Sleep, Naturally: How Melatonin Helps Promote Healthy Sleep Patterns
You’re lying in bed trying to sleep, but you find yourself tossing and turning, unable to get comfortable. If only there were a healthy and non-addictive sleep aid that could give you the rest you need. Melatonin --- which your body produces naturally --- might just be the answer you’re looking for.
Melatonin is a hormone released by the pineal gland, located in the brain. Its primary functions include regulating the body’s circadian rhythm and other important body hormones. While melatonin itself does not cause you to sleep, the natural rise in melatonin in the body at night promotes a state of calm, quiet wakefulness that prepares the body for a restful sleep.
The human body produces enough melatonin to induce sleep. However, certain activities can interrupt your sleep cycle. Being aware of how you can naturally create the best levels of melatonin in your body is an excellent way to get your sleep cycle back on track.
Here are four key ways to make sure the melatonin your body produces works as efficiently as possible.
1. Get more natural light during the day. To boost your body’s natural production of melatonin, spend time outside during the day. Even fifteen minutes of natural light exposure, especially first thing in the morning, will help improve your melatonin levels.
2. Limit your exposure to artificial light in the evening. Electronic devices emit artificial light which tricks your pineal gland into thinking that it is daytime, causing it to halt the natural production of melatonin in the body.
The blue light found in handheld electronic devices, like cell phones and tablets, causes the most disruption to sleep patterns and cycles. Avoid using these devices at least two hours before you sleep.
3. Consume more magnesium. Add foods to your diet that contain magnesium, such as avocados, spinach, and almonds, and watch your melatonin levels rise. Magnesium is a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure and keeps cortisol levels in check. Add this mineral to your diet, lower your stress levels, and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
4. Have some dessert! Take a bite of some good-for-you sweets after dinner like pineapple, bananas, and oranges. These three fruits increase the amount of melatonin in your bloodstream, with the highest concentrations occurring within two hours of consumption. They are the perfect melatonin boost to eat right before bedtime.