Have you ever lain awake at night wondering why oh why sleep eludes you? Have you ever spent the night, wide eyed, tossing and turning, your mind replaying every last moment of the day which has just passed. . . or racing with every ridiculous detail of the day to come?
If you're no stranger to insomnia, chances are you may be lacking in melatonin, a hormone produced by your pineal gland, which is located in the centre of your brain. Increasing melatonin production is the #1 strategy for ensuring a good night's sleep. Most melatonin production occurs at night, between 1:00 - 3:00 a.m. There are things which interfere with this production. Fortunately, though, there are things which enhance it, too. We'll get to both in a moment, but first...
Optimal levels of melatonin can convert Arrrggh to Zzzzzzz! However, it does more for you than assure you a sound and peaceful night's sleep. Youthfulness and longevity are linked to high levels of melatonin secretion. Melatonin regulates your internal clock, and sets the rhythm for many other biological processes, including appetite, mood, and cell division. It even improves the function of your immune system, and activates T-killer cells, the ones that destroy cancer cells.
1. Shift work. It confuses your body's rhythms and will interfere with melatonin production.
2. Alcohol (Does that surprise you?)
3. Caffeine (No surprise there, I"ll bet.)
4. Recreational drugs
6. Medications - beta blockers, diazepam, haloperidol, chorpromazine, and ibuprofen.
7. Bright lights and excessive exposure to electromagnetic radiation. Don't sleep within three feet of an electrical outlet or device. Using a Smart Phone just before bed is NOT a smart idea.
If you have cancer, you may wish to consider melatonin supplementation (5 -20 mg) one-half hour before bedtime (8:00 - 10:00 p.m.) with medical supervision. But not before trying these fabulous melatonin-producing strategies first:
1. Spend at least 20 minutes outside in natural light (without sunglasses) in the early part of the day.
2. Sleep in a dark room, with no light shining in from the street. Use blinds or heavy drapes to block out night light. Wear a mask over your eyes as you sleep, if necessary. Low intensity light (50 lux) should not interfere with melatonin production.
3. Keep regular hours, preferably "early to bed, and early to rise".
4. Exercise regularly. Did you know that one hour on a stationary bike, for example, can double or triple melatonin levels!
5. Ensure adequate consumption of foods high in tryptophan or melatonin (tart cherry juice is one of them), along with B vitamins and minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
6. Practice a meditative or breathing exercise before bed, for at least eleven minutes.
7. Apply a few drops of Cedarwood Atlas essential oil to your wrists before bed. The scent can induce the release of serotonin, which is converted into melatonin in the brain.