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Exercise and Melatonin

By Victoria Weinblatt

A good night's sleep is important. Without enough sleep, you are more likely to get sick or experience a slower recovery from sickness. Regular exercise is also important, because a lack of exercise reduces your ability to control your weight and increases your risk of developing debilitating health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes. Melatonin can both help you get a good night's sleep, and repair muscle damage from strenuous exercise.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone, produced by your pineal gland, that supports regular sleeping patterns. Light exposure suppresses melatonin production and darkness stimulates it. Melatonin is an antioxidant and is commonly used as a dietary supplement to treat sleep disorders. Reports of melatonin allergies are rare when taken orally, with a skin rash representing most common allergic reaction.

Reduce Muscle Damage

Strenuous exercise causes inflammation that results in muscle damage. However, melatonin reduces muscle damage after strenuous exercise, according to a study published in the “Journal of Pineal Research.” In the study, a group of adult men consisting of those treated with melatonin, and a control group, ran 31 miles in a controlled environment. The melatonin-treated men took oral doses while exercising and experienced less tissue damage than the control group. The researchers theorize the melatonin reduced the inflammation signaling that usually happens in the body during strenuous exercise.

Morning and Afternoon Exercise

When you exercise affects the amount of melatonin in your body, according to a study reported in the “European Journal of Applied Physiology.” Seven men completed 30 minutes of cycling at a moderate intensity, followed by 30 minutes of rest, at both 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. under the same amount of light. Researchers measured melatonin levels before, during and immediately after exercising, as well as after the rest period. The data show exercising in the morning induces higher melatonin levels in the body than exercising in the afternoon.

Insomnia

Insomnia affects about half of people aged 55 and over, but melatonin supplementation and exercise can help fight it, according to Professor Nava Zisapel of Tel Aviv University in Israel. The amount of melatonin the body produces decreases with age, and insomnia keeps older adults from getting a sufficient amount of restorative sleep. This puts them at a higher risk of getting cardiovascular disease, diabetes, memory problems and depression.

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