Once upon a time, Americans slept 8 hours every night – not anymore.
Sleep, an essential biological phenomenon, is a physiological and behavioral process that is essential for sustaining optimal health, reducing the signs of aging, and quality of life. However, in our modern world, millions of Americans are struggling with insomnia, racing minds, or a body that tosses and turns when all you want to do is just be asleep.
This reality has made over the counter (OTC) melatonin the fourth most popular product taken by adults and the second most popular taken by children. According to an article published by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, “the sales of melatonin in the United States increased by more than 500% between 2003 and 2014 ($62 to $378 million).”
The question is, Why?
Why, with this rise in the consumption of melatonin, aren’t people exhibiting signs of better sleep and improved biological function (think neuroendocrine, hormones, immune, digestion, and detoxification)?
Being one who color blocks her calendar from 9 pm to 6 am, ensuring I always have enough time for a relaxing pre-bedtime ritual (a warm bath) plus eight hours of sleep, the research conducted by the National Sleep Foundation surprised me. It shows that one big reason is many American’s simply don’t consider sleep a priority anymore.
I find this to be curious. Why? Because, when I compare and contrast the information, I question whether we’re “not prioritizing sleep” or are we just misinformed about the value of sleep, what’s going on within our bodies that is making sleep difficult, and then buying into fantastic marketing that suggests every form of melatonin is created equal? Whatever the answer, we all benefit from melatonin, and the better we sleep, the better we function.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in a pinecone shaped gland called the pineal gland. It is no bigger than the size of a pea and sits right above the center of your brain. But wait, that’s not the only place melatonin comes from. It’s also produced in significant quantities in the digestive tract.
How does it work?
Melatonin controls your body’s sleep-wake cycles, known as your circadian rhythm, as well as having multiple effects on digestion. It is the clock that controls circadian rhythm as well as being vital to maintaining optimal digestive function. Melatonin may even have clinical uses in treating a range of gastrointestinal (autoimmune) disorders, including GERD, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, and more.
Melatonin levels rise and fall based on external factors like light exposure and food.
Naturally occurring melatonin production is meant to:
- increase with evening darkness
- decrease with light exposure
- prompt and promote healthy, quality sleep
- help orient our circadian rhythm
- regulate the digestive tract
The skinny on melatonin is this: The pineal gland produces a spike in melatonin (in the bloodstream) at night (in the dark). During the day, the gut is responsible for maintaining the baseline levels of this naturally occurring hormone.
Depending on one’s lifestyle, think chronic, overexposure to artificial lighting, television, computers, cell phones, plus poor eating habits, and sure enough, the body, being the magnificent messenger that it is, will send signals such as disturbed sleep and/or digestive problems, indicating that this magical hormone is out of balance.
What can you do?
#1: Be aware of your body.
Symptoms of a hormone imbalance can and often will show up differently in every…body. Fatigue, anxiety, depression, susceptivity to infections, weight loss resistance, inability to fall asleep or stay asleep and digestive problems are just some of the conditions you could be experiencing.
#2: Keep regular sleep hours.
Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time every day will condition your body for better sleep. We are diurnal beings. That means we are designed to sleep at night and be awake during the day. I like to suggest going to bed by 10 pm and rising around 6 am. However, if this is dramatically different than your current bedtime hours, as you can push your bedtime 30 minutes to 1-hour earlier until you get into a pattern that feels good to you, your body will let you know – listen to it.
#3: Create a restful, relaxed sleep environment.
I’ve often said the bedroom is meant for two things: sleep and sex. For better sleep (and sex), make sure the temperature, lighting, and noise are controlled so that your bedroom environment helps you relax, fall asleep, and stay asleep.
#4: Turn off electronics 60 minutes before bedtime.
Take a warm bath, listen to quiet music, read a book, or do some gentle yoga poses to relax your body-mind.
#5: Cut down on caffeine.
Tea, coffee, colas, or energy drinks, especially in the late afternoon and evenings, can interfere with the process of falling asleep and prevent deep restorative sleep. Instead, try an herbal tea and a teaspoon of raw hemp-infused honey.
#6: Move your body regularly.
Get active your way! Moderate functional workouts such as walking, biking, swimming, rowing, and resistance workouts using just your body weight can relieve built-up tension.
#7: Supplement with pure, pharmaceutical-grade melatonin.
Not all supplements are created equal. Check for efficacy and purity. One of my favorites is Douglas Labs Melatonin P.R. 3mg. One tablet, one hour before bedtime, offers a prolonged-release and is designed to help lower you into sleep and keep you sleeping.
Access your pharma grade supplements at https://us.fullscript.com/welcome/emergewell to receive wholesale pricing and free shipping on all orders of $50 or more.
In health and best care,