is best known as a sleep hormone because of its action controlling
the circadian cycle. But melatonin also has antioxidant properties,
and may have an important anti-aging role.
study looked at artificially aged mice to determine the effects
of melatonin on aging. Such mice are used as a model to
study the fundamental mechanisms of aging because they develop
markers also found in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
to the study, as reported by Green Med Info:
[T]reatment with melatonin ... was able to reduce oxidative stress
and the neurodegenerative calpain/Cdk5 pathway ... and ... markers
of cerebral aging and neurodegeneration ... indicating the neuroprotective
and anti-aging effect of melatonin.”
known that lack of sleep interferes with metabolism and hormone
production in a way that is similar to the effects of aging. One
way that this may occur could be related to the action of melatonin,
the "sleep" hormone secreted by your brain.
your brain produces melatonin in a daily rhythm that peaks at
night, around 9 or 10 p.m. This makes you sleepy, and it is these
regularly occurring secretions that help regulate your sleep cycle.
If you're not getting enough sleep, there's a good chance your
melatonin production is not up to par either, and this could have
far-reaching impacts on your health, even accelerating the aging
process of your brain.
Antioxidant Effects of Melatonin
In a new
study, artificially aged mice treated with melatonin had reduced
oxidative stress and markers of cerebral aging and neurodegeneration,
indicating the melatonin offered both neuroprotective and anti-aging
effects. Melatonin actually has antioxidant properties that may
help explain its important anti-aging role, as it helps to suppress
harmful free radicals in your body and even slows the production
of estrogen, which can activate cancer.
immediate precursor is the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is
a major player in uplifting your mood. And, like serotonin, melatonin
plays important roles in your physical and mental health. Studies
have shown that insufficient melatonin production can set you
cancer cell proliferation and tumor growth (including leukemia)
free radical scavenging
plaques in the brain, like those seen with Alzheimer's disease
risk of osteoporosis
microangiopathy (capillary damage)
affective disorder (SAD)
Common Mistake Can Destroy Your Melatonin Production
of sleep deprivation are so intense because your circadian rhythm
has evolved over hundreds of generations to align your physiology
with your environment, and your body clock assumes that, like
your ancestors, you sleep at night and stay awake during daylight
If you confuse
the situation by depriving yourself of enough hours of sleep or
not sleeping when it's dark outside, you send conflicting signals
to your body. One of these consequences can be a lack of melatonin
production, which can be detrimental to your health.
can you do to protect this fragile system?
One of the
most important tips to remember is to sleep in complete darkness,
as this is what allows your body to produce melatonin.
hypothalamus is a group of cells called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus
(SCN), which controls your biological clock by responding to light.
Light reaches your SCN via your eye's optic nerve, where it tells
your biological clock it's time to wake up. Light also causes
your SCN to initiate other processes associated with being awake,
such as raising your body temperature and producing hormones,
On the flip
side, the lack of light reaching your SCN triggers melatonin
production, which helps you sleep and this is why
sleeping in total darkness is so important. If there is even the
tiniest bit of light in your room it can disrupt your circadian
rhythm and your pineal gland's production of both melatonin and
This is the
"hidden" secret that most people tend to ignore, but which can
dramatically improve the quality of your sleep and your health.
Personally, I sleep in a room that is so dark you can't see your
hands in front of your face. It is wise to liberally use blackout
shades and drapes to achieve this.
that any light is problematic, even that from televisions
and other gadgets. Computer screens and most light bulbs emit
blue light, to which your eyes are particularly sensitive simply
because it's the type of light most common outdoors during daytime
hours. As a result, these items can easily disrupt your melatonin
Fields Can Also Disrupt Your Sleep
I recommend checking your bedroom for electro-magnetic
fields (EMFs) as these too can disrupt your pineal gland's
production of melatonin, and may have other negative effects as
well. To do this, you need a gauss meter. You can find various
models online, starting around $50 to $200. Some experts even
recommend pulling your circuit breaker before bed to kill all
power in your house.
At a bare
minimum, move alarm clocks and other electrical devices away from
your head. If these devices must be used, keep them as far away
from your bed as possible, preferably at least three feet. Also
avoid keeping cell phones and portable phone bases on your night
stand. Cell phone chargers should be kept at least four feet away
from your bed, while portable phone bases and wireless routers
should be kept as far away from your bedroom as possible. Avoid
running electrical cords underneath your bed.
none but a few communities in the US require that wiring in the
walls be placed in metal-clad conduit. This is primarily done
for fire prevention, but it also essentially eliminates the electric
fields. Therefore, more than likely, you are exposed to electric
fields that radiate from the wires in the wall at the head of
your bed when you are sleeping. The solutions are to move
your bed three feet away from the wall, or turn off the power
circuit to your bedroom.
for the presence of electric fields in the walls, you can
purchase an inexpensive low voltage e-field detector. They
are commonly available at most local electrical, electronic
and hardware stores. A widely used e-field tester is the Non-contact
Adjustable Voltage Detector, AC 5-1000V, available
from All-Spec Industries and ToolUp.com,
as well as other online sources. This device will also allow you
to check for the presence of electric field exposure throughout
your home and workplace.
not least, beware of what's on the other side of your bedroom
wall, and under the floor. Avoid sleeping with your head against
a wall that has electric meters, circuit breaker panels, televisions
or stereos, for example, on the other side. All of these are source
of magnetic fields that you should sleep at least four feet away
from to limit dangerous exposure.
Melatonin Production and Regulating Your Body Clock
production is stimulated by darkness and suppressed by light,
which is why your levels should be highest just prior to bedtime.
This perfectly orchestrated system allows you to fall asleep when
the sun sets and awaken refreshed with the sunrise, while also
providing potential anti-aging and disease-fighting benefits.
if you are having trouble sleeping, a signal that your melatonin
production is off, I suggest you make sure you're sleeping in
total darkness and also turning lights down prior to bedtime.
earlier, TVs and computers emit significant blue light, which
will tend to decrease your melatonin if you work past dark, so
ideally you'd want to turn these items off once the sun goes down.
For use in the evening, you can purchase "low blue lights," which
emit an amber light instead of the blue that suppresses melatonin
production. Therefore, these bulbs are ideal for areas such as
your bedroom, bathroom, or living room in the evening.
the quality of light you're exposed to during the day also matters
when it comes to maintaining a healthy rhythm. While most of us
are over-exposed to light in the evenings, most of us are also
under-exposed to light during the day!
and fluorescent lights emit very poor-quality light. What your
body needs for optimal functioning is the full-spectrum light
you get outdoors, but most of us do not spend much time outside
to take advantage of this healthy light. Using full-spectrum light
bulbs in your home and office can help ameliorate this lack of
high-quality sunlight during the day.
when your circadian rhythms are disrupted, your body produces
less melatonin, which means it has less ability to fight cancer,
and less protection against free radicals that may accelerate
aging and disease. So if you're having even slight trouble sleeping,
I suggest you review my 33
Secrets to a Good Night's Sleep for even more helpful guidance
on how to improve your sleep-wake cycle and get restful sleep.
made the necessary changes to your sleep routine and find you're
still having trouble sleeping, a high-quality melatonin supplement
may be helpful. For instance, the amount of melatonin you create
and release every night varies depending on your age. Children
usually have much higher levels of melatonin than adults, and
as you grow older your levels typically continue to decrease.
believe this may explain why many older adults occasionally experience
disrupted sleep patterns. With less melatonin in their blood,
the stimulus to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake feeling rested
can potentially be compromised, which is why some older adults
may benefit from extra melatonin likewise if you perform
night shift work, travel often and experience jet lag, or otherwise
suffer from occasional sleeplessness due to stress or unexplained