The sleep hormone: What is melatonin? The sleep hormone: What is melatonin?

There is a lot of discussion surrounding this hormone. But what is it? What is it for? And where is it found?

The body’s biological clock that controls our circadian rhythm, which decides when we sleep and when we wake up, is regulated by the hormone melatonin. This hormone controls how we sleep during the day and at night and is produced by the pineal gland, which is located in the brain.

The natural production and amount of melatonin in the body increases in the evening and remains high throughout the night. In the morning and during the day, this amount drops radically to keep us awake.

Some factors may alter how much of this hormone is in our body. The number of daylight hours affects its production, for example, having a greater impact on people who live in countries with seasons. Also, as we get older, melatonin levels reduce until they become nearly nonexistent in the elderly.

Aside from the body’s natural production of it, melatonin is found in very small amounts in foods such as meats, vegetables, grains and fruits; which is why those with sleep disorders should take it as a supplement.

While such supplements have proven to be effective in treating short- and long-term diseases, they are not recommended unless they have been prescribed by a physician.

Source: American Academy of Family Physicians (website)

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