Melatonin is a natural hormone that is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. It is responsible for controlling the daily sleeping and waking patterns in humans. The melatonin levels begin to rise in mid to late evening and remain high throughout the night aiding in sleeping until they drop in the early morning hours.
Natural melatonin levels slowly diminish with age so that older adults make very little melatonin or none at all. That is one of the reasons that older adults tend to have more sleeping problems although in some cases they just don’t require as much sleep as they age.
Since the early 1990′s melatonin has been available as a dietary supplement in the United States. But it is more restricted in some countries or not available at all. Research has been conducted on how melatonin might help the immune system or slow down the aging process although nothing is proven.
Melatonin is often used for patients who suffer from sleep disorders or those who do not produce enough natural melatonin. In many cases it is used for those who suffer from jet lag, particularly frequent travelers where they are constantly crossing various time zones and their “biological clock” can get out of sync.
Melatonin is found to be safe if used in small or mild doses for short-term use. However, it should not be taken for longer than two to three months. Anyone who takes melatonin should seek medical advice before taking it, particularly if they are on any regular medications or suffer from any health issues or are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
Melatonin is taken in dosages that vary from 0.2mg to 20mg and can have side effects such as drowsiness or stomach problems or morning grogginess so anyone should use care when driving or operating machinery and should consult a physician if their symptoms persist.
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