Sleep and the Importance of Melatonin

Sleeping in bed

You’ve had a rough day and you’re shattered – finally you get into bed, ready for that well-deserved kip. There’s a problem – you just cannot seem to fall asleep. You’ve tried everything – shuffling the duvet, re-adjusting the pillow, listening to relaxing music. When you finally doze off, your alarm wakes you up at 7am. Typical

There are so many factors that lead to poor sleep, but in many cases it could be hormonal.

The Pineal gland

Located in the middle of the brain lies the pineal gland. This gland produces melatonin – the hormone responsible for sleep regulation. As we go about our day the pineal gland is inactive, but during the evening darkness triggers this gland to produce and release melatonin into your bloodstream.

The role of melatonin is simple – it induces ‘sleepiness’. The pineal gland will produce melatonin consistently as you sleep. When you wake up in the morning and prepare for the day ahead, melatonin production tails off.

Irregularities with melatonin production during the night will lead to a poor sleep quality.

Circadian Rhythm

So what causes the irregular melatonin production that triggers a restless night? It could be due to your sleep patterns. In order for your pineal glands to function how they should, your circadian rhythm should not be disrupted.

Circadian rhythm is a biological process that impacts most living organisms. It is based on the position of the sun and leads to physical, mental and behavioural changes within a 24-hour cycle. If the circadian rhythm is disrupted, this leads to irregularities for melatonin production.

Circadian Disruption

Anything that disrupts the circadian rhythm will have adverse effects on melatonin production. Jet lag, time zone changes, change in sleep pattern – staying up later or sleeping in, shift work, staring at a phone or compute screen before you sleep.

Press the Reset button

Paying attention to the Sun’s schedule will help reset your circadian rhythm. You will end up going to bed and waking up earlier, but feel refreshed. Why? Your internal clock will be synchronised with your external environment.

Also – pay attention to the type of light you are exposed to. Scientists have discovered that light wavelength has an impact on melatonin production. Yellow, orange and red don’t impact melatonin as much as white and blue wavelengths do.

Therefore to maintain a regular melatonin cycle, make sure you shift to a low watt light bulb when the sun goes down. This low wattage bulb should emit yellow, orange, or red light. Also – avoid staring at a computer or mobile phone screen.

If you cannot re-adjust your circadian rhythm naturally, you could invest in melatonin supplements, which have be proven to lead to quality sleep. Supplements exist in spray or tablet form.

Melatonin can also be found in food – Tart cherry juice is an excellent source of Melatonin.