Many are aware that the crux function of the Melatonin hormone is to help us fall asleep, which is indeed one of its most visible qualities. But the hormone is also responsible for an array of other housekeeping tasks in our body, including very much acting like an antioxidant.
We know that antioxidants are good for us, but it is less common for us to fully understand why. Primarily, Melatonin, much like its antioxidants cousins, works in neutralising negatively charged Oxygen atoms called free radicals. This can be done with the intake of foods high in Vitamin C or the production of Melatonin, which binds directly to oxygen and nitrogen radicals, preventing them from causing damage while also stimulating the body to make other antioxidant enzymes. The benefits of antioxidants are very important to good health, because if free radicals are left unchallenged, they can cause a wide range of illnesses and chronic diseases. It is for this precise reason that the risk of developing cardiovascular disease is much higher for night shift workers, whose exposure to high intensity light throughout the day depress their Melatonin production on a frequent basis.
While it is impossible for us to tweak the natural light in our surrounding to fit the schedule of night shift workers, we have more and more data to work with in order to customise our indoor lighting to fit each individual’s 24 hour rhythm—and more importantly each sector’s needs. Night shift work is a foundation of our urban lives; our modern society relies on a seamless circular work rotation for many of its foundational industries—with that, it is crucial we do not let those with varied schedules become susceptible to ill health and potentially serious illnesses.
We now know that the lack of antioxidants is a key factor in the development of heart disease, cancer and other life threatening illnesses, but we also know that the light in our surrounding is equally a key factor in the production of this essential hormone. We can make homes, offices, public spaces and cars respond to our needs so that a future society revolves around individuals’ 24 hour natural rhythms—rather than a set societal timeframe that has left so many of us lagging behind, sleep deprived, exhausted and in some cases, with serious health repercussions.