Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin levels vary in 24 hour periods and are controlled by our body clock. Normally its production is reduced by being in bright light and levels increase at night. This is why it is sometimes known as 'the hormone of darkness'.
Melatonin is important at helping regulate the internal body clock's cycle of sleep and wakefulness. Your blood melatonin level starts to go up about 2 hours before you go to sleep. It helps to establish the conditions for sleep and your core body temperature can go down slightly at this time.
Blue light can interfere with nocturnal production of melatonin. Blue light can emit from energy efficient light bulbs, mobile telephones, tablets, computer screens and blue or green digital alarm clocks.
Melatonin can be taken in a pill format to treat insomnia sufferers. Commonly melatonin can be taken as a sedative to make an insomniac feel sleepy. Other times it can be used to help reset the internal body clock to a different time when the body is out of sync to a time zone, such as with jet lag or advanced or delayed sleep phase syndrome. Melatonin can be taken in slow release form to last throughout the night, much like the naturally occurring body produced melatonin.
There are other claims that melatonin may have other benefits such as anti-oxidant and free range scavenging properties and other say it has anti-cancer and anti-ageing effects, but there is no proof for this in humans.
If you have trouble dropping off to sleep it may be worth checking for blue light emissions in your bed room, or consulting your doctor to see if a melatonin supplement is right for you.
Source - www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au