Okay, so this month, we’re not focusing as much on a nutrient, but melatonin is still an essential item to have.
Many of us during this challenging time are probably experiencing high levels of anxiety and stress. And that’s totally understandable. A side effect of that is that you might not be sleeping well. Again, totally understandable.
If you have trouble falling sleep, you’re not alone. In fact, about 50, 70 million Americans suffer from sleep-related issues. When you don’t get enough high-quality sleep, not only can it make you feel tired and cranky, but it can also put your physical health at risk. You may experience trouble concentrating, memory issues, or even a weakened immunity system. Another risk is diabetes because high blood sugar levels can cause sleep loss.
Luckily, there’s melatonin, a natural sleep aid that can help you get a solid night’s sleep when used properly. This is why melatonin, that plays a critical part in sleep, is so important.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that controls your daily sleep-wake cycles (also known as circadian rhythm). Originating in the pineal gland in the brain, your body produces more melatonin to make you sleepy.
What Does Melatonin Do?
Melatonin tells your mind and body to kick back, relax, and eventually go to sleep. Melatonin levels in the blood generally begin to elevate after the evening sun goes down and the amount of light decreases. This signals your body this it should prepare to go to sleep. The body keeps melatonin levels high for the majority of the night, keeping you asleep. Then, when it’s morning and the sun starts shining, the level of melatonin in your body goes down, making you wake up.
Unlike other chemical sleep aids, melatonin will not knock you out, but instead eases you into resting. Melatonin also sticks to receptors in the brain to help lessen nerve activity. It can help reduce your dopamine levels, which keeps you awake.
Where to Find Melatonin
Your body naturally produces melatonin, and factors such as the amount of natural sunlight you get influence the amount of melatonin the pineal gland creates. Because melatonin production amps up when it gets dark, you can increase the amount your body produces by turning off your phone or other screens 30-60 minutes before it’s time to go to bed.
Additionally, having a very bright, white light will directly block the production of melatonin, so even if your internal clock says it’s sleepy time, if the lights are on the melatonin switches off.
For people who wrestle with insomnia, jet-lag, or other sleep disorder, there are over the counter melatonin supplements available. Please keep in mind that melatonin supplements can interfere with different medications and the dosage can depend on the sleep issue. As always, it’s best to talk to your doctor before using it.