What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormone released from our brains, as well as by the skin, intestines, bones and immune systems. Melatonin production in our brains is set according to our body clocks (circadian rhythms), with the highest levels seen at night (two to four hours after we go to sleep) and the lowest levels corresponding to maximal daylight hours (in the middle of the day).
Increasing melatonin via melatonin supplements
Melatonin supplements are available on prescription as a way of resetting mistiming body clocks. These are designed as purely as short-term natural sleep aids and contain large amounts of melatonin (1-3mg), usually several times more than normally released during or body’s natural cycles, in order to clonk us back into cycle.
Although melatonin is not a sedative, those starting out prescription-strength melatonin for insomnia might feel sleepy or irritable the next day, but dropping the dose can usually fix these problems. Some users report reduced libido (possibly because they fall asleep), while others experience disturbing or vivid dreams, especially when taken with Vitamin B6. Melatonin should not be taken in any form by pregnant women (or those trying to become pregnant), those with epilepsy or autoimmune conditions.
Melatonin available over the counter in pharmacies and health food stores contains very small amounts of melatonin. These are seldom enough to reset our body clocks or correct insomnia. Any sleepiness usually comes from other components that are included in the formulation. However, this does not mean that they don’t have effects on oxidative stress and immune function, for which they are widely used by anti-aging practitioners.
Increasing melatonin naturally
Melatonin can be increased through food
We can naturally get some extra melatonin from plants, including bananas, tomatoes, apples, cherries, walnuts, sweetcorn, oats, brown rice and rice bran. A fresh serve of these would generally contain as much or more melatonin that many OTC preparations.
Increase physical activity
This will help slow the declining melatonin levels by maintaining weight control, taking actions to help prevent the onset of diabetes and obesity
Get quality sleep
Learn to meditate
Check out your local adult education center or meditation center for classes.
Go outside more often
The simplest way to keep our melatonin levels up is by keeping our days light and our nights dark. If we expose ourselves to bright sunlight during the daytime, this serves to elevate our melatonin production at night, making the oscillations in our melatonin cycles bigger. So getting out and about not only helps us throughout the day but also at night.
Better still, combine it with outdoor exercise!
Sleep in a dark room, as darkness is the main stimulant of melatonin production
It’s also important that we sleep in properly darkened bedrooms, as darkness is the main stimulant of melatonin production. Leaving televisions, computer screens or lights on – even with low-watt bulbs – near our sleeping areas significantly reduces our nightly production of melatonin.
Make an appointment to see your doctor about melatonin supplements
If you have problems with your sleep cycle, such as early morning waking, or a troubling difficulty getting the sleep.