Melatonin what it is for, sleep benefits and side effects

Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the human body and one of its basic functions is to induce sleep. It is attached to the regulation of metabolism throughout the day, which includes the sessions when the person is sleeping or awake. Its sleep-inducing action has prompted the pharmaceutical industry to launch its synthetic version, widely sold as a supplement in other countries, such as the United States and Europe. The melatonin has not released its sales in Brazil by the National Sanitary Surveillance Agency (ANVISA). However, it can be imported if you have a prescription. In addition, the topical product made in handling pharmacies has already been released for sale with a prescription.

What is the melatonin produced in the body for

Melatonin is a hormone linked to the circadian cycle, that is, the way the body organizes its functions when we are awake and during sleep. The substance begins to be produced in the pineal gland when the day gets dark, to help the body prepare for sleep. It reaches its highest level when anyone is sleeping. With the sunrise and the return of light, the gland reduces the production of melatonin, which signals that it is time to wake up. By regulating sleep throughout the body, most organs does have receptors for melatonin. Therefore, it is quite possible that it acts in the body in different ways, still unknown to doctors. It is believed that it also has cell regeneration functions and also helps to fight inflammation in the body. As today we have more and more light stimuli even at night, with television, computers and the constant use of cell phones, some people may have a lower or more irregular melatonin production.

Some factors that usually influence the production of melatonin are:


Exposure to light sources

Some medications



Indications for melatonin supplementation

As melatonin is a hormone related to the sleep cycle, today this substance is indicated for those who have difficulty starting to sleep, maintaining sleep or having quality rest during the night. This includes the following people:


Elderly, who usually have the lowest melatonin naturally


People who work night shifts and need to sleep during the day


Afternoon, that is, people who can only sleep and wake up later


Travelers who need to recover from jet lag or want to prevent this problem with time zones People with some degree of blindness, who due to poor perception of light have difficulties in producing the hormone. It is worth remembering that melatonin may be interesting for the treatment of some types of insomnia, but it does not work with all since its efficiency is only proven in the initial induction of sleep. In addition, it is important to note that the melatonin indicated for supplementation is a much larger dose than the body releases. It is estimated that every night the pineal gland releases 0.1 mg of melatonin into the body, and today's pills can contain up to 3 mg of the substance. That is why it is important to follow a medical indication when consuming it.


Melatonin for children


In children, melatonin also has a function linked to the circadian cycle, that is, related to the way the organism organizes its functions when we are awake and during sleep. However, adequate sleep has even more important implications for the little ones, since it is during the night that the body releases growth hormone, which is important for the child to develop. However, melatonin should only be given to children when it is found that they do not have sufficient production of the hormone. This occurs mainly in cases of autism, total blindness or some neurological injury.


In cases beyond these, the ideal is to talk to a doctor, as other measures can be taken. For example, many parents have used melatonin in search of a solution for children under the age of 3 who cannot fall asleep. However, the ideal for this type of situation is to adopt measures of sleep hygiene, as well as a slowdown in the rhythm of the house as a whole at bedtime. In addition, melatonin should not be given to children without talking to a specialist. Although many supplements sold abroad are made with a focus on children, their use in children is currently considered controversial, as there are not enough studies proving their safety in small children.


Autistic children


However, studies have indicated that autistic children with sleeping difficulties may benefit from the use of melatonin. Research done published in the scientific journal Journal of American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry in November 2017 with 125 autistic children, for example, used a drug that slowly releases melatonin overnight. His action helped 38 of the 56 children. In the group that took the placebo, composed of 61 children, only 12 had improvement.