The science behind the darkness hormone…
Sleep-promoting products based on melatonin have been growing in popularity for several years.
For information, across the Atlantic, Americans spent $367 million on melatonin supplements in 2020. A real sleep market!
If you’re one of those who regularly uses melatonin as a holistic option to end an unhealthy sleep cycle, it’s a good idea to understand exactly how melatonin works. And thus disentangle the true from the false.
What is melatonin?
Simply put, melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland that helps regulate sleep patterns.
Although melatonin is often thought of, and typically described, as a sleep hormone, it is actually a darkness hormone.
It is produced at night, in both sleeping and active animals, such as many big cats and rodents. Instead of inducing sleep, melatonin signals your body that it’s time to fall asleep by decreasing your alertness and lowering your body temperature.
It works in conjunction with the body’s circadian rhythms to tell you when you need to rest and when you need to be awake. It then synchronizes the sleep-wake cycles with other parts of the physiology and with our environment.
A hormone of darkness
Often considered, described and referred to as the sleep hormone, it is actually a hormone of darkness.
That is to say, it is sensitive to light. The desire to sleep increases the longer we stay awake.
When the “sleep drive” builds up enough, all it takes is a slight relaxation of the “wake drive” for sleep to occur naturally. This relaxation is signaled by the nocturnal increase in melatonin.
The best sleep results are achieved when sleep and wake impulses are synchronized with the sun’s schedule. But the exact time of night when the melatonin surge will occur for an individual can vary depending on genes and behaviors.
What is melatonin used for?
Melatonin is especially useful for restoring the circadian rhythm. For example in the event of jet lag (jet lag due to a trip to another time zone which modifies the biological rhythm) or sleep disturbances due to work.
In these cases, melatonin supplements are used, as a chronobiotic.
Which basically means that they adjust the rhythm of the biological clock and improve the quality of sleep.
Although melatonin is very frequently used as an aid for sleep disorders, it is in its role as a chronobiotic that it really shines.
How to naturally stimulate your melatonin production?
Taking melatonin supplements alone is nowhere near as effective as taking melatonin in improving your sleep hygiene. Remember that melatonin is a darkness hormone.
If you expose yourself to too much light at night, especially blue light, you will interfere with the production and release of melatonin. Here are some other tips to help optimize melatonin production: Create a transition period.
After sunset, dim all the lights in your home and turn off electronics. You can also use blue light blocking glasses to avoid blue light exposure. Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed at the same time every night should be part of your routine, even on weekends.
The body’s timing functions work best with predictability and regularity.
Get enough sun. Expose yourself to natural sunlight during the day.
Preferably at transition times like sunrise and sunset. This helps guide your body’s natural biological clock. Consume a little more L-tryptophan in your diet.
The building block of melatonin is an amino acid called L-tryptophan. Increasing L-tryptophan in the diet can support quality sleep and overall functioning of the biological clock. It is found in brown rice, eggs, bananas…
A holistic systems approach to better sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep requires knowing exactly what to release, where to release it in the brain, and when to release it. Sleep is not easy.
It is a complex set of molecules and multiple interacting pathways that depends on circadian rhythms and is strongly influenced by our behaviors, our thoughts and our environment.
It takes a lot of things to go well for healthy sleep to occur.
The good news is that the brain is able to regulate all of these different factors. He can do a good job with the right support.