With many of us more stressed than ever, indoors most of the day and burning the midnight oil on the regular, our melatonin levels are increasingly less than optimal. The result? Poor sleep, with a knock-on effect of low moods and more sugar cravings. Here’s what you can do.
Melatonin is often referred to as the "sleep hormone" because it helps regulate the body's internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a natural, 24-hour cycle that influences our sleep-wake patterns – but here’s where things get a little tricky. Melatonin secretion is closely linked to the time of day and the presence of natural light – as the evening approaches and darkness falls, melatonin levels increase, signalling to the body that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep. This means that timing is everything, so our techniques to boost this magic hormone should be carefully planned to match our body clock.
In addition to its role in initiating sleep, melatonin also contributes to the quality of sleep. Research suggests that melatonin may help improve the overall sleep structure, including the duration and depth of various sleep stages. Adequate levels of melatonin contribute to achieving the optimal balance of deep sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, both of which are essential for physical and mental restoration.
Jazz Up Your Sleep Hygiene
Creating a conducive sleep environment and following a consistent sleep routine can help stimulate the body's natural production of melatonin. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. Limit exposure to bright screens (phones, computers, TVs) at least an hour before bedtime, as blue light can suppress melatonin production. Establishing a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same times each day, can also help regulate melatonin release. Some people like to do a little reading before bed or enjoy a soothing cup of chamomile tea to help wind down, so choose some activities that help put you in a sleeping mood.
Increase Exposure to Natural Light
Exposure to natural light during the day, especially in the morning, helps regulate the body's internal clock and supports melatonin production. Spend time outdoors, whether it's taking a walk, exercising, or simply sitting in natural light. Natural light exposure helps synchronise your circadian rhythm, which in turn influences melatonin secretion and sleep-wake cycles.
Incorporate Melatonin-Rich Foods
Certain foods contain compounds that naturally promote melatonin production. Including these foods in your diet may help enhance your body's melatonin levels. Some melatonin-rich foods include:
Cherries: Cherries, particularly tart cherries, are a natural source of melatonin. Consuming fresh cherries, cherry juice, or dried cherries can potentially increase melatonin levels.
Bananas: Bananas contain tryptophan, an amino acid that contributes to the production of melatonin. Additionally, bananas contain vitamin B6, which is essential for converting tryptophan into serotonin, a precursor to melatonin.
Pineapple: Pineapple also contains small amounts of melatonin. Consuming pineapple, either fresh or as part of a snack, can provide a mild melatonin boost.
It's important to note that while these natural methods can support melatonin production, individual responses may vary. If you're experiencing chronic sleep issues or disruptions to your sleep patterns, it's advisable to consult a healthcare professional for guidance.
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