The sleep and well-being hormone

Melatonin ensures good, restful sleep. If enough melatonin is produced at the right time, we can fall asleep without any problems, go through all the sleep phases and wake up rested the next morning.

Melatonin has a great influence on whether we feel good or whether we are tired and listless, to the point of being slightly depressed. Thus, this hormone has a significant impact on our lives.

Melatonin controls the day-night rhythm of the body. It belongs to the neurotransmitters and is produced almost exclusively at night via a complex circuit between the pineal gland and hypothalamus.

The receptors to which melatonin can dock and pass on its information are found in the hypothalamus, in the thermoregulatory cells of the brainstem, in cerebral blood vessels, and in some cells of the immune system.

Thirty years ago, knowledge about melatonin was still in its infancy.
Today, we know much more about it.

As we know today, melatonin can regulate more than just the sleep-wake rhythm. There are promising studies on cancer therapies in which melatonin is used as a concomitant drug, as well as in cardiovascular diseases.

It is also touted as an anti-aging agent. Modern medicine thus confirms a centuries-old wisdom: sleeping makes you beautiful and keeps you healthy. The sleep hormone is particularly popular in the USA. There it is already added to many dietary supplements.
In Switzerland, melatonin is only freely available up to a fixed upper limit. In Germany, it is even available only on prescription. The inconsistent regulation is a consequence of the fact that no long-term studies are available on the effects of substituted melatonin.

With increasing age, the body produces less melatonin. While the concentration in children is up to twelve times higher at night than during the day, the concentration in older people is often only three times higher at night than during the day. The widespread opinion that older people need less sleep is thus strongly questioned.
The performance of our brain is also closely related to melatonin levels. Concentration problems and forgetfulness can result from a too low melatonin level at night. These complaints can be observed in young people, especially if they regularly sit in front of a PC for a very long time and are thus exposed to a light source with a high blue component.

If a few simple points are taken into account so as not to impair the body's own melatonin production, restful sleep is the result.

Provide absolute darkness during sleep, because light inhibits the production of melatonin. This interaction makes sense during the day, otherwise we would be constantly tired and sleepy. At night, however, the night light for children, the luminous digits of the radio alarm clock or the light of a street lamp shining into a bedroom interferes with the production of melatonin.

The same applies to the light that penetrates through the eyelids. An eye pillow is very helpful here, especially in the phase of falling asleep

Avoid light sources with a high blue component at least one hour before sleeping. This means not using a smartphone, tablet, PC or television. If you can't or don't want to do without them, then use a blue filter if possible. Studies indicate that light from electronic devices with a high blue content can disrupt melatonin production.
This is also true for children and teens, even though their melatonin levels are higher than adults.
Always try to go to bed around the same time. Our bodies have the ability to align with behavioral rhythms to a certain extent. Your internal clock sets the pace and the body follows. Always eating at the same time facilitates digestion. Always going to bed at the same time supports regeneration during sleep and the release of melatonin.

During the day, they should spend as much time as possible outside. Let yourself be spoiled by the entire spectrum of sunlight. Nothing gives a more pleasant warmth, nothing gives you more energy than the sun and in addition it inhibits the melatonin synthesis.
 Sunlight gives the pineal gland an important and necessary break in the production of the "sleep hormone".

Melatonin supply

Drugs containing melatonin are used in the therapy of certain sleep disorders. Especially disorders of the normal sleep-wake rhythm respond well to it. These include jet lag, shift work, on-call duty and others. People whose work rhythm does not coincide with the natural day-night rhythm are particularly affected.

However, the body can absorb only about 15% of orally ingested melatonin. The rest is simply excreted by the kidneys. The timing of the intake must be well chosen in order to be able to use the effect optimally and to be fit again at the desired time.

Foods can also contain melatonin. These include, for example, pistachios, rice, mushrooms, corn and oats. The amounts are measurable, but small. However, a noticeable effect can hardly be achieved with a balanced eating pattern.

When melatonin-containing drugs are taken for a short time, no side effects usually occur. Occasionally, symptoms such as drowsiness and concentration disorders are observed. But be careful, because the hormone regulates the sleep-wake rhythm and can therefore also impair this very rhythm.

As always, caution should be exercised when taking other medications. To avoid interactions, melatonin should not be taken together with antileptics, antidepressants or anticoagulants (aka blood thinners).
Consultation with a physician is strongly recommended.

A major disadvantage of regular use is the habituation effect. This means that the body expects melatonin to be supplied from the outside and gradually reduces its own production with the duration of intake. If the substitution is discontinued, the original complaints will reoccur and may be more severe than before the intake of melatonin-containing preparations.


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