Benefits of Melatonin
Although most people use melatonin for sleep problems, early research has suggested that it may someday have some rather interesting uses. For instance, researchers are currently studying melatonin in combination with a progestin hormone as a contraceptive, since high doses of melatonin may inhibit ovulation in some women.
Also, applying melatonin to the skin seems to help prevent sunburn. There is also some evidence that melatonin may help people deal with nicotine withdrawal when trying to stop smoking or withdrawal from some types of addictive medications. It may also be useful for treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD), although melatonin is not usually recommended for depression treatment in general.
Although these uses may be intriguing, it is important to understand that research in these areas is preliminary. Until more information is known, it would be irresponsible to experiment with melatonin as a sunscreen or form of birth control.
Melatonin is closely related to tryptophan and serotonin. It seems to play an important role in the circadian rhythm (the daily internal rhythm that regulates sleeping, waking, and other functions).
Normally, melatonin levels increase at night and decrease during the day. Sometimes, people have low melatonin levels or levels that are a bit mixed up, with high levels during the day and low levels at night. It is thought that such problems can lead to sleep disorders. Taking melatonin at night helps to replicate the natural rhythm, which can help people reestablish normal sleeping patterns.
Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant, which is why it may have some usefulness for preventing cancer or other conditions of aging (such as Alzheimer's disease). It is not known how melatonin might work for preventing headaches. For cancer treatment, melatonin seems to work in different ways. It may directly inhibit tumor growth, affect hormones that stimulate cancers, and help prevent or lessen some of the side effects of chemotherapy.