Melatonin is a natural hormone that is present in our bodies. It is produced by the pineal gland which is located just above the middle of the brain. It is also produced in the gastrointestinal tract. Melatonin helps to regulate sleep in humans and mammals.
Melatonin is also viewed by some as a mega antioxidant. It protects the body by helping to protect it from cellular damage and disease. Melatonin does this by staving off free radicals that can damage the body in many ways.
If you plan to take melatonin bear in mind that it works differently from sleeping pills. The former induces sleep, the latter kicks off the sleep cycle. Your sleep cycle tends to begin hours before you go to bed. So take your supplement a few hours before darkness. The melatonin will enter your bloodstream and make you think darkness has arrived earlier, enabling you to sleep at your scheduled bedtime.
A word of warning, however – too much melatonin can also be bad for you. This is the downside of supplementation. You will know when you have too much melatonin when you begin to feel sleepy even during the daytime. That triggers an altogether different type of sleep disorder. That is when you know the supplementation is no longer useful.
The body requires an adequate amount of melatonin to regulate sleep properly. Instead of supplementation, you may try other things. For example, melatonin tends to be activated by darkness, and levels go down with exposure to light. For more information on the relationship between melatonin and darkness go to sleepfoundation.org.
Another way you can try to get a restful, natural sleep is to add more melatonin rich foods to your daily diet. There are many options if you want to do this.
- Olive oil
- Wine (some beers also)
Common fruits and vegetables contain melatonin as well such as:
- Grape skins
- Tart cherries
While some of these foods only contain a small amount of melatonin, by incorporating them in wide varieties into your daily diet, you can obtain enough melatonin to make up for the amount that your body lacks. For a list of foods containing melatonin go to eHow’s food list.
Take note: Most foods that contain melatonin are consumed for their health benefits rather than as a sleep aid. It will take time before you may experience any sleep benefits by altering your diet. If your sleep still doesn’t improve, consult your doctor for new options.