What is melatonin and how does it affect your sleep?•
Posted on February 01 2021
Melatonin is a hormone produced in a small structure in our brain called the pineal gland. Its main function is to give our body temporary benchmarks, which is why it is essential for the circadian regulation of our sleep. In case of dysregulation of the secretion of melatonin, many sleep disorders can appear. Conversely, some sleep disorders can be treated with melatonin.
A natural sleep hormone
The many biological functions of the human body are punctuated by circadian regulation, a physiological cycle that lasts a little over 24 hours. It has the effect of regulating the alternation of the sleep-wake rhythm, the internal temperature of the body and the secretion of certain hormones, as well as metabolic or dietary rhythms. The most powerful of circadian rhythm synchronisers is the alternation of light and dark, but physical and social activity, and diet also play an important role.
For its part, melatonin represents one of the essential intermediary for our circadian clock. The secretion of this hormone is intended to prepare the body for rest and sleep. In fact, as soon as the light drops, the secretion of melatonin increases in order to put the body in "sleep" mode. For a person who presents a "normal" circadian regulation, the melatonin level will increase considerably around 9 pm and the peak of melatonin release will be reached between 2 and 4 in the morning. The secretion will then decrease and the melatonin will no longer be present during the day. It is very important to note that the secretion of melatonin can be blocked or interrupted by the light present during the evening or during the night.
How can melatonin be disturbed?
Although melatonin is naturally produced by the body, its secretion may be disturbed in some cases of inappropriate exposure to intense light. For example, using screens in the evening can delay the release of melatonin and make it difficult to fall asleep. On the contrary, the lack of correct light stimulation during the day can delay the stopping of melatonin secretion and make it harder to wake up. This is especially true in cases of insufficient light exposure during the morning. It should be noted that the secretion of melatonin changes during our life and that the pineal gland will secrete less and less.
Maintaining good melatonin levels
The most important thing is to maintain a regular sleep pattern while maintaining a correct alternation of light and dark in your environment. We must limit exposure to light during the evening and protect ourselves by reducing the intensity of the lights and screens around us. Special glasses, can be a simple way to preserve our circadian rhythm by blocking the blue light from our screens. Putting your phone or computer to the side at least an hour before going to bed will help falling asleep. On the contrary, it is important to expose yourself to light when you wake up and during the morning (open shutters, blinds and expose yourself to natural light). Light therapy can be useful in some cases of circadian rhythm disturbance.There are also melatonin-based treatments that can compensate for low or delayed secretion of the hormone, but the process of this treatment and its dosage must be validated by a doctor. Therefore, avoid self-medication and prefer a professional consultation.
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