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MY DAILY CHOICE BLOG

“Sleep”

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MELATONIN

New research indicates that melatonin does much more than help some people sleep better. Exciting studies show that melatonin’s multifaceted effects may improve treatment outcomes in cancer patients and extend their lives. Additional applications of melatonin include guarding the nervous system against degenerative diseases—such as Alzheimer’s disease and stroke—and preventing debilitating migraines.

Melatonin is secreted from the pineal gland deep inside the brain. For more than a quarter-century, scientists have been intrigued by melatonin’s ability to coordinate the body’s physiological rhythms that help set the brain’s biological clock.

The principal factor affecting melatonin is light, which inhibits the secretion of this hormone. Darkness has the opposite effect from light, resulting in signaling to the pineal gland to increase melatonin secretion. The normal cycles of melatonin production are altered due to factors including aging, medications, and light exposure at night. While the long-term health effects of disrupted melatonin secretion are not yet fully known, some scientists have suggested that years of working nights could lead to adverse effects—even cancer.

Fortunately, melatonin supplements can safely and effectively restore balance to the body’s circadian rhythm of this important hormone—helping achieve a restful night’s sleep and keeping your biological clock ticking throughout a long, healthy life span.

Neuroprotective Benefits

Melatonin is a powerful and versatile antioxidant produced within the body. Melatonin protects both lipids and proteins against damage, and can scavenge some of the most dangerous free radicals in the body—including hydroxyl radicals and hydrogen peroxide. Unlike other antioxidants, melatonin easily diffuses into all cells, and even crosses the blood-brain barrier to protect the delicate brain.1

Unfortunately, levels of naturally produced melatonin decline with advancing age, leaving older adults with limited antioxidant protection against conditions associated with oxidative stress, particularly neurodegenerative diseases.1 Supplementing with melatonin may thus help older adults enhance their antioxidant protection against some of the most ravaging diseases of aging, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke.

Melatonin levels are particularly low in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Nearly half of affected individuals suffer from sleep disturbances and “sundowning”—increased confusion, agitation, and other symptoms in the afternoon and evening.2 Not surprisingly, melatonin supplementation benefits patients with Alzheimer’s disease by improving sleep and reducing late-day aggravation of symptoms. Melatonin has also been found to decrease cognitive deterioration in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, possibly by protecting brain cells from the toxic protein, beta-amyloid.

http://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2007/6/nu_melatonin/Page-01

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