Nearly one-quarter of Canadians suffer from sleep disturbances great enough to affect their overall health. Sleep is one of the body's natural defences and is a vital component of its mechanism to combat disease. Researchers have determined that insufficient sleep can cause medical problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and depression. Here are five ways to ensure you have enough melatonin to aid a good night's sleep:
Keep it dark during the night.
Nightime light exposure disrupts melatonin production and interferes with sleep. Research shows you don’t even need to see light to have it ruin your sleep. So if you get up during the night to go to the bathroom, keep the lights dim. Low melatonin production will increase your food cravings and hunger hormones the next day.
Enjoy daylight in your waking hours.
Just as light during the night interferes with melatonin production, inadequate exposure to light in the daytime also disrupts the body’s natural melatonin cycles. The dark months of winter can make this especially challenging. Less daylight hours combined with less melatonin blocks our happy hormone, serotonin, causing mood swings and chocolate cravings.
Get enough melatonin-boosting foods in your daily diet.
By increasing melatonin through food, you can naturally increase the production of our anti-aging and fat burning hormones. Good food choices include oats, corn, rice, barley, ginger, tomatoes and bananas. Calcium and magnesium are also involved in melatonin production.
Improve your restorative sleep by taking melatonin.
The dose required will vary from one individual the next, however, melatonin should be taken 30 minutes to one hour before bedtime, preferably on an empty stomach. Melatonin should not be used by anyone who is pregnant or nursing or before driving a vehicle. Taking melatonin at night ensures a deep stage 4 sleep which helps block the release of cortisol, our stress hormone. That not only helps us feel more refreshed the following day, but it instructs our body to use our food as fuel rather than storing it as fat.
Avoid taking prescription drugs that inhibit melatonin production several hours before bedtime.
Melatonin-inhibiting drugs include beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, anti-anxiety drugs, nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids and some antidepressants. If you are taking one of these, avoid taking it in the hours just before bedtime if possible.