If you’re having trouble sleeping, you might need a little boost to get your rhythm aligned with the cycles of nature. For instance, there’s a reason why we sleep at night when it’s dark and wake during the day when it’s light. In recent years, scientists have been studying the alternating cycle of sleep and waking and how that is related the hours of daylight and darkness.
It turns out that when an individual is exposed to the sunlight, a nerve pathway from the retina to an area in the brain is stimulated, and this initiates the release of certain hormones, which influence body temperature and other functions that play a role in feeling awake. This area of the brain works like a clock and regulates patterns of activities such as raising body temperature and releasing hormones like cortisol. Later in the day, this area of the brain is also responsible for the release of melatonin, which is related to functions of the body which bring on the need to sleep.
Melatonin is a supplement that individuals can take in order facilitate the ability to sleep and stay asleep longer. Because melatonin is a natural hormone created by the pineal gland, it’s a safe way to encourage the body to sleep when it needs to. The pineal gland is located in the middle of the brain. It is inactive during the day, but when night approaches, it begins to produce melatonin, which is released into the blood stream.
When there are higher melatonin levels in the body, an individual begins to feel less alert and sleep begins to feel like a necessary activity. At night, typically melatonin levels are high in the bloody stream and remain high throughout the night. However, during the day, levels of melatonin drop to a level that is barely detectable.
Interestingly, the hormone melatonin will not be released in the presence of bright sunlight. If a person is exposed to sunlight or if he or she is in a brightly light room, this hormone will not be produced. It is only produced by the pineal gland when it is dark. During the summer in Alaska, for instance, an individual might have a hard time sleeping with the longer hours of daylight.
In order to be effective, melatonin should be taken such that it addresses your unique sleep problem. For instance, taking melatonin at the wrong time of day may have an effect on the biological clock that most individuals possess. How much to take and when to take this supplement is important to determine with a doctor prior to beginning the use of it.
Melatonin is available at health food stores throughout the country. Interestingly, it is the only hormone that is available without a prescription. The reason it’s made available to the public is because it is contained naturally in some foods. For this reason, the U.S. Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 allows it to be sold as a dietary supplement, in vitamin or mineral form.
For many people. melatonin does improve sleep. However, in studies, when compared to a sleeping pill, melatonin shows little benefit. There is evidence that melatonin can affect the body’s clock and natural rhythm. Yet, it’s still not clear whether the use of melatonin or simply the removing light in one’s environment has a greater effect on the ability to sleep. Overall, research indicates the supplement can improve sleep when the right dosage is taken at the appropriate times.
Melatonin is a supplement that can naturally improve your sleep cycle, especially if it’s been disturbed by traveling or overworking or stress.