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Melatonin Sleep – An Overview of Their Relationship

Posted Jul 02 2012 8:52am


Put yourself in the position of the record holder who did not sleep for 18 days, 21 hours and 40 minutes.

Come to think of it, it's time for one of those "Don't try this home" moments. It's difficult to function without 2 days of proper sleep, and it makes you wonder how this chap was able to do this for approximately 19 days.

Studies have shown that people who sleep for more than nine hours or sleep for less than seven to eight hours a day are prone to health risks as opposed to those who do.

For those of you who don't know how this sleep-waking cycle occurs, blame it on the pineal gland which secretes melatonin, as research has revealed, that causes us to fall asleep.

Melatonin – An Introduction

Sleep is divine, as you all might know but you what you probably wouldn't be aware of is that our body has this internal clock that controls not only when the pineal gland secretes melatonin but also how much.

As a child, your bed times would have been much earlier compared to when you were a teenager, and this is because the secretion of this hormone is delayed when you reach your teens.

In old age, the amount of melatonin that is usually produced is reduced, and which is why it is probably difficult for senior citizens to sleep.

But that's not all – for the hormone to be secreted, this depends on day-night cycle, and so when darkness falls, the absence of light is when this hormone is secreted. This is why melatonin is also referred to as the 'hormone of darkness'. Conversely, the reason why you wake up is also because of the morning light.

With such dependence on this hormone, the reason for insomnia finds its root cause in the secretion of melatonin but not necessarily in adequate amounts for one to feel sleepy.

Yet another condition called the "seasonal affective disorder" or "winter depression" also occurs as the melatonin secretion either takes place too early or late in the day, thanks to the days being shorter during the winter.

Finally, there is another disorder known as Sundown Syndrome that usually occurs in patients with Alzheimer's disease that also develops a condition where they are unable to sleep at night.

Although, there is much controversy amongst doctors as to whether or not this condition can be considered a disease, a patient usually struggles to sleep because, for some reason, their circadian rhythms are disturbed during this time.

Scientists are trying to trace this condition back to the body's internal clock so as to reduce the mild to violent reactions that patients usually manifest during this time.

So, is there a cure for people who can't sleep at night, for whatever reason?

Yes, doctors are trying to alleviate patients of these sleep disorders apart from jet lag, irregular sleep patterns due to working at night, issues with sleep after surgery by prescribing melatonin dietary supplements.

And with good reason too, as this hormone has been considered to be the "body's sleeping pill".

In Closing

It's no wonder that the record holder had issues of paranoia, blurred vision, hallucinations, slurred speech, concentration and memory lapses – because no matter what you do – we, as humans, cannot do without sleep.

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