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Melatonin is a hormone made from a small glandular pineal gland in the brain that helps control sleep and wake-up cycles. It contains very small amounts of ingredients in foods such as meat, cereals, fruits and vegetables. Your body has its own internal clock that controls the natural circulation of your sleep and waking hours. So, to some extent, your biological clock will control the amount of melatonin in your body.
Normally, its level begins to rise in the middle and late stages, staying high for most of the time, and then falling in the early hours of the morning. Light affects how much melatonin your body produces. On shorter days in winter, your body may produce melatonin earlier or later than usual. This change can lead to symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or winter depression.
Natural melatonin levels slowly decrease with age, so some older people make very little or no amount of their own manufacture. It is an effective antioxidant that protects against free radicals and helps support glutathione activity in nerve tissue and can also be used to treat jet lag or sleep problems (insomnia).
Melatonin is the first biologically active substance found in the pineal gland. When the mammal is in the dark, the secretion of melatonin is immediately strengthened; when it becomes a bright environment, it stops. When the light changes, the rhythm of melatonin secretion can be measured from the urine. Other factors, such as sleep, eating conditions, mental state and stress, can also affect it. Injecting melatonin into the hypothalamus inhibits the secretion of gonadotropins, but it has also been observed that melatonin acts directly on the pituitary gland. Thus, melatonin can inhibit the secretion of gonadotropins through the hypothalamus and/or pituitary gland.
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