The power of melatonin in the fight against viruses and colds and the most famous helper of sleep. Melatonin regulates sleep by affecting the body’s biological clock (sleep and wake cycles). Melatonin is produced naturally in our body by the pineal gland in the brain. It is also available in the form of a food supplement. Research shows that such melatonin supplements can have a beneficial effect on sleep and wake cycles. Natural melatonin is produced under the influence of light.

The power of melatonin in the fight against viruses
The power of melatonin in the fight against viruses

Our brain receives light signals through the retina of the eye, which are then transmitted via the optic nerve to the brain’s main biological clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which sends a signal to the pineal gland, which is responsible for producing hormones. Like most hormones, melatonin is produced in accordance with the circadian rhythm of the day. Melatonin production increases in the dark and is suppressed by exposure to light. Melatonin levels begin to rise significantly around 9 pm and, reaching their peak at night, fall to their lowest level in the morning.

What is melatonin in the human body

The association of melatonin with light-dark cycles is the main reason why night lighting is harmful to our sleep and health. Melatonin is best known as a sleep regulator, but it also plays an important role in regulating our immune system. Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Melatonin inhibits immune activity by affecting the production of cytokines, proteins that act as signals from the immune system to the body’s cells.

Cytokines can induce (pro-inflammatory cytokines) or limit (anti-inflammatory cytokines) inflammation. Melatonin is known to reduce the production of cytokines that cause inflammation. Melatonin is also known to be an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals in cells and reduces oxidative stress and damage that contribute to inflammation. Pro-inflammatory cytokines are involved in the development of the body’s inflammatory response, which fights viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. In this way our body is protected from colds.

Melatonin neutralizes free radicals in cells and reduces oxidative stress

But for this cytokine response to be useful, it must be proportionate to the threat. An overreaction to inflammatory cytokines poses a threat to the body and can spread a viral infection instead of weakening it. It is this ability of melatonin to affect excessive inflammation, together with its high level of safety and sleep benefits, that has drawn scientists’ attention to melatonin as a drug that can affect the body’s immune response to viruses and bacteria, potentially reducing their weight. So, does this mean that we all need to start taking melatonin urgently?

Of course not. There is currently insufficient scientific evidence for the possibility of using melatonin to protect against infections, and although very promising, it is still hypothetical. If you want to use melatonin supplements, be sure to consult your doctor, especially if you belong to one of the following groups: pregnant and lactating women, people with bleeding disorders, people who have had transplants, people with depression, diabetes and high blood pressure. Remember that melatonin is a powerful hormone that affects circadian rhythms and other physiological functions of the body.

Taking too much melatonin can cause side effects such as circadian rhythms and cycles of sleep and wakefulness, drowsiness, low blood pressure, dizziness, headache, nausea, stomach pain, joint pain, depression, anxiety, irritability. The best time to take a melatonin supplement – 30 minutes to 1 hour before bedtime, also depends on the chronotype. Larks should take melatonin earlier in the evening and owls later. To increase melatonin production in your body without supplements, follow these guidelines:

– Maintain a sleep schedule with regular time to fall asleep and wake up to strengthen your circadian rhythms;

– Avoid exposure to artificial light at night. Low light levels allow the body to produce more melatonin. Blue light blocking goggles can help you avoid suppressing melatonin production caused by exposure to night light – without having to sit in the dark or miss a good movie at the end of a long day;

– Create a comfortable environment for your sleep, your bedroom should be cool, dark and as quiet as possible; – Do not exercise or eat just before bedtime, avoid situations and conversations that can throw you off balance;

– Take time for yourself: take a bath, meditate, listen to relaxing music, use soothing and relaxing breathing techniques.