Melatonin and Sleep

In the natural state of things, sleeping at night and being awake during the day has been the natural order, hardwired into the human Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). For the human body to maintain balance, the time spent awake must be offset by sleeping at night. Sleep is a natural phenomenon that we derive immense benefits from. Sleep, by definition, has been termed an unconscious state of the mind. Sleep can be altered by the Circadian rhythm – a biological process in the human body which serves as a clock that tells the body what activities to undertake daily. Some of these activities are primarily sleep/wake cycles.

Besides sleep being a natural phenomenon, there are two other factors that can get in the way of sleep: light and darkness. These factors are solely responsible for the sleep/wake routine. The sun is the most important source of light to man. Ultraviolet rays from the sun during the day produces blue light which helps us stay active and awake. The ultraviolet rays from the sun suppresses our sleep hormone known as melatonin. This in turn helps us stay conscious and groggy-free.

The proliferation of technology has led to a myriad of sleep related issues. Gadgets like smartphones, laptops/computers, televisions, and those tiny blue-light-emitting devices interfere with our Circadian Rhythm. These interferences, according to many experts, make it difficult to reach a restful state that leads to sleep. These tiny gadgets are why sleeping disorder is on the rise; especially in developed countries. For example, it has been estimated that over 60 million Americans suffer from a form of sleeping disorder.

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone responsible for sleep, depending on the factors mentioned above, the melatonin hormone produced in the body is higher or lower based on one’s physical surrounding. Exposure to light and the presence of darkness are important factors that may limit the production of the melatonin hormone.

Blue lights, from whichever source it comes from is okay during the day, but poses a great danger at night.

How Melatonin Works

In darkness, the body produces more melatonin that helps you fall asleep. Melatonin is widely known to regulate day and night sleep necessary for general growth within the body. The levels of melatonin at night time is what gave it the name: “Dracula of hormones” or “hormone of darkness.” Melatonin is produced naturally in the body. For those whose melatonin levels aren’t high enough to induce sleep, there is a lab-produced melatonin (perfectly safe) sold as dietary supplements. These supplements may help increase the level of melatonin in the body. Melatonin supplements are especially a great fit for people with sleeping disorder or those who work night shifts.

Benefits of Melatonin

• Protect people from cancer and diseases
• Helps induce sleep with, dream enhancement and body rejuvenation

Possible Side Effects of Melatonin

• Headache
• Changes in mood state
• Vivid dreams resulting in nightmares
• Changes in body clock, leading to changes in sleep pattern

I am not advocating for ditching your devices. Using these devices are a way of life and they make lives easier or harder (in the sleep department). These devices, as with pretty much everything in life, has it advantages and disadvantages as it relates to sleep. Since we cannot stop the use of our gadgets, we can reduce its long term effect and impact on our sleep. Wearing blue screen glasses at night while using your devices and reducing the time you spend on devices emitting blue lights will go a long way in restoring one’s ability to increase melatonin secretion in the body. Refrain from using your devices before bedtime. Doing this will ensure continuous production of the melatonin hormone.

Whatever you do, make sure you always create time for a good night sleep. Don’s use work or a TV show as an excuse to deprive yourself from having a good night sleep. You need sleep to function better!