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Can melatonin slow down aging?

Why is melatonin so important to our health?

Melatonin regulates the circadian rhythm. By keeping circadian clocks and rhythms in sync, melatonin regulates sleep/wake cycles and with them healthy, refreshing sleep. Everything in our body, from metabolism to appetite to immunity, is tied to our circadian rhythm, which means melatonin's regulating power has many health benefits beyond sleep.

A powerful antioxidant, melatonin protects health and limits free radical damage, fights against the growth and spread of cancer cells, and provides specific and important protection for our brain.

We all want to sleep well, delay the effects of aging, and maintain our minds and cognitive abilities throughout our lives. Melatonin plays a key role in all of this.

The main source of melatonin in our brain is the pineal gland. We'll tell you a little more about it, as changes in this small but extremely important part of our brain affect melatonin production, with potentially significant effects on aging and our risks of neurodegenerative diseases, incl. Alzheimer's.

Melatonin produced by the pineal gland influences sleep, aging and brain health

The pineal gland is about the size of a pea and is located roughly in the exact center of the brain. Although it also produces other neurochemicals and hormones, melatonin is its most important product. Melatonin is also synthesized in other places in our body, recent studies prove that most cells in our body do. A significant amount is produced in the stomach, skin, blood and brain cells outside the pineal gland.

But the melatonin produced by the pineal gland is unique and particularly important. It precisely regulates the circadian rhythm. Its production is activated by darkness. Increased melatonin sends a signal to our master circadian clock and synchronizes it with the 24-hour daily cycle.

When the pineal gland is not functioning optimally, the critical supply of melatonin is disrupted. And this can lead to serious negative consequences for sleep, for biological aging and for the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, incl. Alzheimer's.

One reason the pineal gland does not function normally is a process known as calcification. Calcification is the accumulation of calcium deposits and occurs in many parts of our body, including heart and arteries, brain, joints and muscles. But the pineal gland is particularly vulnerable. In fact, calcification occurs much more aggressively there than in any other part of the body.

Melatonin protects brain health and slows down the aging process

Melatonin's role in protecting brain health and function is well documented. Among the many functions of melatonin, it is anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. The brain is particularly vulnerable to damage from inflammatory and oxidative stress, and high levels of melatonin help limit this. Melatonin directly helps protect against the formation of two proteins, Tau- and beta-amyloids, which are the key biological markers of Alzheimer's. For us, a stable supply of melatonin is very important throughout life to maintain our cognitive functions and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

There are promising studies showing that melatonin may be an effective treatment for Alzheimer's. They demonstrate that melatonin slows the progression of the disease and reduces the symptoms associated with it, incl. sleep disturbances, cognitive decline, and sunset problems, ie. the increased confusion and agitation that some people with dementia experience in the late afternoon. And this is not the only neurodegenerative disease that is affected by melatonin. It can help treat Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, Huntington's disease.

Melatonin has a broad impact on our overall aging. Its levels decrease with age, and sometimes this happens regardless of pineal calcification. Low levels of melatonin are associated with accelerated biological aging. Circadian rhythm disturbances are critically related to aging and affect longevity. Low melatonin levels and an out-of-rhythm circadian clock directly cause sleep problems, which in turn affects aging. Animal studies show that high levels of melatonin extend lifespan.

Let's summarize: calcification of the pineal gland slows down the production of melatonin, which, in turn, accelerates aging and deprives the brain of protection against the development of Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. Beyond the interaction with melatonin, pineal calcification may directly blame aging and increase the risks of neurodegenerative diseases.

Here's the next big question: Can we do anything to limit pineal calcification, protect our sleep, brain health, and longevity?

Can we slow pineal calcification by sleeping better?

Scientists still have a lot of research to do to understand exactly how pineal calcification occurs and how it affects aging and causes neurodegenerative diseases. But there is evidence that some factors may be contributing. A blueprint of steps that can limit calcification shows that sleep itself helps address at least several factors that scientists believe accelerate calcification.

Chronic vascular inflammation. The pineal gland is full of arteries, veins and capillaries and is subject to extremely high blood flow. This makes it particularly vulnerable to vascular inflammation, which can cause calcification. Getting a good night's sleep, when you get both enough sleep and restorative sleep, is one of the most important ways to reduce chronic inflammation, especially as we age.

Other habits that fight inflammation are: maintaining a normal weight, regular exercise, a wholesome diet, low in processed foods and sugar. These habits add benefits that improve sleep too!

Cerebral hypoxia. Cerebral hypoxia occurs when the brain does not receive enough oxygen. Lack of oxygen is extremely dangerous for this vital organ. It can contribute to the accumulation of calcium deposits in the pineal gland and leads to one of the most common and problematic sleep disorders: sleep apnea. Disturbed breathing in sleep apnea deprives the brain of sufficient oxygen. Hypertension also leads to cerebral hypoxia. Both conditions often go undiagnosed, exposing people to the harmful effects of hypoxia. By diagnosing and treating sleep apnea and high blood pressure, we reduce the risks of insufficient oxygen supply to the brain, and this can help reduce calcification in the pineal gland. Apnea is directly linked to accelerated aging as well as increased risks of Alzheimer's.

Fascinating studies are underway that are investigating ways to decalcify and rejuvenate the pineal gland. But we can all take steps in our daily lives to keep the melatonin-producing gland healthy and functioning well. And the first step is good sleep.

Should we take extra melatonin?

Taking melatonin can be helpful for some people, but BEFORE you add melatonin to your regimen, it's important to find out if it's right for you and how much and when to take it.

Melatonin levels decline for several reasons and aging is just one of them. Medical conditions, genetics, untimely exposure to light, and changes in daily schedule are other factors that contribute to low levels.

Melatonin deficiency is just one potential explanation for difficulty falling asleep and irregular sleep patterns, depriving you of enough restorative sleep to meet your individual needs. Problems falling asleep, waking up at night, feeling tired and not feeling fresh after sleep, problems concentrating during the day can occur as a result of a number of factors related to lifestyle and health, as well as disorders of sleep, existing independently of melatonin deficiency.

Melatonin in the right dose can help many people fall asleep faster. But there is no clear evidence that melatonin improves overall sleep and sleep quality. Melatonin is often effective for short-term use, when changing time zones, for example. For insomnia symptoms, melatonin is most effective when used in combination with other sleep-inducing methods, including natural remedies - changes to your sleeping environment and daily and nighttime habits, such as using blue light-blocking glasses , when you stand in front of the screen in the evening.

The factors leading to disturbed sleep and low melatonin levels are numerous and vary from individual to individual. That's why there's no one-size-fits-all answer to whether you should take melatonin.

Let your first step be talking to your doctor. To assess for a possible deficiency, melatonin levels can be tested through a blood, saliva, or urine test, and your doctor can determine which test is right for you. It is equally important that he diagnoses any underlying medical conditions, including the presence of a sleep disorder.

If you take melatonin for sleep, after consulting a doctor, it is important to pay attention to when you take the dose. Some dosage adjustment may be necessary so that its effects peak at the right time. If you take melatonin too soon, it will start working too soon, and if you take it too late, you may feel dizzy the next morning.

Dr. Breus recommends starting melatonin about 2 hours before bed and adjusting your timing in 30-minute increments until you start falling asleep at your designated bedtime and wake up without excessive sleepiness.

How Much Melatonin Should You Take?

If you take melatonin in pill form, Dr. Breus recommends taking 0.5 mg to 1.5 mg, about 90 minutes before bed. If you take melatonin in liquid form, take the same dose but half an hour before bed.

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