About Author: Dr YongChiat Wong is the Group Scientist, Medical & Technical Affairs, P&G Health – Asia Pacific, India, Middle East, and Africa. He holds more than 10 years of experience in biomedical research, products research and medical and technical affairs in healthcare industry and was the backbone behind many successful product innovations launched under P&G Healthcare in the last 8 years.

Humans on average spend close to about one third of their life sleeping. Regarded as an essential part of our daily routine, sleep plays a vital role in the survival of human beings. In the early 1950s, sleep was usually perceived as a passive activity during which the body and brain remains dormant. But that wasn’t the case. Multiple studies conducted over the years have revealed that our brain is engaged in numerous activities that are essential for our life. Researchers far and wide have spent hours and hours deep diving and understanding the human sleep mechanism.
According to sleep researchers, the Circadian rhythms play a huge role in our sleep cycle. The biological clock that regulates circadian rhythms is housed deep within the brain and is known as suprachiasmatic nucleus site (SCN]. The SCN controls our sleep by forwarding day-night circadian signals to the brain and body.
Let me discuss about one of the crucial factors that allows us all to embark of our sleep journey.
The beauty sleep signal
Do you know that a substance produced by our human body is responsible for coordinating our entire sleep cycle? This natural product found in plants, animals and humans is well known in the sleep health space. It’s nothing but Melatonin. Melatonin is a central body substance to coordinating sleep. Melatonin is produced mainly by the pineal gland. Darkness stimulates the synthesis of melatonin and hence about 80% of Melatonin is produced in the night. Melatonin is like the captain in-charge that acts on the SCN and other pathways to inform the human body that it is nighttime.
How does melatonin work?
Image an Olympic race where runners are ready to begin their journey towards winning the cup. Melatonin is an official that says, “Runners, on your mark!”, and fires the pistol for the body to race to sleep. Interestingly, Melatonin is found also to be a potent antioxidant, with proven antihypertensive and lipid-regulating effects.
The wonderous benefits of Melatonin
Melatonin has other benefits beyond sleep such as below:
  • Anti-inflammatory:
It has been demonstrated that melatonin, among other things, has anti-inflammatory properties. Through a variety of mechanisms, melatonin lessens tissue damage during inflammatory reactions. Melatonin lowers macromolecular damage in all organs via its capacity to scavenge harmful free radicals.
  • Cardiovascular health:
Melatonin has been studied in numerous studies as having important roles in cardiovascular disease and possibly possessing anti-aging characteristics. Melatonin can regulate platelet physiology, protects the vascular endothelium which in turn contributes to preventing cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that Melatonin could reduce heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Neuroprotectant:
Melatonin is shown to have neuroprotective effects and influences neuroplasticity, indicating potential antidepressant benefits.
  • Metabolic and immune health:
The antioxidant properties of Melatonin are linked to a decreased risk of infection and weight gain in obese patients through the modulation of the immune response. It has a significant positive impact on inflammation and, consequently, on the metabolic state. Melatonin is also shown to regulate innate and adaptive immunity.
But with time what happens to our body’s hero substance? Melatonin production peaks during childhood but sadly decreases as we age. After our 30’s, we may produce less than half the melatonin we did as a child. This may lead to the prevalence of sleeping issues increasing as we age together with our lifestyle changes.
Apart from age, other factors too affect the production of this hero substance. Melatonin production is reduced with blue-light emitting devices. Since melatonin synthesis is stimulated by darkness, just 2 hours of exposure to blue-light emitting devices may result in measurable reduction in Melatonin production.
Is it possible to supplement your Melatonin level?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring product found in dietary sources and has been detected in over 250 types of foods like pistachios, egg and salmon. Yes, consuming Melatonin-rich food can aid sleep. According to the European Food Safety Authority, 1 mg of Melatonin when consumed close to bedtime can help to reduce the time taken to fall asleep. However, getting enough Melatonin may not be possible with food alone. To get 1–2 mg of melatonin, you will need to have 65 cobs of corn or 1,152,000 cups of milk or 4,500 sour cherries and the list goes on.
Food supplements containing Melatonin can provide a standardized source to increase the amount of Melatonin in your body when you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep during the night. Sleep supplements containing 1-2 mg Melatonin work naturally with your body to support sleep, shown to help regulate your sleep cycle without next day drowsiness.
Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about sleep supplements with melatonin and/or herbs. If you are experiencing long-term sleep difficulties, consult a healthcare professional to identify and treat any underlying causes.

**Views expressed by the author are his own.