What exactly is melatonin?
Melatonin is formed from serotonin in the midbrain – a part of brain structures connected to the upper end of the brainstem, specifically the epithelium, which includes the pineal gland, which is formed by cells called pinealocytes. In addition to pinealocytes, the pineal gland consists of glial cells and calcified material, the amount of which increases with age and thus decreases the actual production of melatonin. However, according to the latest studies, melatonin is also produced by all cells in our body.
Melatonin is not only a sleep hormone. It is also a very strong antioxidant, reduces the level of cortical (stress hormone), increases the natural level of growth hormone, regulates the circadian rhythm and has many other benefits.
How To Enhance The Production Of Melatonin In The Body
1. Block the blue light component
Many electronics, including cell phones and televisions, emit light with a blue component from their displays. The same goes for modern light bulbs and LEDs. This blue component of light sends false signals to the brain that it is still day and thus stops the release of melatonin. The solution is, for example, wearing glasses blocking the blue light, replacing the lighting with special bulbs with an adjustable spectrum, switching your devices (TV, mobile phones, tablets) to night shift mode, or red mode. The blue component of the light should be blocked for maximum effect, ideally as early as 3 hours before bedtime.
2. Indulge in the sun in the morning
Sunlight helps produce serotonin, a precursor to melatonin. Exposure to sunlight, especially in the morning, helps the body make serotonin, and in addition, the morning sun helps to synchronize our internal clocks. Evolution has adapted humans and their biochemical processes to follow solar activity. The sun has been adjusting our inner clocks since the beginning of our existence. And it is not for nothing that it is said “where the sun does not go, the doctor goes”.
3. Eat food rich in melatonin
One source of natural melatonin is cherry. A scientific study was performed in which a group of volunteers was given a cherry extract and two other control groups were given a placebo. The melatonin level was significantly increased in the extract group, while there was no change in the two control groups.
Other studies were conducted with volunteers suffering from insomnia. Here, too, the study showed a positive effect of cherries on melatonin levels. Tomatoes, grapes, almonds, raspberries, walnuts are all foods increase the natural level of melatonin.
4. Eat food rich in tryptophan
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and is one of the precursors of melatonin production. So treat yourself to pumpkin seeds, photo, chicken, almonds, peanuts, cottage cheese, or yogurt during the day.
5. Avoid caffeine in the early evening
If you are in the habit of drinking coffee or tea in the evening, switching to water can be a great help to your pineal gland. Many studies show that caffeine has a negative effect on melatonin production. Caffeine has a half-life of 8 hours. This means that if you take 100 mg of caffeine at 16:00, 50 mg will still work on your body at 2 in the morning. This does not mean that you will not fall asleep, but the action of caffeine will disrupt the architecture of your sleep.
6. Sleep in the dark
Instead of various lights to help you orient yourself in the bedroom, diodes and displays, try to turn your bedroom into a dark dungeon. The less light penetrates you during sleep, the higher the relaxation and deeper regeneration you will achieve. So remove the maximum amount of electronics from the bedroom and try, for example, to reduce the amount of light that enters the bedroom from the outside using curtains. Another option is to wear a sleeping mask.
7. Do not stress before bed
Although not always avoid stress, try to enjoy your evenings and not to be stressed. Stress and the associated high levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) have a very negative effect on melatonin secretion.
8. Melatonin supplements
These supplements are made synthetically in the laboratory. They are mostly available in pill forms, but are also available in liquid or chewable forms like the extra strength melatonin gummies.
People use these supplements when they have insomnia. They also take it for other sleep problems, like delayed sleep phase disorder. If you have this disorder, falling asleep before 2am is difficult and so is getting up in the morning too.
People also try it if they have jobs that disrupt their typical sleep schedules, a condition known as sleep work disorder.
It is used also to prevent jet legs. That’s the tired, run-down feeling some get when they travel across time zones.
While melatonin supplements come with fewer side effects than other sleep medicines, one can still have:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Stomach discomfort
- Short lived depression
- A ‘heavy head’ feeling
Melatonin supplements may have negative effects on you if you take them with certain medicines like:
- Blood thinning medication (anticoagulants)
- Drugs that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressant)
- Diabetes drugs
- Birth control peels
Inform a doctor if you’re thinking of taking these supplements, especially if you are on any medication or have health issues.
It is best, however, to take the synthetic form of melatonin supplements, as the natural supplements may contain a virus.