UNDERSTANDING MELATONIN FOR GOOD SLEEP
We all know that getting enough quality sleep is important for our physical and mental health and happiness. As well as making us healthier, increasing immunity, and easing pain, allowing our bodies to properly reset overnight also contributes to increased happiness, ability to be present, compassion and regulation of emotions.
(Research shows that lack of sound sleep leads to lower levels of energy, higher stress levels, decreased immunity and more health issues over the longer term.)
Yet a large number of us struggle to do this on a regular basis.
Getting a good night’s rest in the current climate is especially beneficial to help maintain our wellbeing as routines change and uncertainty abounds. Setting regular, consistent bedtime and wakeup schedules can help bring some order and control into our lives and mitigate feelings of anxiety and stress.
This article discusses the role melatonin plays in our sleep cycle.
First of all, what is melatonin? Melatonin is a naturally made hormone by your body, often called your ‘sleep hormone”. Melatonin is the key to sleep and the sleep-wake cycle. However, melatonin won’t itself knock you out, it regulates the body’s internal sleep-wake clock.
As the human body is closely linked to the day and night cycle, 1-2 hours after sunset, melatonin level starts to rise. This is how your body is telling you it is time to go to bed. Melatonin levels reach their highest levels in the middle of the night, after that the melatonin levels start gradually decreasing. However, your body starts reacting around 10 pm as a result of the increment in melatonin levels. This brings about intense metabolic activity, the one which is responsible for the rest, repair and restoration for your body and brain. For this healing to take place, you need to slow down, that is a reduction in physical and mental activity is required. If you are still awake at this time, there is another phenomenon that takes place – an increase in physical and mental energy and therefore you will find it difficult to go to sleep.
What can you do:
If you go to bed later – set up a goal to go to bed 15 minutes earlier each week till you reach the target of 9.30-10pm. There is a good chance you will wake up energized in the morning and happier to start your day. This happens because you allow your body’s system to go through the natural process of healing and you take advantage of the spike in the melatonin levels which is on its way at 10pm. Remember melatonin regulates the body’s internal sleep-wake clock and small shifts make a big difference. It is all about taking baby steps, one at a time.
Other suggestions to help induce quality sleep including:
- reducing sugar, caffeine and alcohol in the hours before bedtime.
- exercise during the day
- positive self-talk, intention setting, visualisation, gratitude,
- reading, journaling, and/or a brain-dump before bed.
- a warm bath/shower before bed to relax you cleanse the day in preparation for the new one to come.
- not sleeping on a full stomach
- a conducive sleep environment: comfortable mattress, cool temperature, calming music.
- consistent bedtime rituals
- stop using all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed and keep them away from your sleep area.
- dark curtains and/or eye mask, low lights or candlelight before bed
In addition, the following supplements may help you get a good night’ sleep
Adaptogen herbs are known to help with rest and sleep. Adaptogens help expand body’s capacity to handle stress, to sustain healthy energy levels and to get deep rest. Some are listed below:
- Ashwagandha: is a potent root. While it is not sedating, it promotes a deep sense of calm and encourages sound sleep.
- Kava kava: is said to be the most relaxing, calm inducing drink.
- Chamomile: usually sipped as a tea to calm and relax.
- Lavender: can be used as a spray or in an oil burner or diffuser. The pleasant scent of lavender has arelaxing sedative effect.
- Lemon balm: increases calmness.
Each one of us is unique and has a different lifestyle, so try and see which of the above suggestions is good for your own body and mind.