When it comes to healthy living, a good night’s sleep is key. Sure you feel good after a restful night’s sleep, but its importance goes beyond boosting your mood. Getting enough sleep has direct and positive effects on your weight, heart, mind, and overall well-being.
Although we all understand the benefits of sleep, the CDC estimates that 1 in every 3 Americans do not get enough sleep. Many factors can be attributed to this epidemic, but one in particular stands out.
Many people have low melatonin levels. Nor do they have the know-how to naturally boost melatonin production on their own.
During a 24-hour period, each of us produces melatonin, which controls when we go to sleep and when we wake up. This cycle is called the circadian rhythm and it is very sensitive to outside factors. There’s a reason why it’s nearly impossible to get out of bed on a rainy day. Or why many people experience seasonal depression during winter months. Those who work in front of a computer all day have a hard time falling asleep, as well as those suffering from anxiety.
When melatonin levels are high, you start to feel sleepy. But when levels are low, it can be almost impossible to fall asleep. Thankfully, there are ways to boost your melatonin levels and regain control of your sleep cycle. Let’s take a look at our list of the top 12 natural ways to boost your melatonin levels.
1. Increase Natural Sunlight Exposure
Most of us wake up in the morning while it’s still dark. We commute to work, park in the parking garage, and sit in an office all day. By the time we make it home, it’s already dark again. By limiting your exposure to natural sunlight, you are confusing your body’s natural clock. Your body thinks it’s supposed to be awake throughout the night and therefore does not know when to produce melatonin.
Try taking time out of your day for a ten-minute walk outside. Aim for the morning hours, but if you are pressed for time, get outside during your lunch break. This will let your body know that it is daytime and will help in resetting your circadian rhythm.
2. Go to Bed at A Reasonable Time
Make sure you’re going to bed early enough to get at least 8 hours of sleep. When you stay up late, your body doesn’t produce enough melatonin at the right time. This makes you sleepy in the morning and awake in the evening. This feeling can be very similar to jetlag and can take sometimes days to overcome. Just this slight change in routine can naturally raise your melatonin levels.
3. No Artificial Lights at Night
Computer screens, cell phones, light bulbs, and televisions give off what is called blue light. Blue light blocks the production of melatonin. Watching TV or checking your emails in the morning help wake you up, but doing this at night will prevent you from falling asleep.
Try reducing your exposure to artificial lights 2-3 hours before you go to sleep. This will ensure a high melatonin production by the time you go to bed.
4. Eat More Melatonin-Rich Foods
Eating foods with high amounts of tryptophan will naturally increase melatonin production. Tryptophan is an amino acid that your body does not produce naturally, but it is needed in the production of melatonin. Tryptophan can be found in most foods that contain protein, including almonds, oats, turkey, chicken, and cottage cheese.
5. Invest in A Weighted Blanket
Another great way to naturally boost your melatonin levels is with a weighted blanket. For years, occupational therapists have been using weighted blankets as a therapeutic tool. Weighted blankets put pressure on the body’s sensory receptors, soothing the nervous system and regulating hormone production.
Researchers found that after using a weighted blanket, serotonin levels increased by 28%, and dopamine by 31%. Not only do these “happy hormones” have a positive effect on your mood, but serotonin is directly linked to melatonin production. When serotonin levels are high, melatonin production increases.
6. Keep Your Bedroom Dark
Those who work night shifts can appreciate the connection between sunlight and sleep. Trying to go to sleep in the early hours of the morning is a daunting task. Only when their bedroom is dark enough to naturally increase melatonin production, can they fall asleep.
Keep all blinds closed and do not use night lights. When there is too much light in the room, your body thinks it’s daytime and will not produce melatonin.
7. Deal with Stress
Melatonin isn’t the only hormone that fluctuates with our sleep and wake schedules. Cortisol, the body’s natural stress hormone, also plays a role in our internal clock. However, cortisol levels fluctuate on an opposite cycle. Production naturally increases during the day and decreases at before bed.
However, if you are stressed, cortisol levels remain high and melatonin production cannot start until those levels begin to decrease again. These two hormones become misaligned and your sleep schedule gets thrown off.
Try incorporating meditation, yoga, exercise, or journaling into your daily routine. This will help keep your stress levels under control, which will decrease cortisol levels.
8. Cut Down On Caffeine Intake
Although we all love a warm cup of coffee in the morning, drinking coffee late in the day actually block melatonin production. Caffeine triggers the body’s “fight or flight” response and increases the stress hormone, cortisol. Drinking too much caffeine can make you irritable, nervous, and unable to fall asleep. These symptoms mimic anxiety symptoms, even in a healthy person.
If you still want to sip on something warm in the evening, try making the switch to caffeine-free drinks. Chamomile, chai tea, and even lemon water contain natural antioxidants that won’t give you the jitters.
9. Eat More Magnesium
Magnesium also naturally boosts your melatonin levels. You can find magnesium in spinach, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, black beans, avocados, and dark chocolate.
10. Take A Hot Bath or Shower
Another great way to naturally boost your melatonin levels is to take a hot bath or shower. If you have access to a steam or sauna room, even better! Heat naturally reduces tension in your muscles and boosts neuron activity in your brain. Sweating during a workout, or even laying out in the sun will reduce cortisol levels, allowing your melatonin production to increase.
11. Reduce Wi-Fi Exposure at Night
Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) can be dangerous when exposed for long periods of time. As of today, there is not much research on the effects of Wi-Fi and cell phone radiation. But we do know that exposure to EMFs reduces melatonin production.
Avoid sleeping with your phone next to your head, and if possible, turn off your Wi-Fi at night. This will give your body the chance to produce enough melatonin before you go to sleep.
12. Quit Smoking
Smoking cigarettes at night actually reduces the amount of melatonin in your body. If you smoke, try to limit your cigarettes to the morning, or better yet, kick the habit completely. If you need help quitting, consult your doctor.
By making these small adjustments, you can naturally boost your melatonin production and get a better night's sleep. You deserve to wake up feeling refreshed in the morning.