Beginning with the improvement of sleeping nights, know what this substance is increasingly studied and what its indications are In the center of our head, right in the middle of the brain, there is a structure the size of an orange seed. It is the pineal gland, which the French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650) considered the home of the soul, and the Hindus, the seat of one of the most important chakras in the body. It is there, as science later revealed, that the hormone of the night, melatonin, is produced. A substance that has already been copied and synthesized by man and is increasingly in evidence in research and in the market. While in Brazil it starts to show up, in the United States it is widely found. It is mainly sold with the promise of better sleep. Manufactured by the body, melatonin not only regulates the moment of sleep but also participates in the repair of our cells, exposed to stress, pollution, and other harmful elements. “It is a powerful antioxidant and fights free radicals that attack the organism”, says José Cipolla Neto, professor at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences at the University of São Paulo.
In reality, the substance is among the most primitive that is known and appears in all living beings, including plants. “Melatonin is the hormone of the night”, says endocrinologist Bruno Halpern, director of the Brazilian Association for the Study of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome. In sync with the end of the day and the brightness, it starts to be released in order to prepare the body for the night. The answer to this phenomenon varies according to the species: rats are smart and active to look for food, we want to go to bed. Synthetic melatonin is a molecule just like the natural version. On American land, it is sold as a food supplement - hence the high availability. In Europe and other countries, however, control is stricter.
This is the case in Brazil. At the moment, no pharmaceutical company has a license to produce and sell the substance here. The Aché laboratory is in the middle of the process to obtain this guarantee, which should take between one and two years. Until then, there are only two ways to access melatonin: via manipulation pharmacies, which obtained the right to formulate it in 2017, or by bringing in from outside. According to studies, the synthetic compound is effective in correcting some sleep irregularities, such as when the person takes too long to fall asleep, or if the individual with a tendency to sleep and wake up late needs to readjust to the routine. Another indication is to ease jet lag, that confusion with the time zone caused by long trips. Elderly people with sleep problems would also take advantage because, with age, natural production falls. And melatonin can still be prescribed for the visually impaired in order to organize their biological clock. But the hormone alone is not suitable for resolving any sleep breakdown. Those with terminal insomnia, those who wake up in the middle of the night and do not sleep anymore, do not always benefit. Night workers should also only use with some care - such as not taking melatonin during the day, at the risk of further desynchronizing the body. "In these cases, the ideal would be to take it only on rest days", says Cipolla.
Melatonin is also already used on other fronts, as an adjunct in the control of neurological and psychiatric disorders. One example is autistic children. “With the substance, there are improvements in anxiety and behavior”, notes the neuro pediatrician Elite Chiconelli, from the Federal University of São Paulo. The participation of melatonin in the immune system is also increasingly documented. It not only helps to prevent the onset of cancer, but there are experiences with its use within the treatment itself. The list of other ills that can gain the boost of the compound is not short: it goes from migraine to Parkinson's. Even obesity and its metabolic consequences are in the sights.
“Many overweight people have sleep disorders and altered circadian rhythm, with a potential impairment in the release of melatonin”, justifies cardiologist Luciano Drager, from Instituto do Coração (InCor), in São Paulo, who is preparing a promising study to respect. “Our intention is to assess whether, in addition to regulating the body's rhythm, melatonin would bring benefits such as weight reduction and blood pressure”.
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