Natural Ways to Promote Melatonin Production
Insomnia stats to wake up to (pun intended)
The complex systems within our bodies often resemble a clock: they are precise, rhythmical and, as long you commit yourself to following the path of a healthy lifestyle, they rarely skip a beat.
One of the most important cogs in this gigantic natural machine is called melatonin.
Some people jokingly refer to it as the Dracula of hormones, as it is only ever active during the night. The name is fitting if your internal clock is showing the right time – however, the insomnia stats show that the number of people suffering from some form of sleep disorders is on the rise.
About a third of us have brief episodes of insomnia, and for every 10th person the problem becomes life-altering and chronic.
Why is Melatonin so important?
Once the sun goes down and our surroundings are shrouded in increasing darkness, a tiny Pineal gland in our brain springs into action and releases melatonin into our blood.
The hormone functions as a signal that reminds us to head to bed and have a proper rest, thus maintaining our natural circadian rhythm, which demands us to be active during the day and relax when the night comes.
Regulating our sleeping schedule is melatonin‘s primary purpose – however, its work does not end there. It keeps our mood in check by protecting us from depression, anxiety and the effects of stress.
It lowers the risk of coronary disease, ensures proper functioning of the gallbladder and maintains the strength of the immune system.
Yet, shorctcuts like taking melatonin as a supplement for insomnia are only a short term solution and it comes with risks of its own, like the potential for a melatonin overdose.
Where is the problem?
With the chaos of our modern everyday lives, few of us allow our pineal gland to do its job properly.
We are overstressed, undernourished and terribly tired.
Our circadian rhythm is thrown out of whack – we may be forced to work at all hours of day or night, we are surrounded by office lights instead of basking in the natural sunshine, our bodies cannot even register when night time starts.
As soon as the sun goes down, we flip the light switch and it is bright again – and then there is the fact that our bodies naturally produce less melatonin as we grow older.
Ways to go around fixing it naturally
Quick and convenient sleep supplements might seem tempting in such a predicament but they are not nearly as effective as natural ways to boost the Melatonin production.
There are two main elements that you need to look at and adjust accordingly in order to make your bodily clock run smoothly once again: light and food.
Blue light & Melatonin
Researchers at the University of Colorado conducted an experiment which saw its sleepless participants camping out in the wild for a week, with no presence of artificial light.
Prior to that, their melatonin levels indicated a serious circadian imbalance – nevertheless, at the end of the experiment, the levels were back to normal.
The study demonstrates how important natural light is in regards to melatonin production and what a detrimental effect artificial lights can have on it.
Adressing the issue of melatonin and blue light
Reduce your exposure to artificial light at least two hours before going to sleep. When it comes to the sources of artificial light, nothing disrupts your circadian rhythm as much as computer screens, TVs and mobile phones.
These are the primary sources of blue light that affect Melatonin production.
What you can do
Turn all of these devices off for the night, put them in a place which precludes the light from reaching you, or wear an eye mask. If pitch-black darkness makes you uncomfortable, use a candle instead.
You should also make sure to catch some natural sunlight during the day, as the pineal gland can only produce enough of the hormone during the night if it has remained completely inactive earlier on.
Food with melatonin boosting properties
Proper nutrition can do wonders for melatonin production. This is because plants also depend on melatonin in order to grow and survive, so the hormone is present in a variety of foods.
Tart cherries, for example, are a good example of a food with melatonin boosting properties and numerous studies have linked their consumption to better sleep.
Other foods that you should definitely stock up on include goji berries, walnuts, almonds, tomatoes, bananas, oranges and pineapples (the latter have been found to increase the presence of melatonin in the body by 266%!).
Tryptophan and melatonin
An essential amino acid called tryptophan is also important for those of you who are looking for natural ways to up your melatonin levels, as it facilitates the hormone’s production.
The highest amount of tryptophan can be found in foods like garbanzo beans, spirulina, cottage cheese, yoghurt, turkey, chicken, peanuts and pumpkin seeds.
What to avoid
When it comes to the products that you should avoid, coffee is, quite naturally, at the top of the list – it has been linked to significant drops in melatonin levels.
if you are having problems with kicking the coffeine addiction, you might consider substitutes like kava kava – you can see our guide on best kava kava supplements, extracts and powders for anxiety and sleep here.
Refrain from eating a large meal before bed or consuming sugary foods, as this can lead to blood sugar imbalances during the night and consequently disturb your natural sleeping patterns.
Melatonin is, after all, a natural hormone that is produced by the body because its natural functions require its presence, so the best ways to combat the imbalances that might occur as a result of our modern lifestyle have to come from nature as well.
Rather than heading straight to the pharmacy, try and make small adjustments to your daily schedule and harmful habits – you might be surprised to find out just how big of a difference such minute changes are often able to make in regards to the quality of sleep you get.