Good, consistent nights of restorative sleep are important for overall well-being, so addressing the factors which help us sleep is important, too. One of these factors is melatonin, a hormone which helps control your sleep cycle.
The Importance of the Body Clock for Sleep
Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by the brain and helps regulate the internal ‘body clock’. Its production is in response to light, with more being produced as darkness falls before dropping away again in the light of the early morning. These extra levels of the hormone produced overnight help you stay asleep and its production is basically a signal for sleep.
Melatonin is therefore essential in achieving a good pattern of sleep.
As melatonin plays such an essential role in the sleep cycle, eating foods which boost the body’s melatonin levels can be beneficial. Such foods include raspberries, strawberries, bananas, tomatoes, oats, almonds, flaxseed and oats. Incorporating these foods into a balanced diet could help if you struggle to sleep for any reason.
For an additional boost, a melatonin supplement could be taken in consultation with your doctor. Your doctor can advise on the dosage to take as not much should be required to notice the benefits. It may take around 30 minutes for the supplement to work and for the signals for the body to prepare for sleep to take effect. Always take it just before bedtime --to avoid becoming drowsy while driving or while out and about in general.
Enhance Melatonin’s Effects
There are also environmental considerations which may help with the effectiveness of the supplement.
Melatonin responds to light and therefore the effect of artificial light needs to be taken in to account, too. Just as we accept a darkened bedroom aids sleep, artificial light from screens such as smartphones and tablets can also be detrimental to falling asleep.
This is true if you use a supplement to boost your hormone levels as any light, natural or artificial, can reduce its effectiveness. Therefore, as well as a darkened bedroom, you should look to avoid using any screens for around an hour before going to bed. Avoid using bright lights around the home during the evening.
Additional factors that help encourage sleep can include:
- mattress comfort
- room temperature
- avoiding alcohol before bedtime
- avoiding certain foods in the evening
Research suggests 72 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for a bedroom to encourage sleep, yet ultimately everyone is different.
By working with your doctor, you can consult on all the factors which affect sleep including taking supplements and the appropriate dosage.
It may seem logical that if a hormone supplement promotes better sleep, then more of the supplement will promote even more sleep. In fact, taking too much of the supplement is more likely to be counterproductive to sleep as it can result in the type of side effects which are detrimental to sleep, including nausea, headaches and irritability.
Too much melatonin supplement can also make you drowsy or groggy during the day -- and lead to vivid dreams at night which can keep you awake. As the hormone plays a large role in regulating your ‘body clock’ taking too much of the supplement may have the effect of throwing your ‘body clock’ out of sync, making sleeping at night harder.
This is why consulting with your doctor on dosage is important, so you reap the benefits and don’t have more trouble sleeping. Your doctor may also advise against you taking these supplements if you are on certain medications -- and also if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or suffering with an auto-immune disorder or depression.
Are you having trouble sleeping? Our SleepQuest sleep specialist is available to answer questions and help you find answers.