Healthy melatonin levels are essential for a good night’s sleep. And we need more sleep!
Research says we are a nation of chronically sleep deprived people. Many of us try to get by on 6 or 7 hours a night. Some of us get even less!
Poor sleep, the kind that leaves you feeling just as tired when you wake up as when you went to bed, is a recognised form of chronic stress. And we all know the impact that chronic stress can have on our health (click here to read more about the impact of chronic stress https://www.drmargriet.com/the-different-types-of-stress-and-your-energy-levels/) The bottom line is that its not great!
And what’s more, insomnia is on the up. More people are reaching out for help with their sleep and even being prescribed sleep medication than ever before.
We don’t have a sleep switch!
So if you struggle with sleep, what can you do? No one has a ‘switch’ that we can simply turn on and off to get the sleep we so badly need. With sleep it is more a case of creating the right conditions to ALLOW SLEEP IN.
So how can you do that?
The list of what causes sleep issues is a long one! And it’s different for everyone. There is no easy recipe to fix broken sleep , because so many things can impact your sleep.
The good news is……………
There are lots of things you can do to help your sleep.
The physiology of sleep is complex and it is an area of ongoing research. Exactly what happens during sleep and why we sleep are big questions. And we don’t yet have all the answers. But we do know that great sleep involves the production of melatonin.
So let’s start with simple things and focus your time and energy on what you can do to help yourself.
One way to help improve your sleep is you boost your melatonin.
Some basics on melatonin
Before we talk about how to boost your melatonin levels naturally, it’s helpful to understand a bit more about where melatonin comes from and how it works.
– It’s a hormone
– It is produced by the pineal gland in your brain, which pulses the melatonin down onto the hypothalamus and then the rest of the brain, which in turn promotes sleep.
– The pineal gland is light and dark sensitive: it ‘turns itself on’ at night’ when it’s dark. So your pineal gland works best at night, in the dark.
– Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant, which means is plays a powerful role in supporting your cells to stay healthy and well, and heal and repair when they are damaged. Perhaps this is one reason why sleep is so restorative, and help your body to heal.
– The melatonin patterns are a powerful part of your 24 hour biological clock This is the clock that tells you when to sleep and when to be bright, alert and awake. You know when your biological clock is out of kilter. This is exactly what happens for example when you have jetlag or if you work night shifts or if you spend all night playing computer games. What we experience is that we cant sleep when we want to, and we feel sleepy and groggy, when we ‘should be’ wide alert and awake. In other words your 24 hour rhythm is out of sorts.
So now that you know a bit more about melatonin, let’s have a look at some ways you can boost your melatonin levels naturally:
10 Natural melatonin boosting tips
This is where it gets exciting, because there is so much we can do to naturally boost our melatonin levels, form our bedtime routines, to what we eat, to our daylight exposure patterns. Lets go!
1) Bed-time routines and light fall.
Reduce your exposure to bright lights and blue lights( mobile phones, computer screens) for at least 1 hour before bedtime. So if you are a night-time emailer, or spend your time on social media right up until lights out, or watch TV in bed before you go to sleep …maybe it’s time to have a re-think.
2) Sleep in the dark
Your pineal gland will love you for it. So go check out your sleeping space and see if you are giving your pineal gland its ‘happy environment’.
3) Electro-Magnetic Frequencies (EMF’s)
Your pineal gland is sensitive! Especially to EMF’s. So reducing your exposure to EMFs especially at sleeping times, is key to a healthy happy pineal gland. Which means more melatonin! In practice this means things like turning off your wifi at night, minimise electronic devices near your bed including your mobile phone, laptops and computers etc.
4) Get daylight into your eyes as soon as you wake up.
This is the signal to your pineal gland to switch off, and for your cortisol production (you can think of this as your wide awake and super alert hormone) to rev up. This powerfully supports the 24 hour body clock mechanism, which ultimately means… more melatonin!
5) Wake up at the same time everyday.
This is one thing I ask all my clients to do, because it’s as powerful as it is simple. Its that 24 hour body clock thing again.
6) Daylight in the daytime.
At the risk of stating the incredibly obvious, we need daylight in the daytime. Or to be more specific, we need daylight directly into our eyes (no glasses, no contacts, no sunglasses, not by looking at it through the window….). Now that you know this, think about how much daylight your get into your eyes like this. And for some of us, this is very little. Because we wear glasses, or sunglasses. Or because we are indoors, or in a car. Once you work this one out. You might need to find some outdoor-daylight- into-your-eyeballs time!
20 minutes is a minimum.
7) Plant power
Lavender is well known for its calming and soothing properties. But did you know it boosts melatonin levels? It definitely needs to be in your box of tricks to boost melatonin levels and reclaim your sleep.
We need magnesium to be able to make melatonin. Most of us are relatively deficient in magnesium, especially at an intracellular level, which is where it counts. So make sure you have plenty of magnesium in your diet: dark leafy greens are your new best friend! Eat at least 2 generous portions a day, to start supporting your body’s magnesium levels.
9) Vitamin B6
This is one of the B vitamins (there are 12!) which plays a huge role in the body at all sorts of levels. Everything from energy production, to detoxification pathways to the production of hormones.
One of the jobs B6 does is to convert serotonin into melatonin. Without this we simply can’t make melatonin in the first place.
So make sure you get plenty of B6 in your diet. Sunflower seeds are an excellent source.
10) Protein and fat intake
Most of us are now recovering from the idea that a healthy diet is a low fat diet. We now recognise we need high quality fats and proteins in our diet for good health. And now where is this more true than when it comes to building hormones including melatonin.
Boosting your melatonin levels naturally in this way takes time. It is not a quick fix, but with regular practice, you will get the benefits of deeper more satisfying sleep. A great way of putting all of this into practice is to think of it as an investment in yourself and your health and well-being.