It’s no secret we’ve collectively developed some rather “unideal” pre-bedtime habits — (looking at you screen time!).
But do you know WHY these evening activities negatively impact our sleep quality?
Let's dive into what it is, why it's important for optimal sleep, + ways you can naturally increase yours for a better nights rest!
What is Melatonin?
As with all hormones, melatonin is a product of the body's endocrine system. Specifically secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, this hormone's primary function is to maintain our circadian rhythm by responding to light and darkness.
In general, melatonin production and release begins in the evening with darkness, peaks in the middle of the night, then slowly begins to decrease by early morning.
However, because this cycle is based on light and darkness, certain lifestyle factors such as exposure to artificial evening lights, shiftwork jobs, and even sleep disorders are all known to interfere with our body's natural melatonin production.
Should You Supplement with Melatonin?
Melatonin supplementation is common among those with sleep issues such as circadian rhythm disorders, jet-leg, insomnia, etc. While popular and generally considered safe for most, there are considerations which should be addressed.
First, the recommended dose of supplemental melatonin is set at no more than 5 mg per day. Second, supplemental melatonin is typically not intended for long-term use. And third, because melatonin supplementation can interfere with certain medications and lifestyles, it's always recommended to discuss with your doctor prior to use.
Possible melatonin supplement drug interactions include:
Anticoagulants and anti-platelet drugs, herbs and supplements
Blood pressure medications
Central nervous system (CNS) depressants
Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) substrates
Cytochrome P450 2C19 (CPY2C19) substrates
Seizure threshold lowering drugs
5 Ways to Increase Natural Melatonin Production
While a common supplement, many advocate for working to increase our body's natural melatonin production rather than relying on a supplemental form. If this is you, here are five easy tips to naturally increase your body's nightly melatonin production!
1. Dim Household Lights 30-60 Minutes Before Bed
Did you know chronic exposure to electrical lighting late in the evening has been shown to disrupt melatonin production? In fact, one study confirmed room light exposure before bedtime suppressed melatonin production in 99% of the individuals studied, potentially impacting sleep quality, blood pressure, body temperature and even homeostasis.
Instead, simply dimming the lights and reducing overall exposure to lights in the 60+ minutes leading up to bedtime can help promote melatonin release + a better nights sleep!
2. Gradually Decrease Blue-light Exposure as You Approach Bedtime
While evening light exposure of all kinds has the ability to suppress our secretion of melatonin — blue light takes the cake! According to Harvard research,
blue light exposure suppressed melatonin twice as long + shifted circadian rhythms twice as much as green light exposure.
By gradually decreasing the use of blue light electronics such as smart phones, computers, tablets, TV's and fluorescent lighting in the hours leading up to bed time, you can help reduce interference in evening melatonin production!
3. Eat Foods Naturally-rich in Melatonin
While melatonin is a hormone which is naturally produced in the body in the evening and late hours of the night, there are also certain foods which actually contain melatonin as well. Some examples of melatonin-rich foods include: goji berries, tart cherries/juice, milk, eggs, fish and nuts.
Try consuming these foods around dinner time, or up to 2 hours before you're ready to hit the hay for an added sleepy-time boost!
4. Eat Foods Naturally-rich in Tryptophan
Ever wondered why you're ready to catch major some Zzz's after Thanksgiving dinner? Meet tryptophan. The amino acid responsible for your post-turkey snooze. After being consumed, this amino acid converts into the hormone/neurotransmitter serotonin which not only makes you feel good, but also increases melatonin in the body! Foods rich in tryptophan include: turkey, salmon, eggs, cheese, bananas, pineapple, oats and potatoes!
Aim to consume these foods around dinner time, or up to 2 hours before you're ready for bed.
5. Consider Supplementing with Magnesium Glycinate 30 Minutes Before Bed
While there are many supplemental forms of magnesium which each play a different role in the body, certain forms of this important macro-mineral, such as Magnesium glycinate, actually help relax the body + increase melatonin production!
Not only is this form of magnesium known to calm the body, but it also counts towards your daily RDA of this mineral, which is important since its often difficult to meet from food sources alone!
Whether you admit to maybe a little too much scroll time before bed, or could simply use a relaxing bedtime boost — try these tips to help you “Zzzz.”
Disclaimer: It's always recommended to consult your doctor, primary care physician, or naturopathic doctor before beginning use of any forms of supplementation.