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April 27, 2020

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone, commonly known as the sleep hormone, which is released primarily by the pineal gland (a small, pea-shaped gland in the brain) in dark conditions. Your body's production of melatonin increases at night and decreases during the day, which helps regulate your sleep/wake cycle.

Many people take melatonin supplements to help them sleep, especially those who are suffering from insomnia or jet lag or have irregular sleep patterns.

Blue light has been shown to shut down melatonin production and disrupt the circadian rhythm. Sources of blue light include the sun, digital screens (TVs, computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets), electronic devices, and fluorescent and LED lighting.

Many people who spend a lot of time on their phones or computers can have trouble sleeping, in part because their body is unable to produce enough melatonin due to excessive blue light exposure.

Solutions for blue-light-induced sleep irregularities include:
  • avoiding blue light for at least 2 hours before bedtime
  • wearing blue-light-blocking glasses when using electronic devices
  • taking a melatonin supplement before bedtime
In addition to helping to regulate your sleep/wake cycle, melatonin provides lesser known health benefits to your immune system and overall health.

What Does Melatonin Do?

Melatonin regulates your circadian rhythm, which can be thought of as your internal clock, and plays a key role in how much sleep you get. Having a well-functioning circadian rhythm has significant positive effects on your mood, energy levels, and mental health.

Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent which supports immune function (helping cells combat bacterial, viral, and parasitic activity), liver and gallbladder function, and the process of regular cell death (apoptosis).

Melatonin increases production of glutathione, another important antioxidant that supports mitochondrial function.

Melatonin and the Immune System

Getting enough sleep is a key component of a strong immune system. Thus the ability of melatonin to regulate your sleep cycle is the most obvious way in which it can promote a healthy immune system.

However, research also indicates that there are other ways that melatonin acts to support the immune system.

Firstly, melatonin can help restore your body's white blood cell count. White blood cells are responsible for protecting your body against diseases and foreign invaders, so a higher white blood cell count naturally results in a stronger immune system.

Research also shows that melatonin promotes cytokine balance and can help stimulate the release of cytokines and other proteins that can then attack invading infections and viruses. [1,2]

Melatonin and Aging

Our body’s melatonin levels are at their highest during childhood and decline gradually as we age, which can lead to difficulty in achieving quality sleep and also a weakened immune system. Thus many people become more susceptible to contracting viruses and other diseases as they grow older.

For these reasons, a melatonin supplement can be beneficial to take regularly as you advance in years, especially if you are having trouble sleeping or are experiencing a disrupted circadian rhythm.


According to research published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, "Currently the role of melatonin as an effector that can modulate the immune system is undeniable… Overall, melatonin might act as an immunostimulant… for a more effective early immune response against external stressors, such as viruses and parasites."

In these difficult pandemic times, it's more important than ever to prioritize a strong immune system if possible and to support your body's health in every way you can.

Melatonin supports your body in multiple ways, including helping to regulate your circadian rhythm and sleep cycle, reducing inflammation, increasing glutathione production, protecting cells from free radicals and oxidative stress, and helping to boost your immune system.

▶︎ Learn More about Ortho Melatonin

1 Melatonin: Buffering the Immune System
2 Effects of Melatonin Administration on Cytokine Production in Patients with Advanced Solid Tumors

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