General Practice 2022

Melatonin: what é, what it is for and how to use it

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Melatonin: what é, what it is for and how to use it
Melatonin: what é, what it is for and how to use it
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Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by the body (in the pineal gland of the brain), whose main function is to regulate the circadian cycle, stimulating sleep at the end of the day. In addition, melatonin also promotes the proper functioning of the body and acts as an antioxidant.

Melatonin production happens especially at the end of the day, when there are no more light stimuli and metabolism is slower, which makes its production happen mainly at night. Therefore, at bedtime, it is important to avoid light, sound or aromatic stimuli that can accelerate metabolism and decrease melatonin production.

Generally, the production of melatonin decreases with aging, which is why sleep disorders are more common in adults or the elderly.Despite being naturally produced by the body, it is also possible to obtain melatonin through food supplements or medicines, which must be consumed under the guidance of a doctor.

What is melatonin for

Melatonin is a hormone that serves to:

1. Improves sleep quality

Several studies show that melatonin contributes to better sleep quality and helps treat insomnia by increasing total sleep time and decreasing the time needed to fall asleep in children and adults.

2. Has antioxidant action

Due to its antioxidant effect, it has been shown that melatonin contributes to the strengthening of the immune system, helping to prevent various diseases and to control psychological and nervous system related diseases.

Thus, melatonin may be indicated to assist in the treatment of glaucoma, retinopathy, macular degeneration, migraine, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer's or ischemia, for example.

Furthermore, some studies using cells from breast, prostate, endometrial and ovarian cancer show that melatonin can help improve the effect of cancer treatment or decrease the side effects of chemotherapy or radiotherapy [1] However, further studies in humans are needed to prove this benefit.

3. Helps improve seasonal depression

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs during the winter period and causes symptoms such as sadness, excessive sleep, increased appetite and difficulty concentrating.

This disorder occurs more often in people who live in regions where winter lasts a long time, and is associated with a decrease in mood and sleep-related substances in the body, such as serotonin and melatonin.

In these cases, taking melatonin can help regulate your circadian rhythm and improve symptoms of seasonal depression. Learn more about treating seasonal affective disorder.

4. Reduces stomach acidity

Melatonin contributes to the reduction of acid production in the stomach and also of nitric oxide, which is a substance that induces the relaxation of the esophageal sphincter, reducing gastroesophageal reflux. Thus, melatonin can be used as an aid in the treatment of this condition or alone, in milder cases.

Learn more about treatment for gastroesophageal reflux.

How to take it

Melatonin production decreases over time, due to age or due to constant exposure to light and visual stimuli. Thus, melatonin can be consumed in the form of a food supplement, such as Melatonin Duo, or medicines, such as Melatonin DHEA, and should always be recommended by a specialist doctor, so that sleep and other body functions are regulated.

The recommended intake can range from 0.3 mg to 0.5 mg of melatonin, which corresponds to the amount of melatonin normally produced by the body.However, melatonin supplements are sold in capsule form, in doses of 1mg, 2mg, 3mg, 5mg or 10mg, so it is recommended to start with the lowest dose of 1mg. taken 30 minutes before bed. This dose can be increased to up to 10 mg per day, as directed by a physician, but doses greater than 1 mg increase the risk of side effects.

This supplement may be indicated to treat migraine, and more often, insomnia. The use of melatonin during the day is usually not recommended, as it can disrupt the circadian cycle, that is, it can make the person feel a lot of sleep during the day and little during the night, for example.

Melatonin can also be part of the composition of some food supplements, which are indicated for people aged 19 and over, in a concentration of up to 0.21 mg. Food supplements consisting of melatonin are not recommended for pregnant women, infants, children and people who perform activities that require attention.

A good alternative to increase the concentration of melatonin in the body is to consume foods that contribute to its production, such as brown rice, bananas, walnuts, oranges and spinach, for example. Discover other foods that are more suitable for insomnia.

See a recipe with some of the foods that help you sleep:

Possible side effects

Melatonin is a relatively safe and well-tolerated supplement when used in low doses and short term, and side effects are rare. However, although they are rare, the most common side effects that can arise are:

  • Fatigue or excessive daytime sleepiness;
  • Lack of concentration;
  • Worsening of depression;
  • Headache or migraine;
  • Abdominal pain or diarrhea;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Irritability, nervousness, anxiety or agitation;
  • Vivid dreams or nightmares;
  • Dizziness, weakness or mental confusion;
  • Increased blood pressure;
  • Nausea or stomach pain;
  • Canker sores or dry mouth;
  • Dermatitis, blistering of the skin, generalized itching or dry skin;
  • Chest, joint or back pain;
  • Yellowish skin or eyes;
  • Menopause symptoms such as hot flashes or night sweats;
  • Presence of sugar or protein in the urine;
  • Increase in weight.

The intensity of the side effects will depend on the amount of melatonin ingested. The higher the dose, the greater the risk of some of these side effects.

In children, the melatonin supplement can also cause seizures, and therefore, its use should always be done with the pediatrician's indication and guidance.

Who should not use

Melatonin should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women, or by people allergic to melatonin or any other component of the formula.

Also, doses greater than 1 mg should be avoided unless prescribed by a doctor, as the risk of developing side effects is greater.

Melatonin can cause daytime drowsiness, so caution should be exercised or avoid activities such as driving, using heavy machinery, or performing hazardous activities.

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