Melatonin, located in the middle of the brain and secreted by the pineal gland or pineal gland between both hemispheres, is a hormone that regulates the sleep cycle and the biological clock of the body, which is defined as the circadian rhythm. The hormone, which is produced at low levels by the cells of the digestive system in addition to the stomach and intestine, as well as bone marrow, retina, skin and white blood cells, begins to synthesize with the darkening of the air. In addition to regulating sleep rhythm, melatonin plays an important role in biological and physiological processes such as strengthening the immune system, regulating body temperature and cell renewal. Melatonin is the most powerful antioxidant known, due to its ability to dissolve in lipophilic or, in other words, oil-type solvents. Thanks to this feature, melatonin, which can reach all parts of the body and is secreted intensely during sleep in the dark environment, supports the mechanisms of metabolism to maintain vital activities. Melatonin has a positive effect on sleep quality regardless of sleep duration. Therefore, with the invention of the lamp, industrialization and modern life, people who are exposed to light between 23:00 and 05:00 hours, or do not sleep at all, have limited melatonin secretion, which leads to sleep disorders. Before moving on to the effects of the hormone melatonin, which has many functions, especially sleep patterns, on the body, “What is the melatonin hormone?” must answer the question.
What is Melatonin?
The melatonin hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain has a serious effect on human health. Its main task is to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm. However, it also has an important role in the regulation of sleep rhythm and body temperature. Melatonin, which is the most powerful antioxidant known due to its lipophilic property that enables it to reach all structures in the body, enables it to fulfill many important functions such as strengthening the immune system and cell renewal. The air must be dark for melatonin hormone to be released from the brain. This situation is controlled by pinealocytes or, in other words, light-sensitive cells in the brain. Thus, melatonin release stops when it is bright and starts again when it gets dark. That’s why melatonin is also known as the Dracula hormone. Melatonin, whose release starts to increase between 21.00 and 22.00 in the evening, reaches the highest level between 02.00 and 04.00 hours. It decreases again between 05.00 and 07.00 hours and after this time interval, it is drawn towards the lower limit, basal or in other words. On average, a total of 30mg overnight in a person’s body. melatonin is synthesized. Thus, the melatonin level, which is 0-20 pg / dl in the blood during the daytime, increases to the level of 50-200 pg / ml during the night hours. “What is melatonin?” The question can be answered in this way. Approximately 85% of the melatonin hormone is secreted from the pineal gland, while the remaining 15% is secreted by stomach, intestine, bone marrow, retina, skin and white blood cells. Because it is the strongest known antioxidant, melatonin, which creates an antidepressant effect on the person and is associated with the presence of many diseases from cancer to heart diseases, is indispensable for physiological and psychological health. For this reason, watching television at night when melatonin is secreted, spending time with a mobile phone, exposure to light and especially blue light are among the factors that reduce sleep quality and the body’s resistance to diseases.
How is melatonin secreted?
Melatonin is secreted by pineolacyte cells in the pineal gland in the brain. The light-sensitive pineolastic cells increase the hormone release linearly with the darkening of the air. Expressed as the main substance used in the production of the hormone melatonin, tryptophan primarily converts into serotonin. Serotonin, which is secreted throughout the day and known as the happiness hormone, leaves its place to the hormone melatonin when the weather gets dark. Photoreceptors, defined as light-sensitive retinal cells, are thought to be linked to pinealocytes in the brain. With the disappearance of daylight, these cells transfer the information that there is a decrease in the amount of light to the pineal gland in the brain. In our country, melatonin is secreted for a longer time due to the longer nights in the winter months. However, this situation is directly related to the age of the person. In other words, as a person ages, the amount of melatonin secretion decreases. The human body’s exposure to light is the key mechanism in differentiation of sleep patterns. The light source stimulates the nerves from the retina to the hypothalamic area in the brain. After the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) region in the hypothalamus receives the information about the change of light, it sends this information to the pineal gland and initiates melatonin release. Thus, a feeling of sleep and wakefulness occurs. As melatonin release increases, stimuli coming to the brain are perceived less and a feeling of sleep occurs. Melatonin remains high in the blood level until after sleep.
How to increase the melatonin level?
Melatonin level being below normal values causes many sleep disorders, especially insomnia. It can also cause many ailments such as fatigue, weakness, palpitations, anxiety disorder, depression, sexual anorexia, and dysfunctions. There are studies suggesting that the melatonin hormone has positive effects on the immune system and increases life span by reducing stress and decreases signs of aging. Although many of the effects of melatonin, a hormone released in the dark, on the body have not been proven yet, scientific research on this subject continues at full speed. Smoking and alcohol consumption should be stopped completely to increase the melatonin level. In addition, limiting coffee consumption and avoiding stress increases melatonin release. Sleeping before midnight, reducing the amount of food eaten in the evening increases melatonin production. In addition, not spending time with the phone in bed at night, not using a night lamp, and completely isolating the room from light also support melatonin production. If you have sleep problems and wake up not sufficiently rested, you can consult a specialist to measure your melatonin level and take melatonin supplements if recommended by the physician.