Health

'White' light suppresses the body's production of melatonin

Exposure to the light of white LED bulbs, it turns out, suppresses melatonin 5 times more than exposure to the light of High Pressure Sodium bulbs that give off an orange-yellow light. "Just as there are regulations and standards ...

Attention deficit disorders

Is ADHD really a sleep problem?

Around 75% of children and adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) also have sleep problems, but until now these have been thought to be separate issues. Now a in a pulling together of the latest research, ...

Health

New findings explain how melatonin promotes sleep

An estimated 50 to 70 million Americans have some type of sleep disorder, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Some turn to melatonin supplements to help them fall asleep. Melatonin is a hormone known to promote sleep, ...

Health

Preschoolers exposed to nighttime light lack melatonin

Exposing preschoolers to an hour of bright light before bedtime almost completely shuts down their production of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin and keeps it suppressed for at least 50 minutes after lights out, according ...

Medical research

Gut bacteria have own circadian clock

The circadian rhythm, or circadian clock, is an internal mechanism that drives the 24-hour cycles that tell our bodies when to sleep, wake and eat — and now, new research has found that bacteria living within the gut ...

Health

The rhythms of the night?

New research published in The Journal of Physiology has illuminated the effects of night-time light exposure on internal body clock processes. This is important for helping those who have poor quality sleep, such as shift ...

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Melatonin

Melatonin i/ˌmɛləˈtoʊnɪn/, also known chemically as N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine, is a naturally occurring compound found in animals, plants, and microbes. In animals, circulating levels of the hormone melatonin vary in a daily cycle, thereby allowing the entrainment of the circadian rhythms of several biological functions.

Many biological effects of melatonin are produced through activation of melatonin receptors, while others are due to its role as a pervasive and powerful antioxidant, with a particular role in the protection of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA.

In mammals, melatonin is secreted into the blood by the pineal gland in the brain. Known as the "hormone of darkness," it is secreted in darkness in both day-active (diurnal) and night-active (nocturnal) animals.

It may also be produced by a variety of peripheral cells such as bone marrow cells, lymphocytes, and epithelial cells. Usually, the melatonin concentration in these cells is much higher than that found in the blood, but it does not seem to be regulated by the photoperiod.

Research has shown that when bird chicks ingest melatonin-rich plant feed, such as rice, the melatonin binds to melatonin receptors in their brains. No food has been found to elevate plasma melatonin levels in humans.

Products containing melatonin have been available over-the-counter as dietary supplements in the United States since the mid-1990s. In many other countries, the over-the-counter sale of this neurohormone is not permitted or requires a prescription, and the U.S. Postal Service lists unapproved melatonin preparations among items prohibited by Germany.

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