Is Melatonin Your Solution For Better Sleep?
There is nothing more frustrating than being exhausted but your brain is still going a million miles a minute. All you want to do is sleep, but your mind refuses to calm down. You lie in bed, eyes closed, and sleep just beyond reach. So what’s the deal? Why does sleep seem to be so elusive sometimes? What’s going on in that brain of ours?
Let’s start with the chemistry of sleep. (I promise I won’t get too geeked out on you.)
Melatonin is synthesized from Tryptophan. You know the chemical in turkey that makes you groggy? That’s why! It eventually ends up as melatonin, the sleepy chemical. So anyway, dietary tryptophan is absorbed into the bloodstream and circulated through the body. I highlighted dietary, because it’s important that the tryptophan be absorbed in your gut. (This could be one source of the problem. We’ll come back to that later.)
Once the tryptophan has been absorbed in your gut, it is transported to a tiny little organ in your brain call the pineal gland. The tryptophan is converted to serotonin & the serotonin is then converted to melatonin. Each night your body produces approximately 25mcg of melatonin to promote a peaceful and restful sleep. Studies have shown that this amount gradually decreases as we age, which may explain why toddlers and youth require more sleep at night than adults.
ok. chemistry lesson over.
You can help regulate your sleep and promote more relaxed, restful sleep by helping your body produce & use melatonin when you need it. If you are having trouble sleeping, try a few of these tips before you turn to medication.
1. Say “no” to electronic devices and gadgets:
The blue light produced by our phones, laptops, TVs, and tablets may be counteracting your body’s attempts to produce melatonin. Instead of checking your phone or social media accounts before going to bed, read, journal, or even color. These activities are much less stimulating than electronic devices, allowing your brain to start shutting down and encouraging your body to start producing melatonin for the night ahead. It only takes a small amount of blue light to shut down the circadian rhythm that starts the melatonin production cycle for the evening.
2. Drink chamomile tea:
Chamomile tea actually has melatonin in it. Drink a warm cup of it in the evening to help your body relax, de-stress, and prepare for restful sleep.
3. Shower or take a relaxing bath:
Warm water relaxes tense muscles and refreshes your mind. According to research by Loughborough University in Leicester, the relaxing effect of taking a bath before going to bed helps increase the production of melatonin in your body. This is because taking baths and showers reduces the level of the stress hormone cortisol in your body, allowing your body to produce melatonin instead.
4. Block all sources of light:
Pull all the curtains, shut all the blinds, turn off all the lights. Make your room completely dark. Even the smallest amount of light can disrupt your sleeping and melatonin production. Blocking out all the sources of light while sleeping will significantly boost the melatonin in your body, help regulate your sleeping patterns and promote deep sleep so that you wake you up happy and well rested.
5. Focus on your diet:
Your diet plays a huge role in your body’s sleeping habits. Studies have shown that reducing or eliminating caffeine and processed foods has a hugely positive impact on your amount and quality of sleep. It is also helpful to avoid trying to sleep on a very empty or very full stomach; both can leave your body focused on processes other than sleep. A light snack or a warm cup of tea just before bed can help calm hunger pangs without overtaxing your body.
If you have tried all of the above and are still having trouble, I suggest having your serotonin level tested & your GI tract evaluated for poor absorption. Any Functional Medicine Specialist can check your neurotransmitter balance with a simple test. This can give you a plethora of information about what’s going on in your body & brain. Also, evaluating your gut health is critical to the absorption of nutrients & the production of neurotransmitters like tryptophan, serotonin and so many others. I implore you to not give up on finding the root cause of your insomnia. It’s just a matter of finding the right person to investigate with you. While you can take a melatonin supplement, taking too much can actually desensitize your receptors and counteract the action you are looking for. If you have found melatonin supplements to be ineffective for you, it is probably time to seek out some other help and resources. I am happy to be this resource for you.
Join me on my Facebook page,facebook.com/drlaramay, as well as Instagram & Twitter @drlaramay. Also, be sure to tune into my podcast on your favorite platform, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Podbean or Anchor.Fm @Light Body Radio to get all the juicy info coming your way in a easily digestible format. I look forward to hearing your feedback, comments and suggestions.
- Dr. Lara
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