Friday, January 24, 2014

Melatonin and the Brain

 Melatonin, a hormone, is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. Your body clock controls how much melatonin your body makes, which impacts your wake cycles and sleep cycles. Typically, melatonin levels rise in the evening and drop in the morning. As you probably already know, light impacts melatonin production. This means that during shorter days in the year, the pineal gland may produce melatonin earlier or later than usual, which (in some cases) may contribute to winter depression or lead to symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). In addition, natural melatonin levels fall as the brain ages. You may have heard advertisements on the radio related to sleep problems in some individuals related to lack of vision and an inability to see light. Melatonin is being studied to see if it can be used to treat this condition. Are you having difficulty sleeping, especially after all the hype of the holiday season? Melatonin might be impacting that. According to NSASA, some medications interfere with melatonin production (e.g., Ibuprofin, Beta Blockers). Turns out, so do tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine. You may want to check with your doctor.

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