Melatonin – The Natural Sleep Hormone

What is Melatonin?

Jasmine_Strength 24_Natural Sleep HormoneMelatonin is a natural sleep hormone that is produced by the pineal gland, which lies outside the blood-brain barrier at the center of the brain.  The signal that it produces contributes to the sleep-wake cycle by lowering the body temperature and causing drowsiness.  The liver clears about 90% of melatonin, with the rest being dispatched in urine and saliva.

Melatonin at different stages of life

Melatonin levels take about three months to naturalize in infants, which is part of the reason most newborns don’t sleep through the night.  At that point, midnight to 8:00 a.m. is the period during which levels become the highest.

Most scientists believe that the body’s normal melatonin release schedule becomes delayed in teenagers.  This causes many of them to go to sleep and wake up later.  As people age, the body produces less melatonin.

Light dependence

When the retina absorbs light, especially blue light, it inhibits the body’s natural production of melatonin.  That is why wearing glasses that block blue light in the evening has helped those who have needed to change their schedules and begin going to sleep earlier.

The problem of artificial light

Light sources that were used up until the last century, such as kerosene lamps, produced relatively little blue light.  As such, the body’s natural cycle of producing melatonin was seldom disrupted.  With modern technology, though, increased exposure to blue light has disrupted the natural melatonin cycle and the sleep patterns that rely on it.  Although light from TVs plays a role, light from devises like iPads and laptops create a much more significant obstacle because the backlights are designed to mimic daylight, which is blue light.  For those seeking to restore their body’s natural cycles, the best approach is to limit or eliminate the use of these devices in the hours before bed.  Keeping these sources of blue light out of the bedroom altogether is most effective.

Ways to increase melatonin levels

Besides removing electronic devices from the bedroom, there are a couple of other steps you can take to help boost your melatonin levels and restore your natural sleep hormone.  The best way to do this is by making an addition or two to your diet.  Cherries, bananas, and, to a lesser extent, grapes boost the body’s production of melatonin.  Oats, which are rich in vitamin B6, can also be effective, so you could try having some Irish or Scottish oatmeal.  For those looking for a non-dietary solution, melatonin-boosting supplements are available on the market.

Melatonin – The Natural Sleep Hormone

Melatonin is a natural sleep hormone that helps to regulate natural sleep cycles.  Maintaining a healthy diet and limiting exposure to blue light in the hours before bed are the most effective means of ensuring that your melatonin levels are high enough to maintain a regular sleep schedule.  For those adjusting to a new schedule, focusing on ways to alter the body’s melatonin cycle can significantly help to ensure a smooth transition.

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About Valerie Springfield

Marketing is my profession. Health and wellness is my passion.