How can you increase melatonin naturally?
During sleep many biological processes happen. And when we reach the deep sleep stage, our body goes into repair mode, working on our muscles, organs, and cells. It’s a basic process of survival and we have a natural sleep aide that activates this cycle – melatonin. This hormone helps us sleep longer, deeper, and more restoratively.
At night there is 10 to 15 times more melatonin in the bloodstream than during the day, thereby giving it the name, sleep hormone. But its role is much greater to our health overall – master regenerator, immunity booster, potent antioxidant agent - so should be called something more like the magical hormone instead!
How is melatonin produced?
There are two main processes for melatonin – production and secretion.
It is primarily produced by the pineal gland in the brain, but also in other tissues and organs, including the stomach. Darkness is necessary for secretion but not so for production. It’s actually derived from the amino acid tryptophan, conversion occurring with the exposure to UV light. And the earlier in the morning you get this light, the earlier in the day melatonin can be produced, helping you get to sleep easier that night.
The process of secretion can only occur when the brain perceives darkness, normally occurring post-sunset. The pineal gland in the brain waits for a message from the photoreceptors in your eyes, detecting the level of lightness or darkness in the environment. When the sun sets and light dims, the messages are sent and the brain registers night-time, triggering the secretion of melatonin into your bloodstream. As your melatonin levels increase, you experience the feeling of sleepiness.
So, it’s light that controls the melatonin cycle - production begins in the morning light, and release occurs in the darkness.
What is causing my melatonin to be low?
You may not be feeling the effects of melatonin because not enough has been produced, the secretion process at night-time is being suppressed or both.
Either way, the solution relates to light.
If your body isn’t producing enough melatonin
It’s likely you are not getting adequate exposure to sunlight during the day. As mentioned, it’s the UV component of sunlight that provides the energy for the amino acid tryptophan to be converted into melatonin. Being constantly indoors and not exposing yourself to UV light is impacting your ability to convert tryptophan, the precursor to melatonin.
If melatonin is not being secreted when it needs to be
If you’re exposed to blue light at night, it’s likely the signal to secrete melatonin is weak or non-existent. If your eyes detect light in your environment, particularly blue light, they aren’t able to send the release message to the pineal gland. Phones, tablets, computers, and LED light bulbs emit an unnaturally high spike of blue light, not balanced by the other colors of the spectrum, like natural light is. Blue light during the day is necessary for alertness, but unnecessary at night for the same reason. These blue wavelengths entering the eyes trigger a ‘daytime’ signal to the biological clock in the brain, which now mistakenly believes it’s not time for melatonin to be released into the bloodstream. Not until the brain perceives 3 to 4 hours of darkness, following sunset, will the switch to release melatonin be activated.
What can I do to boost my melatonin naturally?
Our philosophy is to optimize the body’s natural processes by fixing the root cause of the problem. Only once that has been exhausted with no effect, should we consider outside intervention, such as supplements.
Before reaching for that pill, read through our recommendations. You’ll see they aren’t difficult to apply and are likely to improve your health in other ways too!
- Expose your eyes and skin to the morning sun for optimal tryptophan activation and melatonin production, every day.
- Block artificial melatonin-suppressing blue light all day, especially at night-time, after the sun has set. You can do this with eyewear that has been expertly developed to block the most harmful wavelengths of blue light effectively.
- In the hours before bedtime, make your environment as dark as possible, and sleep in complete darkness.
- Repeat daily!
By working with the power of light, rather than against it, you can naturally take control of your health!