What is Melatonin?

A good, restful night sleep can lead to a whole host of wellness benefits from a sense of increased energy to a better ability to focus. Melatonin plays a huge role in helping the body fall asleep and stay asleep. But what exactly is melatonin and do we have any control over how it works in our bodies? 

Melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness and signals that it’s time to sleep. Melatonin helps create the sensation of “sleepiness” that leads to being able to relax and fall asleep. Ultimately, this hormone is crucial in regulating the circadian rhythm that is responsible for our times of being awake and asleep. 

Several things can interfere with melatonin production, reducing sleep quality or leading to insomnia. Here are some ways to help boost and regulate your melatonin production for more restful sleep and more energetic days.  

  1. Get more sunlight: Modern life often keeps us inside working and this can lead to decreased exposure to the natural sunlight that lets your body know it’s time to be awake. Taking short outdoor walks throughout the day or working near a window can help reset your circadian rhythm and trigger melatonin production only when it’s really needed – at night, when it’s dark.

  2. Reduce artificial lights at night: Melatonin production is linked to light, so light exposure at night will reduce melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep. Computer screens, cell phones, LED light bulbs, and televisions all emit blue light, which blocks the production of melatonin. That’s why it’s important to reduce your exposure to checking email and catching up on shows too close to bedtime. Blue-light filtering glasses can help you avoid the negative effects of blue light while allowing you to still use devices if it’s not feasible to turn off screens earlier in the day. It can also be helpful to create a dark sleeping environment that blocks out all artificial light sources from outside during the night. Try reducing your exposure to artificial lights 2-3 hours before you go to sleep. This will ensure a high melatonin production by the time you go to bed.

  3. Change your diet: Increasing the amount of tryptophan in your diet can help improve melatonin production. Foods high in protein like almonds, oats, turkey, chicken, and cottage cheese are good sources. Magnesium-rich foods like spinach, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, dark chocolate, and more can also increase melatonin levels. Finally, avoiding caffeine later in the day will help make sure that caffeine isn’t hindering melatonin production before bed. 

Understanding melatonin’s role in sleep can help you take a more active approach to managing your sleep cycle. To feel more rested, there are several ways you can naturally improve your melatonin production and improve the quality of rest every night.

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