Melatonin


Definition - What does Melatonin mean?

Melatonin refers to a natural hormone secreted by the pineal gland, an organic structure located in the brain that follows the circadian rhythm cycles, thus, triggering the onset of sleep. The transmission of light rays via the retina dictates melatonin secretion, hinging on the interplay between the hypothalamus and the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the brain, which prime bioelectric activity in response to external stimuli (i.e., light and dark).

WorkplaceTesting explains Melatonin

Biorhythms operate as an internal clock in tandem with the environmental cues generated by natural or artificial light sources that prepare the body for rest or wakefulness. The SCN serves various functions and controls certain hormones in the body. For example, cortisol acts as a stimulant during the day while, conversely, at night there is a release of melatonin in the bloodstream. Although melatonin is an innate biochemical agent, synthetic derivatives are marketed as a commercial product to facilitate healthy sleep patterns.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recognize artificial melatonin as a legitimate drug, categorizing it instead as a dietary supplement that does not require a doctor’s prescription. However, unlike natural melatonin, over-the-counter supplements are believed to induce disproportionate levels of melatonin that can interfere with the autonomous circadian rhythm cycles. Hence, medical research continues to evolve, concurrently, with the uptrend in melatonin products heralding marked improvement in sleep patterns.

Individuals who suffer from chronic sleep disorders may experience a melatonin imbalance, which can also be compounded by overlapping time schedules due to rotating work shifts or jet lag from frequent travel. It is imperative to consult a physician about sleep disturbances in which a melatonin deficiency is a qualifying factor to potential sleep disorders based on forthcoming study reports.

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