Melatonin: prevention of jet lag

Melatonin can help to prevent jet lag. It is a hormone that is present in our body and is synthesised in the pineal gland or epiphysis.

It is synthesised from serotonin and its main function is to regulate our biological clock and sleep cycles. Melatonin can promote restful sleep.

Melatonin has other properties and purposes. As well as aiding restful sleep, it is a powerful antioxidant and a useful coadjutant in cancer and Alzheimer’s disease treatments.

It can also prevent jet lag, reinforce our defences and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by regulating blood pressure.

It is released when we are in darkness and retained when we are in the light (night and day). Melatonin is not naturally present in our bodies when we are born – it reaches its maximum levels when we are two or three years of age.

Production starts to slow down in puberty and is depleted over the years, reaching its minimum levels at around 70 years of age. Melatonin production is also reduced during times of stress, depending of the season and ambient temperature.

Melatonin is mainly synthesised in the epiphysis but is also synthesised in other organs: the retina, the gastro-intestinal tract (after tryptophan-rich foods are ingested), the skin, the bone marrow and the lymphocytes.

Melatonin properties

It is a powerful antioxidant and also has the capacity to activate the antioxidant enzymes that are in our body. It can delay signs of ageing and the onset of degenerative diseases.

It regulates sleep disorders, especially those that occur due to old age. Over the years, the release of melatonin slows down – a daily dose an hour before bed can combat insomnia.

It prevents jet lag by synchronising our biological clock and the wake/sleep cycles that are associated with sunrise and sunset.

A dose of 2-5ml of melatonin taken an hour before bedtime, for two days before travel and for the first two or three days after we have arrived at our destination can help to avoid jet lag.

It can improve the symptoms that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease such as sleep/wake cycle disruptions, restlessness and aggression.

The results obtained from treating these symptoms with melatonin are more pronounced than those obtained from treatment with benzodiazepines and anti-psychotic drugs such as haloperidol.

It has anti-carcinogenic properties, and has the capacity to destroy human tumour cells and halt tumour growth. It helps to diminish the toxic side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

On the other hand, there is a possibility that melatonin in large doses could have carcinogenic effects.

When should I take melatonin?

There isn’t a defined dosage. Each person will need it in different doses – at first it is given in small doses and increased up to the level at which the desired effects are achieved. High levels of melatonin can cause side effects such as anxiety and irritability.

Which things should I take into consideration with melatonin?

It cannot be taken during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

It has clinical interactions with medicines such as antidepressants, anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-coagulants…

It must not be given to infants or children under the age of 3 as there are no studies relating to the possibility of short or long-term side effects. It should only be given under the supervision of a doctor or specialist physician.

High doses can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, sedation and transitional depression.

Foto: Martin Jaensch Some rights reserved.

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