For hundreds of years our bodies used light as a signal if we should be awake or asleep. When the sun came up, it was time to be awake and when the sun went down the world was dark and it was time to sleep. Fast forward to modern times, things have changed a lot. The wide availability of electricity and electronic devices makes us masters of our own sleep schedule. When the sun goes down, most people start watching TV or use some other electronic device. These devices can stay on all night long, completely throwing the body’s natural light signals out of the equation. When dependent upon natural light, however, the body develops a circadian rhythm with the sun. In this natural process, signals are sent throughout the body to wake up when the sun rises and at night, when the sun goes down, signals are sent to the body that it’s time to go to sleep. The main regulating signal the body uses for sleep is a hormone called melatonin.
Melatonin levels can vary throughout the day, but spike in the evening when darkness occurs. Unfortunately, melatonin production is inhibited by blue light, the light given off by TVs, computers, phones and other electronic screens. This means as long as you’re in front of a TV or computer screen, you’re inhibiting melatonin production and, ultimately, sleep. Melatonin levels can also be disturbed in shift workers since working at night and sleeping during the day sends conflicting messages to the body. Essential functions are impaired when the body doesn’t get enough sleep. Aside from leaving you feeling tired and groggy, a sleep deficit impairs your cognitive function, keeps your organs and brain from resting and healing and prevents the proper production of important hormones.
Whether it’s nighttime work, jet lag or just a long evening in front of the computer, the demands of the modern day don’t always respect the natural order of life – that’s when melatonin supplementation should be explored. Melatonin is available in supplement form and helps balance out the natural hormones in the body to promote quality sleep. Imagine falling asleep when you wanted to and staying asleep all night long, that’s the primary benefit of melatonin supplementation! Clinical studies have shown that melatonin supplementation reduces the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, increases the hours slept and boosts daytime alertness. Melatonin supplements work by providing a shortcut in the sleep process and sending the signals to your body that it’s time to sleep.
Additional melatonin benfits include :
- Treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Prevent cluster headaches
- Treat sleep problems associated with menopause
- Fight breast and prostate cancer
- Reduced fibromyalgia symptoms
Melatonin should only be taken at night, the only exception being shift workers who need to sleep during the day. The body naturally produces about .3mg of melatonin each day, so you should start low. Begin with .3mg an hour before bed and increase slowly each day until you find your sleep improving (1mg-3mg one hour before bedtime is normally an effective dose). To maximize the effect of melatonin, try to limit exposure to artificial light from TV and computers before bed.
Sleep deprivation will wreak havoc on your quality of life and make you miserable. If you suffer from poor sleep, definitely give melatonin a try. Consistent, quality sleep can be life-chaning.