Melatonin is a hormone that plays a critical role in your health and well being. In a healthy circadian cycle, melatonin is released by the pineal gland in the brain when it starts to get dark. Melatonin prepares your body for sleep, but it also performs a host of tasks critical for your continued health and longevity. The problem though, is that an imbalance of melatonin can have disastrous effects from depression to shortened life span and even cancer.
Melatonin helps to break down the active, energetic hormones in your system to allow your body to sleep and recuperate. It shuts down brain activity, and makes it harder to think clearly or to concentrate. Melatonin also pulls oxygen and needed hormones away from your muscle tissue and other cells, making it difficult to be physically active. As a result, you feel tired, withdraw, and want to sleep.
While you sleep, melatonin goes to work. Sometimes it is referred to as your body's trash collector, because it goes to every cell in your body and cleans out the free radicals and other toxins that are harmful to your cells. Melatonin is perhaps the most powerful anti-oxidant your body has.
Melatonin also slows your system down, giving the heart and organs much needed rest. It does this by constricting the blood vessels in your arms and legs, pulling the blood away from your extremities and close to your vital organs. Your heart rate slows down, and your blood pressure falls significantly. Even in people with high blood pressure, melatonin causes their nighttime blood pressure to normalize.
Have you ever wondered why you get cold in the middle of the night? If melatonin is working properly, you should feel colder in the pre-dawn hours of 2:00-4:00am. That's because you don't have as much blood in your arms and legs and so you body temperature drops. In fact, a healthy body temperature will fluctuate up to 3 degrees during the day. If you don't feel colder during these pre-dawn hours, you may not have enough melatonin in your system at night.
Low nighttime melatonin is not a good sign. It means you may not be getting enough or proper sleep. Low nighttime melatonin is also a factor in depression. Studies show that people with depression have low levels of melatonin at night. Low levels of melatonin at night can also mean that your body is producing melatonin at the wrong time of day, causing further sleep, energy and depression problems.1
When we don't have melatonin in our systems at the right time, a lot more damage is caused than lost sleep. Melatonin in our system at the wrong time of day stresses our cells because it is telling them to pull back and shut down when we need to be active and energetic. This conflict can cause fatigue and immune deficiencies. Since melatonin also causes us to withdraw, lose alertness and coordination, daytime melatonin causes performance problems, lethargy and mood disorders.
Imbalanced melatonin is directly linked to dramatic increases in cancer rates for men and women. This problem is especially evident in shift workers. Shift workers usually have to work during their sleep cycle, but the indoor lighting is bright enough to suppress melatonin. In Long-term studies, Women shift workers experienced a 500% increase in breast cancer, while men had approximately 40% higher rates of colo-rectal and bone cancer.
Your health and longevity critically depend on having melatonin in your system at the right time of day while avoiding it the rest of the time. That's one reason why specialized bright light is so essential to your good health. Light is the most effective means of resetting your circadian rhythms that control the release and suppression of melatonin.
Apollo research colleagues at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia recently discovered the bandwidth of light that is responsible for suppressing melatonin. This specialized bandwidth is now available through BRITEWAVE Technology. BRITEWAVE is more effective because it combines the specific wavelengths, color and intensity of light that strengthen your circadian rhythms while suppressing melatonin and producing serotonin (the active, mood hormone).
1 J Rabe-Jablonska et al., Diurnal profile of melatonin secretion in the acute phase of major depression and in remission. Med Sci Monit. 2001 Sep-Oct;7(5):946-52.
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