Also known as sleep hormone, melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the body. It is released from the pineal gland from the brain in response to darkness. Melatonin is produced from the essential amino acid tryptophan and regulates circadian biological clock and sleep cycles.
Travelling across time zones and staying up late to study for an exam or work on a project could disrupt melatonin production.
Athletic Benefits of Melatonin:
Melatonin cannot directly improve athletic performance, but it indirectly improves some physiological functions of the body. The popularity of melatonin among athletes is for the following reasons:
- Relieves symptoms of jet lag.
- Helps adjust sleeping pattern.
- May help with pre-competition anxiety (see “Pre – Competition Anxiety” under the section of the “Athletic Disorders”).
Non - Athletic Benefits of Melatonin:
Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and scavenges free radicals. Melatonin release and production are disrupted among those who have rotational night-work-shifts. Any disruption in melatonin production for a long time could affect the immune system. This could explain as to why the risk of some cancers (especially colon and breast) is somewhat higher in people who have rotational night-work-shifts.
Melatonin may be beneficial in the following conditions:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (prevention).
- Hypnic headaches.
- Cluster headaches.
- Insomnia and any other sleep disorders.
- As an anti – aging.
- Seasonal affective disorder.
- Tardive dyskinesia.
- Age- related cognitive decline.
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
- Sexual dysfunction.
- Weight management support.
- As a support in cancers of the colon, lung, breast, and prostate.
Dosage and Side Effects:
Typical dosage of melatonin is 3 – 9 mg per day at bedtime. Taking melatonin in a continuous manner for more than 3 months is strongly discouraged.
Possible side effects include daytime drowsiness, dizziness, stomach upset, irritability, and nausea.
Potential interactions of melatonin are:
- Sedative medications and tranquilizers: melatonin increases their effectiveness.
- Birth control pills: they may increase the production of melatonin.
- Caffeine: it reduces effectiveness of melatonin.
- Anti – depressant medications of SSRI group: they may increase production of melatonin.
- Anti – diabetes: melatonin may increase blood sugar.
- Anti – histamines: melatonin may increase their sedative effects.