Hormones are chemical messengers which help control all manner of bodily functions.
This includes mood, growth, reproduction, metabolism, and even sleep patterns.
Issues can range from problems falling and staying asleep to low quality sleep in general.
These may lead you to feel tired and groggy during the day and may indicate you an issue with your melatonin levels.
I’m Dr. Maria, a naturopathic doctor in Mississauga and I want to help you balance your hormones so you can live your life more fully.
Keep reading to find out more about the hormone melatonin, and ways to naturally manage it.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone which plays a number of roles in your body.
Its most well known effect is helping you fall asleep.
It does this by signaling to your body it’s night time, and helps you to relax so you can fall asleep easier, and stay asleep longer.
Although it’s made naturally by your body, many people also use melatonin supplements to help them fall asleep easier.
They can also be used to help with jet lag and adjusting to new time zones.
Where Is Melatonin Made In The Body?
Melatonin is a hormone produced by your pineal gland.
Your pineal gland is a small, pea shaped gland which is located in your brain.
Although it’s made in the pineal gland, melatonin can also be found in other parts of your body.
These include in bone marrow, in your gut, and even in your eyes.
What Does Melatonin Do?
So, melatonin is generally thought of as the “sleep hormone”, however, there’s more to it than just that.
Let’s have a look at how melatonin helps you sleep, as well as some of the other things it does in your body.
1. Melatonin Helps You Fall Asleep
Melatonin supplements are probably best known as a sleep aid.
They both lower the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep, and also increase the total amount of sleep you get.
In people with sleep related disorders, melatonin also helped to reduce disturbances and improve sleep quality and length.
2. Melatonin Manages Your Body Temperature
Melatonin plays a role in helping your body regulate its temperature.
A study in the Journal of Pineal Research looked at its effect on body temperature.
Study participants who were given higher doses of melatonin experienced greater drops in core temperature, and for a longer duration, than those who received a placebo.
3. Melatonin Manages Your Dopamine Levels
By binding to receptors in your brain, melatonin can help regulate dopamine levels.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which helps you to feel alert, motivated, and focused.
Although these are good things to have, they can also be counterproductive when you’re trying to fall asleep.
4. Melatonin Lowers Your Blood Pressure
For some people with hypertension, melatonin may help lower blood pressure.
In one 2004 study, men with untreated hypertension were given melatonin one hour before they went to sleep.
Melatonin was found to lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 6 and 4 mm Hg (millimetres of mercury) respectively.
It should be noted however, if you are already on medication to control your blood pressure, melatonin could actually cause it to rise more.
If you are thinking of using it to help with sleep, be sure to consult with your medical team first if you are on other medications.
5. Melatonin Can Help With Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder, appropriately shortened to “SAD”, is also known as seasonal depression.
It’s commonly thought of as the “winter blues” which happen due to colder temperatures and lack of sunlight during winter months.
What’s less known is some people experience seasonal affective disorder during the summer months.
If you have summer SAD, it can mean trouble sleeping and being tired during the day.
In these cases, using melatonin can help synchronize your circadian rhythm, and improve sleep.
6. Believe It Or Not, Melatonin Is An Antioxidant
You may have heard the term “antioxidant” before, but you might not be sure exactly what it means.
Antioxidants are molecules which act to counter the effects of free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable molecules which are made by your body in reaction to the environment.
Left unchecked, free radicals can cause oxidative stress.
Antioxidants help reduce oxidative stress and limit the damage caused by free radicals.
Usually, antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and other plant based substances.
But there are only two hormones that are also antioxidants.
Melatonin is one of them.
Health Disorders Associated With Melatonin
There are a number of disorders and health conditions associated with melatonin.
If you have low levels of melatonin, you could experience the following:
Excess melatonin levels are associated with:
- Lowered thyroid function
- Seasonal affective disorder
- Low adrenal function
- Low blood pressure
Can You Get Melatonin From Food?
If you want to get the benefits of melatonin, without reaching for a pill or capsule, you can do so by adding the following foods to your diet:
- Tart cherries
- Nuts, especially almonds and pistachios
- Goji berries
- Oily fish, such as sardines and salmon
How To Balance Your Melatonin Levels Naturally
There are ways to keep your melatonin levels in balance, without taking a supplement.
Let’s review a few of them now.
1. Turn Off the Light Well Before Bedtime
Your pineal gland begins to release melatonin when it starts to get dark, because it’s light sensitive.
Because of this, when there is too much light in your environment, it can affect the natural production of melatonin.
Turning off the lights and avoiding screens before bedtime will help your brain to produce the melatonin you need to fall asleep.
2. Make Sure You Get Enough Light During The Day
Just as avoiding lights close to bedtime is important for helping your body produce enough melatonin, the reverse is also true.
That is to say, getting light during the day also impacts how much melatonin you have.
Sunlight can help regulate hormones and affect your circadian rhythm.
3. If You Smoke, Quit
Simply put, if you smoke, your body may have trouble producing enough melatonin to help you fall asleep.
Smokers may have lower sleep quality, and sleep for shorter amounts of time than those who don’t smoke.
Additionally, nicotine may cause the secretion of melatonin to be delayed.
Book Your Appointment With The Mindful Healing Clinic Today
Do you have trouble falling and staying asleep at night?
Or maybe you work an irregular schedule and have trouble sleeping during the day when you are on night shifts.
Maybe you’ve been taking melatonin supplements and are looking for a more natural way to manage your sleep cycles.
Whatever the reason, I can help.
I’m Dr. Maria, a naturopathic doctor in Mississauga, Ontario and I run the Mindful Healing Clinic.
I’ll work with you to find natural solutions to your sleep issues, to help ensure you’re getting the restful sleep you need.