Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that is released during the night by the pineal gland; a small organ that is located at the centre of our brains.
It plays a very important part in determining when we feel sleepy and when we feel like waking up. Our circadian rhythm, or body clock, is regulated by the level of melatonin hormone that is present in our system.
The amount of melatonin that is released depends heavily on the amount of sunlight that our eyes detect. As the sun sets and the light fades, the pineal gland begins to release more melatonin and induce a feeling of tiredness.
Research has shown that the levels of melatonin in the body tend to reduce as we grow older. This may explain why we find it harder to sleep as we get older and teenagers seem to spend half the day in bed sleeping!
Many foods contain high levels of the essential amino acid Tryptophan which your body converts to Serotonin and then Melatonin. Especially high levels can be found naturally in eggs, cod, soybeans, parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, sunflower seeds, pork chops, turkey and chicken.
In addition to the natural production of melatonin, through light and ingestion of food, it is also possible to synthesize melatonin. It can be purchased without a prescription as a dietary supplement from chemists, often combined with herbs and vitamins, and as a snack or drink from grocery stores and clubs.
TheUnitedState’s FDA does not, at present, fully regulate the sale of Melatonin as a food additive because Melatonin is naturally found is some foods. Because of this lack of regulation, care must be taken when taking supplements and drinking beverages that are labelled as relaxation or sleep aids.
Use as a Treatment for Delayed Sleep-Phase Syndrome
Taking Melatonin around an hour before bedtime has been shown to encourage sleepiness in insomnia sufferers. The body’s circadian rhythms are not affected as long as the Melatonin is taken close to bedtime.
Melatonin is available in pill form with the dose ranging from around 1mg to 3 mg. The amount that you require to reset your body clock depends on the individual, what food you are eating, how much natural light you are receiving and how far out of phase your body clock is. It’s a good idea to start with around 1mg and gradually increase the dose if insomnia is still an issue.
Generally speaking melatonin should only be taken at night-time; however, a dose small enough so as not to induce drowsiness taken during the daytime can be an effective way of resetting your body clock. Because of its ability to reset our body clock, it can be an effective treatment for jet lag. If traversing a number of different time zones, a tiny dose of melatonin before boarding the flight and a normal dose before bedtime may be enough to relieve jet lag.
Note that if you are a night shift worker then you should reverse the advice regarding dosage in relation to daytime and night-time.
Again, be advised that melatonin supplements are not yet fully regulated by the FDA and so you should employ caution when taking them. Melatonin should be taken by adults only and avoided by pregnant women, people with diabetes, epilepsy and auto-immune diseases. Consult your doctor for a full up-to-date list of problem areas.
Before resorting to synthesized supplements, you should look at the natural ways you can use to address your sleep problems. Try getting out more during the daytime to increase your expose to sunlight. This informs your body clock that now is ‘awake time’ and conversely later on will be ‘sleep time’. During the long evenings of the summer, use thick curtains, blinds or an eye mask in the bedroom to decrease the amount of sunlight you expose your body to. This tells your body clock that it is time to sleep. Have a look at the types of food you’re eating and, if possible, increase the amount of eggs, cod and chicken that you consume in the evening.
iSleepBetter.com wishes you good luck in restoring your good night sleep and we will be very happy if you share your own experience in our forum section.
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Category: Sleep Science