Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) is often one of the “forgotten” hormones when it comes to health, easily overshadowed by more popular names like insulin, testosterone, and cortisol. That doesn’t make it any less important. Melatonin is gaining increased importance as a nootropic as scientists discover this lesser-known hormone’s new hidden potentials.
Melatonin is produced by a small organ called the pineal gland nestled at the base of the brain. Initially believed to be majorly involved in just regulating the circadian rhythm of the body, it has now been seen to be quite important in promoting proper immune function, regulating blood pressure, and controlling stress levels.
So let’s take a look at the nootropic benefits of melatonin, how it does these, and the proper dosage of melatonin for optimal results.
The mechanism of action of melatonin is quite simple. It is secreted constantly by the pineal gland, but the amount released starts to rise as it gets dark outside. The increased concentration of melatonin then binds to special melatonin receptors throughout the body, causing your body to relax and helping you drift off into sleep.
This effect is also closely tied to how melatonin regulates your circadian rhythm. This is your body’s internal clock which controls everything from when you go to bed to your blood pressure and even digestion.
Let’s take a look at the nootropic benefits of taking melatonin supplements.
One common piece of knowledge is that sleep deprivation severely handicaps brain function. Most people do not get adequate amounts of sleep these days due to a whole host of factors like technology and competitive work schedules. Melatonin helps regulate your sleeping patterns and enables you to get more restful and refreshing sleep which allows your brain to function optimally.
Conditions like anxiety and depression can lead to disrupted sleeping patterns and even insomnia. This in turn worsens the symptoms of these conditions and leads to a vicious cycle. Melatonin helps disrupt this harmful feedback cycle and allows you to sleep more easily. This helps significantly alleviate the symptoms of both physical and mental fatigue associated with anxiety and depression.
Free radicals or Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) are unstable byproducts of normal metabolic processes within the body. Normally the body has a whole host of enzymes that mop up these dangerous free radicals, but sometimes our body’s defenses are lowered or overwhelmed. Melatonin stimulates the production of these important enzymes and thus is a very powerful and vital antioxidant hormone within the body.
BDNF stands for Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. This is a very important substance that supports the normal growth and regeneration of neurons within the brain. Melatonin is closely tied to this substance and promotes the production of BDNF, therefore supporting proper brain function.
The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a complex biological membrane that only allows certain substances to pass from the blood into the brain tissue. This is because neuronal cells are very important and must exist within a tightly regulated environment. Melatonin supports the action of this barrier and protects the brain from harmful substances within the blood like toxins and waste metabolites.
Melatonin seems to have neuroprotective functions which are not yet clearly understood. This may be closely linked to its ability to support the function of the blood-brain barrier as a leaky BBB has been shown to lead to widespread neuron damage and even death. Age-related decline in melatonin is suspected to be a significant culprit in the development of certain neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, strokes, and so on.
The dosage of melatonin you take depends on several factors like your age, health status, and most importantly, why you’re taking the melatonin. Most people start at doses as low as 0.3 mg to 0.5 mg of melatonin and gradually work their way up until they feel optimal results. Conditions such as jet lag and insomnia may require doses as high as 5 mg to 10 mg. The drug should be taken 30 to 90 minutes before going to bed. The dosage of melatonin for children is generally 0.5 mg to 1 mg, also taken 30 to 90 minutes before bed.
Though melatonin is generally fine well-tolerated, it may still cause certain side effects in sensitive individuals, especially at higher doses. Some commons side effects include:
Less commonly, side effects may present as:
Melatonin is an increasingly important drug in the world of nootropics and one that is not to be overlooked. Its numerous benefits are far-reaching and may hold the key to conquering a multitude of age-related neurodegenerative diseases that have plagued humanity since the dawn of time.