Get ready for the clock change with melatonin

Melatonin, a hormone produced by all animal species, is necessary for falling asleep. It is formed from tryptophan, an essential amino acid that must be ingested through food to produce serotonin (the so-called ‘happiness hormone’) as an intermediate product for the final synthesis of melatonin. 

The human body likes routine and balance, and any change in schedules (e.g. a time change, long journeys) can alter circadian rhythms; 24-hour periods that regulate various physiological and psychological variables (1). In late October, the clocks will go back one hour, so 3 am now be 2 am. This can lead to a decrease in the synthesis of melatonin, a hormone that facilitates sleep and regulates sleep-wake cycles according to sunlight. The consequence of this is that we can fall victim to feeling drowsy and tired during the daytime. 

The consequences of lack of sleep on health

Lack of restful, quality sleep can wreak havoc on your health. When you suffer from chronic insomnia or have difficulty falling asleep, or staying asleep all night, it can trigger diurnal hypersomnolence, linked to  poorer physical and mental quality of life (2). During the daytime, lack of sleep can manifest itself in tiredness, headaches, gastrointestinal disturbances, general malaise and lead to an inability to react quickly, mental slowness and alterations in behaviour and mood, such as irritability, anxiety and even depression (3)(4).

Low melatonin production can lead to it taking longer to fall asleep, and consequently sleeping fewer hours than required. This inadequate or insufficient sleep is associated, according to research, with an increased risk of hypertension, obesity, diabetes or coronary heart disease (5)(6). Lack of sleep produces a decrease in levels of leptin (anorexigenic hormone) and an increase in ghrelin, a hormone that increases the sensation of hunger while activating brain zones that encourage us to select the most caloric foods, and there are indications that it could even activate genes that promote obesity (7). Curious but true, our contemporary lack of sleep (so widespread in the modern world) can contribute to the epidemic of obesity and insulin resistance. 

Insomnia can be aggravated by stressful situations or when crossing different time zones.

Using melatonin to correct jet lag

The term jet lag refers to a sudden alteration of the internal biological clock that regulates sleep and wakefulness, causing it to be out of phase with the change of time. For example, if a passenger leaves New York at 7 pm (local time), they will land in Barcelona at around 9 am in broad daylight, which will activate wakefulness signals. The problem is that when your biological clock hits 3 am, your sleep cycle will have been abruptly interrupted. Supplementation with melatonin can therefore be an effective solution for when your biological clock is altered, and administered when experiencing difficulties in initiating sleep, when difficulties in staying asleep (melatonin helps prevent or reduce night-time awakenings) (8), or when suffering from jet lag, for which studies show that doses of between 0.5 and 5 mg of melatonin are equally effective and do not lead to side effects in healthy adults (9)(10).

Science-proven benefits of melatonin

There are so many studies on melatonin that even the EFSA has validated health claims for this hormone: melatonin helps to alleviate the subjective sensation of jet lag and helps to reduce the time needed to fall asleep (11).

But current scientific studies have gone one step further, and not only support the well-known use of melatonin in sleep disorders (12) but have found an endless number of possible therapeutic applications as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant (13), and even demonstrates anti-tumour properties in some types of cancer (14) (15).

Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland (located in the brain) and needs darkness in order to be synthesized. With the arrival of less light (at night), the body begins to produce melatonin, to prepare the body for falling asleep (16). In other words, melatonin signals the ‘biological night’ and regulates circadian rhythm, the internal biological clock (17). The release of melatonin therefore induces sleep, but in addition to regulating the sleep/wake cycle, melatonin is involved in other endogenous rhythms, such as endocrine and neurological rhythms and behavioural processes, all of which are interconnected. An alteration in the circadian rhythm can have serious consequences for health, and melatonin supplements are available as effective and safe remedies, in the doses studied, to act as chronobiotic treatments, helping to regulate the biological clock, and for sleep disorders, with fewer side effects than conventional insomnia medication (18) (19).

But according to the latest science, other organs are able to synthesize melatonin. Extrapineal melatonin circulates through the blood and can be used by various tissues to protect against inflammation (20) and oxidative stress (21). It increases glutathione synthesis (endogenous antioxidant) and the activity of other antioxidant defence enzymatic systems, such as superoxide dismutase or reductase, protecting cells from premature ageing (22), e.g. protecting neurons from oxidation and consequent cognitive impairment (23) (24). 

Why take melatonin food supplements?

Endogenous melatonin production decreases with age, and it is estimated that from age 40-45, this decrease could be up to 40% compared to younger subjects. As a consequence of this age-related decrease in synthesis, the sleep/wake cycle is altered and it takes longer to fall asleep (25)(26), so exogenous supplementation could be considered. Don’t forget that extrapineal melatonin also drops, so it also reduces the body’s ability to cope with free radicals and inflammation processes.

Consequently, melatonin supplements are found to be effective for sleep disturbances and in neurodegenerative and immune disorders, diseases linked to oxidative stress (27)(28)(29).

In terms of dosage, the EFSA’s panel of experts concludes that, establishing a cause and effect relationship, melatonin helps to decrease the time needed to fall asleep, provided intake is 1 mg, shortly before bedtime. And as far as it helps to alleviate the subjective sensation of jet lag, the minimum intake should be 0.5 mg, and up to 5 mg, and should be taken shortly before going to bed on the first day of travel, and continue a few days after arrival at the destination (30)

Based on these dosage and safety recommendations for the consumer, Anastore offers 1.8 mg of melatonin with a guaranteed purity above 99% in two formats: capsules and sublingual tablets, acting effectively to be absorbed quickly through the oral mucosa. These products of the highest quality help to regulate the biological clock in a natural way, helping you to fall asleep and avoid night-time awakenings. 

Melatonin offers an alternative treatment for sleep disorders to classic sleeping pills, with significantly fewer side effects (31). In addition, these melatonin supplements can help to alleviate jet lag and support the body’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory defences

Sleeping like a baby is once again possible, by taking 2 capsules or tablets about 30 minutes before bedtime. 

Not recommended in pregnancy or if breastfeeding. If you have a specific medical condition or are taking medication, consult your doctor beforehand. 

Bibliography

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(2) Sleep: a marker of physical and mental health in the elderly (2006). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17001025

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(4) Behavioral and Physiological Consequences of Sleep Restriction (2007). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1978335/

(5) Sleep and Obesity (2018). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6489488/

(6) Sleep loss: a novel risk factor for insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes (2005). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16227462

(7) The important role of sleep in metabolism (2014). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24732925

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(9) Melatonin for the prevention and treatment of jet lag (2002). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12076414

(10) Is melatonin useful for jet lag? (2015). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26731279

(11) Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to melatonin and alleviation of subjective feelings of jet lag (ID 1953), and reduction of sleep onset latency, and improvement of sleep quality (ID 1953) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1467

(12) The Use of Exogenous Melatonin in Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder: A Meta-analysis (2010). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2982730/

(13) The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of melatonin on LPS-stimulated bovine mammary epithelial cells (2017). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5444821/

(14) Melatonin is a potential inhibitor of ovarian cancer: molecular aspects (2019). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6434863/

(15) Melatonin is an appropriate candidate for breast cancer treatment: Based on known molecular mechanisms (2019). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31041825

(16) Human circadian rhythms: physiological and therapeutic relevance of light and melatonin (2006) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17022876

(17) Melatonin and human rhythms (2006) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16687277

(18) Synchronizing effects of melatonin on diurnal and circadian rhythms (2018). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28533170

(19) Meta-analysis: melatonin for the treatment of primary sleep disorders (2013). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3656905/

(20) Melatonin: a pleiotropic molecule regulating inflammation (2010) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20696138/

(21) Mitochondria: Central Organelles for Melatonin's Antioxidant and Anti-Aging Actions (2018) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29495303

(22) Melatonin in Medicinal and Food Plants: Occurrence, Bioavailability, and Health Potential for Humans (2019). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6678868/

(23) Anti-amyloidogenic and anti-apoptotic role of melatonin in Alzheimer disease (2010). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21358971/

(24) Pineal gland dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease: relationship with the immune-pineal axis, sleep disturbance, and neurogenesis (2019). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6624939/

(25) Alterations in the circadian rhythm of salivary melatonin begin during middle-age. (2003). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12485366

(26) Human melatonin production decreases with age (1986). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3783419/

(27) Melatonin as an antioxidant: under promises but over delivers (2016). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27500468

(28) Effects of melatonin on oxidative stress, and resistance to bacterial, parasitic, and viral infections: a review (2014) . https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24811367

(29) Melatonin: A Versatile Protector against Oxidative DNA Damage (2018). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6017920/

(30) EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA); Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to melatonin and alleviation of subjective feelings of jet lag (ID 1953), and reduction of sleep onset latency, and improvement of sleep quality (ID 1953) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. EFSA Journal 2010; 8(2):1467. [14 pp.]. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1467. Available online: www.efsa.europa.eu.

(31) A review of sleep disorders and melatonin (2017). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28460563