin E or beta-carotene. Studies also indicate that the benefits of melatonin might help to reduce the risk of a stroke or cancer. Low levels of melatonin have been linked to cancer in the prostate, breast and liver.
The anti-inflammatory effect of melatonin supplements may also treat migraine headaches. The benefits of melatonin may also help with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Research has shown that some Alzheimer’s patients who take melatonin supplements experience less agitation and confusion during evening times.