Melatonin, also referred to as the “hormone of night,” is a hormone that plays a critical role in your health and well-being. It is so called because it is only released at night. Not only is this hormone present in human beings but also in animals and other living organisms such as algae. So, is this hormone important for sleep? The answer is yes. In fact, this is one of the reasons why melatonin containing products have flooded the market to help induce sleep.
What Scientists Say
According to scientists, when you sleep, you allow your body its much-needed time to maintain and repair itself. When you are asleep, the process of cell growth and cell repair takes place. At this time, the body fights the various effects of UV rays and stress. When you deprive yourself of sleep, you will experience a negative toll on your body functioning.
How Melatonin Works
The melatonin hormone is produced by a small gland located near the center of the brain. This is what’s referred to as the pineal gland. Melatonin works by controlling your circadian rhythm—the 24-hour body control clock that controls your sleeping patterns. Since the release of this hormone is stimulated by darkness, if you change your sleeping pattern and sleep during the day, you will be depriving your body of this hormone and thus have a poor night’s sleep.
Shift workers are forced to sleep during the day when melatonin levels are low. This normally works against their natural circadian rhythm. Frequent travelers, on the other hand, face the same problem. Changing time zones also have an effect on your body clock. As a result, your sleep pattern will be negatively affected.
Boosting Levels of Melatonin
Even as you consider boosting the levels of melatonin in your body, it is important to understand that there are certain people who have this hormone in abundance while others don’t. For instance, the elderly may be lacking in melatonin because its production decreases as you grow old.
You can sometimes reset your body clock by taking melatonin supplements. Shift workers are good candidates for this. However, if you wish to start taking any supplements, it is always advisable to start with asking your doctor if you are able to take it. Then begin with a low dose of 1 mg. You can then work up to 3 mg after some time. If you still can’t fall asleep with the supplements, you will need to try other alternatives.
Other than taking supplements, you can stimulate the production of this hormone by eating foods rich in tryptophan. They include:
- Morello cherries
- Sweet corn
These foods all produce serotonin which is what fosters the production of melatonin in the body. The most natural way to stimulate the production of melatonin is by simply getting the proper amount of sunlight in the daytime.
If you can’t get enough sleep due to anxiety, headaches, jet lag or any other type of sleep disorder and decide to take melatonin pills, you won’t need to worry much about side effects. Melatonin has a very low toxicity. The most influential factor is the duration of the treatment rather than the size of your doses. Side effects may also not occur if a healthy user consumes it for fewer than 3 months.
What Else Can Melatonin Do?
Melatonin also has the power to promote a restful, REM sleep. It is this ability that gives you a great dream frequency and allows you to dream for longer durations. It has also been seen to increase REM sleep just before you wake up; this is the perfect time for you to remember what you dreamt about.
Other than just helping you with your sleep, melatonin has also been proven to be a very important antioxidant. Because of this, studies have been carried out to see if it can be developed into a possible treatment for cancer. Melatonin’s antioxidant effects may improve the efficiency of cancer drugs and also reduce its side effects.
With all that in mind, you now know why it’s important to have healthy levels of melatonin for good health and proper rest. If you have tried the above-mentioned remedies and still can’t get enough sleep, it is advisable to consult a specialist.