Melatonin, often called the sleep hormone, is naturally produced by the body when it’s dark, kind of like nature’s circuit-breaker shutting off so we can sleep when the sun goes down. Just the opposite happens in the presence of light, as melatonin production is suppressed so that we stay awake and alert.
That’s why many of us in the modern cyber era find it hard to sleep at night. We get too much light-driven stimulation to the brain, coming from many household sources, including the television, cell phones and tablets, certainly from lights in the bedroom and bathroom, and even from small amounts emanating from an alarm clock or a silenced radio.
Additionally, as we age, our bodies find it more difficult to produce melatonin, so many people will experiment with taking melatonin supplements to aid in falling asleep. Before doing that, however, you should check with your doctor for proper dosage or possible interactions with other medicines.
Meanwhile, there are ways to help control the ebb and flow of melatonin production, which is so crucial to our sleeping and waking cycles.
In the daytime, depending on the season and where you live, try to spend as much time outdoors as possible soaking in the sun. Take walks or otherwise get out in the sun and be active. In you’re in a darkened winter clime, you may want to look into purchasing what’s called a light therapy box, which will provide stimulating light for your mealtonin control in the daytime. Also, don’t fool yourself that because you’re in a lighted office all day, you’re getting all the light you need. Nothing beats the sun when it comes to sending messages to the brain to suppress the melatonin.
Getting enough sunlight will exercise your natural melatonin production cycle, making it easier for darkened environs to stimulate melatonin production and thus sound sleep.
Of course, you want to do just the opposite at night. Turn off all sources of lighted stimulation when you go to bed. If you use an e-reader before dozing off, get one that is not backlit — and don’t turn on a bedside light to help you read. Your place of sleep should be as dark as possible. Use a low beam flashlight for going to the bathroom or use a nightlight that blocks blue light (the culprit that prevents melatonin production).
You can make melatonin your friend if you follow the above tips, and in turn melatonin will help you to a more rejuvenating sleep experience.