If you want to sleep better at night, you better start thinking about melatonin.
Melatonin could easily be called the miracle hormone. Not only does it keep our internal clock system – called the circadian rhythm – functioning on time, but it is a potent antioxidant that keeps your immune system strong, helps prevent cancer and reduces inflammation.
Before you go searching the Internet for some melatonin supplements to pop, read on. Certainly, what your body makes on its own is far superior to and safer than any synthetic hormone supplement. And even if you naturally tend to produce adequate amounts of your own melatonin, you can also just as easily switch off its production by something as commonplace as how you light up your ‘inside world’.
Typically, several hours after sunset, the brain’s pineal gland goes into action and starts making this amazing hormone, which is totally controlled by the cycle of darkness and light (which is why people generally have low levels of melatonin during the daytime). The amount of melatonin you produce plays a dynamic role in how well you sleep and how many times you might awaken during the night, as levels should peak in the still-dark, wee-small hours of the morning.
Here are some tips to keep your natural melatonin levels up to par, and help you get your sleep patterns back on schedule:
- Melatonin production is suppressed by light. That bright light in your bedroom or bathroom that you’re exposed to while getting ready for bed is very likely telling your brain it’s time to stop producing melatonin. This is especially true of those energy-efficient, curly-shaped, compact fluorescent light bulbs. The fix: cut down on your indoor lighting — your home doesn’t need to be seen from space at night. Also, new LED bulbs that are biologically corrected to produce less “blue” spectrum light are a good choice for evening illumination and won’t inhibit melatonin production.
- That same “blue” light that fluorescent lighting produces is also coming from your television, iPad and smart phone. If you want to sleep soundly, take the TV out of your bedroom, and get off the computer and other bright devices several hours before you go to bed. If you have to read in bed with your iPad or Kindle, try one of the blue-blocking screen filters now available.
- Incorporate foods in your diet that are naturally high in melatonin, one especially good source being cherries. Studies have shown that tart cherry juice and dried cherries can suffice when fresh ones are out of season and contain significant natural amounts of melatonin. Other good food sources of melatonin are walnuts and ginger.
- Make sure you get at least 30 minutes of sunlight on a daily basis, as being exposed to the sun’s rays each day can help you sleep better at night.
- Keep your bedroom as dark as possible. You’re not scared of monsters under the bed anymore, are you? Good, then turn off the night light, put the clock away, shut the curtains and get some better quality sleep. If it’s impossible to make your sleeping space as dark as you would like, then an eye shade might do the trick.