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How does melatonin work?

2023-10-17

Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by the pineal gland in the brain. It plays a crucial role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm. The release of melatonin is influenced by environmental cues such as light and darkness.

The production of melatonin is stimulated by darkness and suppressed by light. In the evening, as light levels decrease, the pineal gland begins to release melatonin into the bloodstream, signaling to the body that it is time to prepare for sleep. This gradual increase in melatonin levels helps promote feelings of drowsiness and prepares the body for rest.

Melatonin works by interacting with specific receptors in the brain, particularly in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus. The SCN acts as the body's internal clock, regulating various biological functions. Melatonin binds to melatonin receptors in the SCN, which helps synchronize the body's internal rhythm with the external light-dark cycle.

Additionally, melatonin influences other physiological processes beyond sleep regulation. It has antioxidant properties and plays a role in immune function, regulation of blood pressure, and body temperature.

Melatonin supplements are commonly used to address sleep-related issues, such as insomnia or jet lag. By taking melatonin supplements, individuals can increase their circulating levels of melatonin, which may help initiate and maintain sleep. It's important to note that the use of melatonin supplements should be discussed with a healthcare professional, as the appropriate dosage and timing can vary depending on individual circumstances.

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