Melatonin is a hormone that controls the sleeping pattern of people - the so-called circadian rhythm. It is produced in the pineal gland from serotonin. It is also produced in other places in the body, for example in the digestive tract. Most important in controlling sleep patterns though is the melatonin from the pineal gland.
The hormone is only distributed from the pineal gland in the dark – which is why we get tired in the evenings. The melatonin level in the blood rises slowly to reach its peak in the middle of the night - around between two and three o'clock. In the early hours of the morning, the level drops off again as its production is inhibited by light.
Melatonin regulates not only the sleep cycle, but also many biological functions related to this. These include, for example, kidney function and blood pressure.
Also, as melatonin has an antioxidant effect on the body, it is now regarded as scientifically proven that the hormone intercepts and destroys free radicals, which damage cells. As it is both fat and water-soluble, in contrast to many other antioxidants, the hormone offers good overall protection against free radicals.
The pineal gland influences:
Growth and physical development
Control and destruction of so-called stressors
DNA protection against changes caused by viruses and carcinogenics
Destruction of free radicals
Energy production in the cells and the flow of energy in the whole organism
According to the latest research, the normal functioning of the pineal gland and melatonin production is adversely affected by the following:
By bright light during night hours and an irregular sleep pattern (e.g. for shift work)
By frequent travel that brings several hours’ time difference, especially in journeys from West to East (e.g. for flight crew).
By electromagnetic and magnetic fields, especially in the evening and during the night-time (e.g. radio alarm clocks or other electrical devices located close to the head at night, excessive television or mobile phone use).
High-voltage and other power lines in the immediate living area (e.g. along train lines etc.).