Melatonin is a natural hormone that is principally released by the Pineal gland in the brain but also other parts of the body, including the skin. Whilst it doesn’t have a surface effect on the skin, like preventing wrinkles or age spots or such like, it does a number of other things “behind the scenes” that keep the skin cells healthy.
It is also thought to help reduce the chances of age related diseases occurring too.
More melatonin is released at night and this is thought to help you sleep. People that have adequate doses of melatonin secreted each night will get a good, restful sleep. As you know, sleep is important in keeping the body healthy. Sleep is effectively the body’s downtime – a chance to rest and rejuvenate .
One example of this is when people don’t get enough sleep for extended periods of time they are more likely to get colds and other common illnesses because their immune system is run down or they are stressed.
The thing is, as we age, the ability of the pineal gland to secrete melatonin diminishes. This might explain why it’s harder to get a deeper sleep as you get older (and why you wake up in the middle of the night more than you used to). It may also explain why you find it harder to nod off at night too.
Much anti-aging advice suggests you should try to get 8 hours of sleep a night so as you can see, reduced melatonin will impact this advice. However, it is also believed that melatonin helps the body in other ways too.
It is thought to be a powerful anti-oxidant,particularly for the DNA of the cells. Anti-oxidants neutralize free radical damage or oxidative stress. In terms of skin, this sort of damage can be the cause of wrinkles, hyper-pigmentation and generally poorer skin health.
Melatonin is also thought to help increase the amount of the enzyme Glutathione peroxidase in the body. This is another antioxidant.
Non human studies suggest that decreases in melatonin affect the immune system and stress levels. It is also thought to have some impact on cardiovascular disease and cancer.
So how can you get a healthy dose of melatonin ?
- Well, ensure that it’s really dark when you go to bed. That gives the pineal gland it’s best chance to do it’s job.
- In terms of eating foods that help increase melatonin secretion, walnuts and purslane are thought to help.
- You can also get melatonin supplements.