Friday, 20 July 2012

Melatonin - The Good, Bad, and The Sleepy

Hey folks,

Your friendly neighbourhood know-it-all here with another dose of knowledge ironically being posted in the wee hours of the morning... An expose on the sleep hormone melatonin and some facts that the readers might not know about it.


Now I took melatonin for a while, and I'll say that it definitely improved my sleep quality, and duration so from a subjective (and medically uneducated) standpoint, this stuff is fantastic. The folks at the hospital were kind enough to inform me that it is a naturally occurring and because of this, the odds of dependency issues were extremely low. However, after being cautioned by an employee at my gym tonight I decided to do a little bit of digging into the background and effects of melatonin. I'll be organising this post by the effects of melatonin on particular age groups and then finally with a segment for the universal effects of the drug.

Children 13 and Under:
Should not be taking melatonin, it's that simple. It has been shown in some studies to increase the risk of cancer when giving to children and studies have also shown that the natural melatonin synthesis process in children peaks at a later hour of the night (hence why kids always seem to have more energy in adults at 'bed time'). Basically parents, if your kid won't sleep, have them run on a treadmill and feed them turkey. They'll get a workout, a lean snack, and everyone knows the effect turkey has on mankind.

Youth 14-20:
This is a section of our societal make-up plagued by obesity and these problems will transfer to later on in life so I figure it's the best section to assign this particular benefit of melatonin.
"Many studies show that chronic melatonin supplementation in drinking water reduces body weight and abdominal fat in experimental animals" and it was also noted in the study that the subject animals required no change in diet or physical fitness routine in order to see these results. An observed effect of melatonin is the creation and activation of "brown adipose tissue" (brown fat cells) that burn many more calories every hour when compared to your standard fat cells. In humans there is more brown fat observed earlier in life and the amount that remains existent and active in our bodies decreases with age. So, it COULD be that routine, low-dose melatonin ingestion by youth would reduce the obesity rate... We'd also have a much more mellow population.
Also, in ADHD patients, melatonin was shown to reduce sleep preparation times and increase the duration of sleep through the night.


Adults 21-59:
Let's just rattle some off shall we?

  • radiation protection
  • prevention and ease of excretion of gallstones
  • reduction in cancer deaths (reduced melatonin production is implicated in the higher rate of cancer victims in night workers DAD HEADS UP!!!)
  • treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • preventative treatment of migraines and cluster headaches
  • beneficial to the treatment of tinnitus
Elderly 60+:
Melatonin has been shown to improve the brain's ability to store and recall information (most likely a benefit of improved sleep quality) and it has been shown to hinder the production of the beta protein that causes the neural deterioration in Alzheimer's patients.

Generally speaking? In timeframes of 3 months or less, routine and low dose melatonin use shows very few if any adverse side effects and can be beneficial in helping with a range of complications in human life, and it improves sleep... Who doesn't want better sleep?

Adverse Effects:

Basically the stuff you would associate with a product that alters the balance of hormones in your body. In higher doses it can cause headaches, grogginess, nausea, irritability, vivid dreams, nightmares and reduced blood flow. Remember, this hormone allows you to get into REM sleep, and STAY there. Of course it is going to have some effects on vivid dreaming and nightmares and if you're taking it in high doses no wonder you're going to experienced a lowering in your body temperature, your body senses that it is sleep time when your melatonin levels rise and one of the effects of sleep is a lower body temperature (to conserve energy and to allow your body to relax). As I mentioned though it can cause cancers in young children and it can also worsen and be causal in developmental disorders so don't feed it to your youngin's okay? Good. There's some debate about auto-immune disorders and their behaviours when under exposure to melatonin increases so I'd just stay off the melatonin wagon if I was an AI patient but all-in-all? As long as you're not popping these like M&Ms and you're limiting usage to 3 months or less, you shouldn't be seeing any negative effects (unless you don't have the 7-8 hours available TO BE sleeping in the first place... then you'll wake up tired still).

So with all of that said... Goodnight everyone! Lol. I hope you've all learned a little something. There are a number of people who -for some unknown reason- still hold important places in my heart that I know are affected by some of the conditions that melatonin has been shown to alleviate the symptoms and treat the causes of however the odds are they'll never see this page... Pity. I know my 'old man' (he's not that old folks, and he can still whoop my ass on a hockey rink) could take a helping hand from this article so on that note THIS ONE'S FOR YOU DADDYO!!!

Enjoy your SLEEP lol,

Joshua J. Taylor

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