Updated: Sep 2, 2020
The National Institute of Health reported that nearly 30% of the population has some sort of sleep disruption and 10% have associated symptoms of daytime impairment - meaning it’s impacting their ability to function throughout the day.
These statistics are staggering.
Sleep is imperative for optimal health. Today, I want to focus specifically on how sleep impacts melatonin production and why melatonin is so important for our health and wellness.
Why do we struggle so much with sleep?
Up until the lightbulb became affordable and widely used around 1910, we functioned in our most natural state as human beings - going to bed when it was dark and waking up when it was light. The average amount of sleep was 9-10 hours a night. I’m sure many of us can’t even imagine getting that much sleep!
Our natural circadian rhythms are driven by sunlight, allowing for the most natural sleep state. Unfortunately, the lightbulb was the first disruption to this, and now we have TVs, computers, and phones, which also disrupt our natural circadian rhythms.
Melatonin is a hormone our bodies produce during dark hours. Before artificial sources of light, our bodies had much more ample time to produce melatonin. Light sends a signal to our retina, which sends a signal to the pineal gland in our brains to halt or stop melatonin production. Melatonin production should start in the evening hours as the sun goes down. This signals to our body to get sleep and naturally start preparing for sleep. Unfortunately, with all of the artificial light sources, our brains don't get the same signal and melatonin production has drastically been reduced.
Melatonin plays a vital role in our health beyond signalling to our body to get sleepy. It has been shown to help significantly improve our immune systems and it acts as a potent antioxidant.
Now that we understand the importance of melatonin and sleep, let’s go over my top five tips for optimal sleep and melatonin production:
1. Turn off harsh overhead lights.
Use dimmer lights or lamps around the house. Let the light in your home go down as the sun goes down. This allows the secretion of melatonin to begin and helps your body unwind for a good night’s sleep.
2. Put down the electronics.
As you start to dim the lights in your home, put down the electronics as well. Try to read a regular book (not a Kindle) to reduce your light exposure and stop checking your phone!
3. Remove or turn off all light sources in your bedroom.
Whether it’s in the hallway, the bathroom, or even your alarm clock. Even small light sources can be disruptive to melatonin production and sound sleep. Turn your alarm clock toward the wall - and don’t use your phone as your alarm clock either!
4. Avoid light in the middle of the night.
If you have to get up in the middle of the night, try not to turn the lights on if you can safely move around! A surge of light in the middle of the night will definitely bring melatonin production to a screeching halt, which stops all signals to your body that you should be sleepy.
5. Go to bed by 10pm.
Even if you don’t feel tired, make that your habit. Peak melatonin production occurs between 10pm-2am.
Let me know if these tips helped you and if you have others that work really well for you!