Every day our body produces a large number of different hormones that perform a wide variety of functions. One of them is melatonin. In the literature, you can find another name for this substance — “sleep hormone”. In this article, we will talk about what melatonin is, consider its formula, functions, as well as the reasons for the decrease and increase in the level of this substance in the body.
Melatonin: what is this substance?
Melatonin is a biologically active substance produced by the pineal gland, which is a key coordinator of the body’s circadian rhythms.
This hormone was first isolated in 1958 by American scientists. Its chemical formula is C13H16N2O2.
The production of melatonin directly depends on the time of day. The most active synthesis of this substance is recorded at night, while during the day its production is minimal.
As we said, melatonin is also called the “sleep hormone”. It is responsible for the regulation of circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are cyclic fluctuations in the intensity of various biological processes associated with the change of time of day. Thus, at nightfall, under the influence of this substance, a certain predisposition, craving for sleep, is created.
In addition, melatonin performs a number of other important functions. For example, it is a strong antioxidant. In 2011, scientists from the Grodno State Medical University published a paper in which it was found that melatonin has pronounced antioxidant properties and acts as a free radical scavenger. Moreover, the activity of this natural antioxidant exceeds the activity of substances such as vitamin C and vitamin E.
Other functions of this hormone include:
- Activation of immune processes;
- Normalization of blood pressure;
- Stimulation of sexual desire;
- Regulation of the menstrual cycle;
- Antitumor activity and so on.
When is a melatonin test ordered?
First of all, it is necessary to study the level of melatonin for various sleep problems, for example, insomnia or increased sleepiness.
In addition, this analysis is prescribed for some affective disorders, menstrual disorders, multiple sclerosis. In some cases, the determination of the level of melatonin is carried out for problems with the cardiovascular system, endocrine diseases, especially in diseases of the thyroid gland.
Causes of rising and falling melatonin levels
An increase in the level of melatonin indicates an excessive functional activity of the pineal gland. In turn, the hyperactivity of the pineal gland may be due to tumor or cystic neoplasms in this anatomical region, parasitic lesions of the central nervous system. Sometimes the exact cause of such a violation cannot be established.
A decrease in melatonin levels is associated with age-related changes, taking certain medications, in particular beta-blockers, excessive alcohol abuse, prolonged fasting, and many other factors.