Melatonin is a hormone that naturally occurs in our bodies and plays a crucial role in regulating sleep and wakefulness. It is often referred to as the "sleep hormone" because its primary function is to help control our sleep-wake cycle, also known as our circadian rhythm.
Melatonin is produced by a small gland in the brain called the pineal gland, and its release is influenced by the amount of light we are exposed to. When it's dark, the pineal gland releases more melatonin, which signals to our body that it's time to sleep. Conversely, when it's light, melatonin levels decrease, signaling wakefulness.
Besides its role in regulating sleep, melatonin also acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect our cells from damage by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. This hormone is available in supplement form and is commonly used to address sleep disorders, such as insomnia or jet lag. Taking melatonin supplements can help adjust sleep patterns and promote better sleep quality.
Recently, melatonin has shown potential benefits in the context of spinal cord injuries (SCI), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and stroke.