You might have heard melatonin come up in conversations around sleep. It’s a key player in helping us relax in order to sleep the night away. And because of this reason, it is also responsible for regulating our body clock. Makes sense. When we don’t sleep (as we’ve learnt in many a Members Webinar), our internal rhythms suffer greatly. The knock on effect of this is that it begins to disrupt other key hormones and sees a host of symptoms arise including menstrual issues as well as impacting fertility. Sleep is certainly the elixir of good health.
It possibly comes as no surprise then, that melatonin is also in charge of regulating moods. I hear you ‘ah-ha-ing‘ me. Of course, we’ve all been tired and the domino slap of that is quickly developing more attitude than you know what to do with – we get moody and it’s not fun for anybody. At. All. Melatonin wildly enough is also a powerful antioxidant. Many of you have been around the traps long enough to know that antioxidants are nature’s secret to health and well-being. Those little bunker busters scavenge around to clean up any damage that our daily lives impinge upon us – they help us cope with aging and stress due to external forces like chemicals and pollutants, sun damage and so on.
You may have heard of people being prescribed melatonin to help them sleep. It’s important to note that melatonin won’t make you sleep longer or increase your need for sleep, but rather it helps you get sleepy, as it works with your biological clock to tell your brain it’s that time of the night. Bedtime. Interestingly, it’s mainly produced in the dark hours and inhibited by light – hence why you are now going to pick up your mobile phone and make sure that blue light it powerfully pumps out is switched over to the red variety. (iPhones have this option – head to settings, display and brightness and select night shift to tone down the volume on the blue hues.)
Switching your display over to red tones will have a profound impact on your hormones – especially if you’re in the habit of going to bed and scrolling on your phone (yup – guilty!).
You might have found yourself ‘wired’ by this practice, unable to fall asleep because your mind has been ‘re-woken’ even though it is time for bed. Switch it on and tap back into those sleepy feels. Melatonin levels increase in the middle of the night and begin to decline as night turns to day. Seems our body has it all figured out, it’s those other stimuli that upset our gentle rhythms (you know, stress, worry, over thinking and all that jazz).
Not only do you want your melatonin to be in full swing, but lack of it showing up each night can see other hormone imbalances arrive. For example in cases of low melatonin, cortisol comes to the party. Not good news when it’s bedtime. This can become a nasty habit, whereby the cycle continues and we are left exhausted but unable to sleep because cortisol is pulling rank.
Keeping melatonin in good balance is also now believed to help protect us from cancers, especially breast cancer. Research shows that women who are blind produce far more melatonin than those who can see normally and they have 50% less likely chance of developing such cancers. Shut eye is so important for our overall hormone health.
If falling to sleep is an issue or you know your melatonin levels are questionable, there are some amazing things you can do to set things back on track.
- Diaphragmatic breath
We’ve spoken about it so many times. We simply cannot rest when our parasympathetic nervous system’s switch is stuck on. In order to rest, we need to switch over to the rest and digest state – that is when our parasympathetic system is doing the talking. 5 deep breaths is all it takes to help make this happen and switch things over. Try it on, especially if you are having issues sleeping. Sit on the edge of your bed with your feet on the floor, hands in your lap and eyes gently closed and repeat 5 times. You actually can’t be in a state of stress when you are doing this – it’s literally impossible. Good news for you!
- Get cortisol down early.
Cortisol (as we learnt about here last week) is supposed to be at its highest in the morning – certainly not at night. Technology (the blue light again) is a huge contributor in keeping cortisol on and high into the hours of the night. Try and turn your screen off early and read a book instead before you head to bed.
- Sleep by 10pm.
This helps you to produce the maximum amount of melatonin. It also keeps you healthy and feeling energetic throughout the day.