The sleep hormone, melatonin, could be crucial for people as they get older because of the roles that sleep and the body’s daily rhythm play in brain health.
Certain diseases and natural aging affect that rhythm or are linked to disruptions in it, but melatonin, in its role of regulating our internal clocks, could have benefits for those conditions, according to a new review in the British Journal of Pharmacology.
The hormone has been shown to improve sleep disorders such as insomnia and jet lag, sleep quality and the neurodegenerative Alzheimer’s disease.
The relationship between melatonin and health, as it is connected to aging.
With age and certain diseases the robustness of the circadian system decreases and melatonin production is diminished or shifted.
And that could be hazardous to health in many different ways.
Melatonin could be important for people as they get older because of the hormone’s role in sleep and circadian rhythm, which might be related to Alzheimer’s disease.
Irregular circadian rhythms and poor sleep quality are associated with increased risks of cardiovascular, metabolic and cognitive diseases, as well poor quality of life and increased risks of premature death.
We still don’t fully understand sleep, and we certainly don’t have a complete understanding of the human brain.
However, previous research suggests that melatonin supplements helps to realign a person’s circadian rhythm and sleep, and can improve cardiovascular and cognitive health, including in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, who may start producing less melatonin in the early stages of their illness.
Research has also shown that sleep, while crucial for biological function in general, is important for cognitive function in the elderly — including one study that found a one-hour nap in the middle of the day could be key for seniors.
Melatonin represents a promising investigational route for early intervention to promote healthy physical and mental aging.