One of the most important things that determines your health is the synchronicity of your circadian rhythms and the day/night cycle. These primal rhythms and internal body clocks provide synchronicity and “orchestration” for every part of your body and make you feel “in sync and in rhythm”. This is the feeling when you get out of bed and your energy turns on. Things click into gear, and you feel great! The opposite happens when you lose that primal synchronicity making you feel sluggish, old, and out of sorts.
Circadian rhythms have extraordinary inter-relationships with melatonin production, mitochondrial function, and your overall health. Recent research has discovered more about these connections and the findings are fascinating. A synchronized circadian rhythm and sleep/wake cycle relationship with melatonin is considered one of the most important factors for aging well.
Melatonin is a sleep hormone that manages your circadian rhythm. It is released by your brain’s pineal gland two hours before your normal bedtime routine and with the onset of darkness. Melatonin is also an extremely powerful antioxidant and is involved with a wide range of crucial activities.
Melatonin production peaks between 4 – 7 years of age and starts to decline with puberty. By the time you are forty and older, “negligible” amounts of melatonin are produced. Infants less than three months of age produce very little melatonin. They rely on its presence in their mother’s breast milk. At 3-6 months of age, the sleep-wake cycle and melatonin secretion are regulated.
Melatonin and the Master Clock
The earth’s natural day/night cycle plays a primal role in synchronization of the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN), the master clock of your brain and circadian rhythms. The light and dark exposure affects the production and suppression of melatonin. Signals released by the SCN and melatonin affect all other body clocks and gene signals within your heart, lungs, gut, kidneys, adrenal glands, pancreas, and more.
With age and disrupted bedtimes and schedules, the SCN clock and other body clocks wear down. This affects the production and release of melatonin.
Melatonin: Did You Know?
Tissues, other than the pineal gland produce melatonin. These include the retinas (eyes), bone marrow cells, platelets, skin, some white blood cells, cerebellum (back part of your brain), and especially the gut. The concentrations of melatonin in the gastrointestinal tract are four hundred times higher and 10-100 times higher in the blood stream than the pineal gland.
Your body contains vast numbers of receptor sites for melatonin. They are found in high concentration in heart and blood vessels, kidneys, lungs, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, fat cells, ovaries, uterus, breast, prostate, skin, adrenal glands, and T and B lymphocytes of your immune system.
Melatonin and Mitochondria
Undiscovered until recently, scientists now know that your mitochondria contain melatonin. These energy factories also produce melatonin. These extraordinary features allow mitochondria to benefit by the very antioxidant that they produce. Other antioxidants lack that same “inside access” to mitochondria as they come f