Light, melatonin and the sleep-wake cycle.
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Blood levels of the pineal hormone melatonin are high at night and low during the day. Its secretion is regulated by a rhythm-generating system located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus, which is in turn regulated by light. Melatonin is regulated not only by that circadian oscillator but acts as a darkness signal, providing feedback to the oscillator. Melatonin has both a soporific effect and an ability to entrain the sleep-wake rhythm. It also has a major role in regulating the body temperature rhythm. Melatonin rhythms are altered in a variety of circadian rhythm disorders. Melatonin treatment has been reported to be effective in treatment of disorders such as jet lag and delayed sleep phase syndrome.
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