Melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone within the human body. It plays an incredibly important role in many of our biological functions, although the most common role is its function as a circadian rhythm modulator and sleep inducer.
It is also present in other living organisms, such as animals, plants and even algae. Often touted in the 1990's as a treatment for insomnia and other sleep disorders, the health uses of melatonin as an antioxidant are only beginning to be studied in the scientific community. Results of these studies, from its use in cancer treatment to its ability to strengthen the immune system, to its role in promoting deep sleep and rejuvenation, are promising.
Melatonin is naturally-produced in the body, although there are small amounts of melatonin in many common foods. It is also commonly taken in natural supplement form, as you would need to eat about twenty bowls of oatmeal just to get the amount of melatonin found in one supplement pill. Foods with concentrations of melatonin include onions, cherries, bananas, sweet corn, oats, rice and mint.
There have been some reports of side effects of prolonged melatonin use. These include excessive sleepiness, drowsiness, headache, stomach pain, depression or a feeling of being hungover. Some individuals may experience vivid dreams or nightmares. Increase use of the supplement, or incorrect, may result in a disruption of the body's normal circadian rhythms. Contact your medical practitioner before adding a melatonin supplement to your diet.
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