Monday, February 07, 2005

ClockNews #24: Melatonin Affect Reproduction, and Clocks In Space

Popular supplement melatonin found to have broader effects in brain than once thought
http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2005/02/07_melatoninfin.shtml

"It really amazes me that melatonin is available in any pharmacy," Bentley said. "It is a powerful hormone, and yet people don't realize that it's as 'powerful' as any steroid. I'm sure that many people who take it wouldn't take steroids so glibly. It could have a multitude of effects on the underlying physiology of an organism, but we know so little about how it interacts with other hormone systems."

Space-age medicine for earthly practices
http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2005/02/14/hll20214.htm

Meanwhile, helping people both on Earth and in space get a good night's sleep without relying on medications is the goal of George Brainard, PhD, professor of neurology at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.
"Even in short flights, astronauts may go from getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night to getting only six or less. Something happens to [their] bodies that leads to sleep reduction," he said.
Although losing an hour per night might not seem too terrible, on a long mission those lost hours could add up to serious deprivation. Dr. Brainard and his colleagues are now working with light treatment to determine whether increasing the power in the short wave length, or the blue portion, of the spectrum can help maintain astronauts' circadian rhythms and keep sleep cycles at an adequate level.
The technique wouldn't just be for outer space. "One-fifth of the working population in the United States and most other industrialized countries does shift work. They are working at a time that they are biologically designed to be sleeping and trying to sleep at a time they are designed to be awake," Dr. Brainard said.



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