Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Melatonin: Natural Sleep

Melatonin regulates the body’s sleep/wake cycles. Optimal levels of melatonin allow us to have restful and restorative sleep. Our sleep cycles can be disrupted by things like air travel and shift work, which confuse the body and can change its production of melatonin. Melatonin also cues the body to release growth hormone and sex hormones, which are used during sleep to repair body tissues and normalize hormone levels. The amount of melatonin produced by the body naturally declines as we age. Researchers believe that melatonin may be partly responsible for the aging process because as it declines so do levels of other hormones that allow the body to repair itself. Additionally melatonin is a powerful antioxidant, protecting the body from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that in their bid to become more stable must bump into healthy cells and cause damage. Melatonin’s antioxidant properties neutralize free radicals and therefore reduce damage to all body tissues. Melatonin is recommended by natural health practitioners for insomnia, jet lag, aging, cancer, frequent colds and flus, PMS, memory loss, arteriosclerosis, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. Melatonin can be purchased in tablets. They should be taken 2 hours prior to bed to mimic the natural release of the hormone. Sublingual tablets are available for individuals with an impaired ability to absorb nutrients in the digestive tract. If you wake frequently during the night a sustained release tablet may give the most beneficial results. If you awake feeling groggy decrease your dosage. To enhance the body’s production of melatonin without taking melatonin itself there are several options. Protein intake is important because it contains the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to melatonin. A supplement called 5-HTP is an activated form of tryptophan that can also be supplemented to help with the production of melatonin. Vitamin B6, pyridoxine, acts in the cascade to produce melatonin, from tryptophan and serotonin. The absorption of B6 is improved if all of the B complex vitamins are taken along with it. Excessive use of melatonin may cause daytime drowsiness. Use of melatonin during the day can cause ill effects including the stimulation of tumour growth. Do not use melatonin if you are pregnant, nursing, have autoimmune disease or cancers of the immune system. Melatonin can increase the effectiveness of sedatives. Melatonin is a contraceptive and should not be taken by women who wish to conceive. Many prescription medications decrease the body’s ability to synthesize melatonin, including oral contraceptives, estrogen, hydralazine, loop diuretics, penicillamine, theophylline, beta-blockers, benzodiazepines and isonazid. Melatonin is available from www.nationalnutrition.ca. Check out our feature melatonin product.

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