Getting enough quality sleep each night is one of the most important habits for good health. Yet, more than half of Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 experience a sleep problem every night or every other night.1 Poor sleeping habits have been linked to depression, poor energy levels, and much more serious complications.
One of the primary causes of poor sleep habits is a disruption in the regulation of melatonin, a vital communicator that signals the body to begin the sleep process.2 In the following article, we will take a look at how melatonin levels can be preserved and replenished naturally resulting in an improved quality of sleep.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that is primarily produced in the pineal gland. Like all hormones, it carries an important message around the body. Melatonin signals the body that it is time to get ready for sleep. It has been called the “hormone of darkness” because the setting sun and evening shadows trigger the activities of this important chemical communicator.
How Does It Work?
Melatonin responds in the direction of the circadian rhythm, the body’s natural clock. When the optic nerves report that nighttime is approaching, preparations for proper rest can begin. Melatonin begins to reduce the activity of the brain and induces sleepiness. Higher amounts of melatonin increase sleepiness, duration of sleep, and quality of deep sleep cycles.
Just like darkness can stimulate melatonin into action, the rising sun at daybreak begins to decrease melatonin levels and induce the waking cycle. Therefore, the body has higher amounts of melatonin at night and they become significantly reduced in the morning. Higher amounts of melatonin in the body during the day can lead to daytime grogginess, a symptom of jet lag.
Natural Ways To Optimize Your Melatonin Levels
The body can produce melatonin abundantly but this production can be stunted through a variety of unhealthy lifestyles and conveniences. What follows are some important pointers for improving melatonin naturally which can serve as a reference for plans to improve sleep and overall health.
A Sleep-Healthy Diet
The first way to increase melatonin is to improve the diet. Eating large meals earlier in the day and avoiding caffeine are a few ways to naturally regulate the sleep cycle. Additionally, there are some foods that contain high quantities of this sleep hormone. Fruits, nuts, and seeds are excellent sources of melatonin.
Some melatonin-rich foods include:3
- Mustard seeds
- Goji berries
- Orange bell peppers
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that the body uses to synthesize melatonin locally and there is sufficient evidence that it can promote rest and improve the quality of sleep cycles. Some foods high in tryptophan include:4
- Dairy products
Avoid LED and Blue Light
Melatonin is deactivated by sunlight, which is about 25% blue light.5 LED and mobile displays can give off as much as 35% blue light and this directly affects the circadian rhythm, according to recent studies.
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By dimming the lights in your home and avoiding these artificial lights for an hour or two before bedtime, you can increase melatonin levels significantly. Light canceling work glasses are another effective option.6
Take a Warm Bath
Warming the body has been found to improve the onset of sleep and enhance the effects of melatonin in the body. This action can be greatly enhanced with the addition of essential oils like lavender or rose which induce relaxation and combat stress.7
Get in the Sun
For best results, every last ounce of melatonin from the night before must be purged from the body, or the circadian cycle can become confused. The best way to do this is to get out in the sun after waking up, even just a 15-minute stroll around the block will cancel all melatonin activity and eliminate daytime grogginess.
Taking time to rest the mind from constant function and simply focus on the surroundings is profoundly relaxing and can improve the regulation of melatonin. Studies have shown that experienced meditators have higher levels of melatonin and presumably have better sleep cycles than non-meditators.8
Melatonin is also available in supplement form. It has been found very effective in countering the wakefulness that accompanies jetlag and other disruptions of the melatonin cycle. Most experts will suggest supplementation only after all other natural means of addressing melatonin have been tried.
Final Notes on Natural Melatonin
Hopefully, the ideas mentioned here will provide a solid foundation of how to boost your melatonin levels naturally. As a result, you will be on a better schedule, experience higher quality sleep, and have more energy during the day.
Photo credits: AlilaMedicalMed/shutterstock.com, kittiratroekburi/shutterstock.com, Morocko/shutterstock.com, NewAfrica/shutterstock.com