The connection between melatonin and depression refers to the ability of the hormone melatonin to reduce the symptoms of depression. In some cases, however, the use of melatonin can actually worsen symptoms of depression. Since melatonin is not regulated by the government, safety has not been thoroughly examined. Taking melatonin supplements should never be considered unless under the direct supervision of an experience health care provider.
The pineal gland in the brain secretes the hormone melatonin. In addition, melatonin can help regulate other natural hormones and normalize the circadian rhythm of the body. Darkness helps the pineal gland produce melatonin and exposure to bright lights during the night can disrupt melatonin cycles. This is another way that melatonin and depression may be connected.
Melatonin and depression may be linked because melatonin supplements can improve sleep quality, therefore reducing the symptoms of daytime sleepiness and depression. In addition, melatonin and depression may be linked through a condition called seasonal affective disorder. This condition occurs during the winter months when the days get shorter. The reduction in natural daylight can trigger depression. Supplementing with melatonin can have an anti-depressant effect on the body, improving mood.
Side effects of melatonin supplementation include daytime sleepiness, abdominal pain, and headaches. In addition, sleep walking and vivid dreams or nightmares may occur from taking melatonin. Also, melatonin supplements derived from animals can harbor contaminants and viruses, so supplements made from artificial ingredients may be safer.
Many people take melatonin supplements to treat or prevent jet lag. Since it regulates the sleep-wake cycle, it can help normalize sleep patterns. Although the establishment between melatonin and depression has not been proven, taking supplements may have a profound placebo effect. Since so many people believe that melatonin is effective in improving sleep and relieving symptoms of depression, taking it can cause people to think that it will really help them, even though scientific data may say otherwise.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should refrain from taking melatonin supplements. In addition, people with heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney or liver disorders, or those prone to migraine headaches should not take melatonin unless authorized by a medical professional. Melatonin may also interact with certain prescription medications or dietary supplements. Before taking melatonin, it should be discussed with a healthcare provider who can determine if the risks outweigh the benefits.