Lets take a look at how this sleep hormone Melatonin works in the human body?
The team at the Dept. of Brain and Cognitive Sciences in Cambridge in the UK has demonstrated the two major developments of melatonin. Firstly, it improves the depth and thus the quality of sleep. The higher the melatonin level at night, the less you wake up and the fitter you feel the next morning.
But the study in Cambridge also revealed another effect. For the test subjects, it ensured that the time to fall asleep was shortened. Notably the evening fight to get to sleep, is recognizable to many patients. It does not matter how tired you are, sometimes your brains thoughts can not be switched off and sleep just will not come. Does this sound like you? Taking melatonin might be the answer to your sleep problems.
The circadian rhythm – lets take a look at how your biorhythm functions
Going back in time: This natural sleep cycle is biological and has not changed for thousands of years. Simplified, you fall asleep because the two hormones cortisol and melatonin alternate the day/night cycle in your body. In the morning at about 7 o’clock the stress hormone cortisol is highest. Being the antagonist to melatonin, cortisol keeps you alert and bright during the daytime, as the day progresses this decreases as the day goes on. By the onset of evening, the level of the sleep hormone melatonin in your body increases then brings on the onset of tiredness which makes it possible for you to fall asleep.
Our human has a built-in rhythm cycle that adjusts to darkness and light, following our bodies 24-hour clock. These hormones we have mentioned fall and rise for one specific reason: they rely solely on sunlight. In addition to sleep, this built-in 24-hour clock, also commonly known as the circadian rhythm, affects a whole bunch of the other hormones, regulating your blood pressure, the immune system, your mental performance, and much, much more.
To move in tranquility with this natural rhythm is therefore is extremely important in getting a good night’s sleep!
Lets take this to a more complex level: In this circadian rhythm cycle, another hormone gets involved, the euphoria hormone “serotonin”. Serotonin forms the precursor of melatonin and is thus the basis for the sleep hormone.
Serotonin in your body
It is possible to regulate the supply of serotonin in the human body and the serotonin level in your body can be increased dramatically by taking in a lot of daylight.
The latest research by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has proven that patients who get more daily sunshine (or just plain old daylight) have seen a big improvement in their nightly sleep.
So to reiterate the greater time you are outside in the sun, the far better sleep you will have!
This circadian rhythm can be also the reason for SAD syndrome (Seasonal affective disorder) or winter depression. Considering we clearly get too little vitamin D or sunlight in the winter time, the level of the well-being and hormone serotonin is reduced. Sleep is now clear, but what does the antagonist cortisol do? This hormone has a much too bad reputation because it is important for your health and physical performance. Cortisol can be understood as the natural caffeine shot. It lets you wake up in the morning feeling sharp and alert.
Melatonin UK message # 2:
Melatonin is produced from serotonin in the evening. The more sun you use during the day, the higher your serotonin level and thus the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Therefore try e.g. to spend your spare time outside. Instead of driving to work cycle or walk to work. By doing this you are on the way to a better sleep!