Now, I’m sure you have heard of the word hormone. But have you ever paused to ask yourself what they could be doing in your body?
Well. If you're clueless in this regard, let me break it down for you.
Hormones are chemical messengers that travel through your bloodstream. They serve to coordinate complex body processes such as metabolism, fertility and growth.
Because of hormones, your right arm length is similar to that of your left. Similarly, before birth, hormones are responsible for guiding the development of your brain and the reproductive system.
Because of hormones, the different parts of the body are able to communicate with each other during elaborate and important events like sleeping.
So, today, I want to narrow down to a specific hormone that is associated with sleep; the melatonin hormone. I’m going to list down ten facts about this hormone that you maybe had no idea about.
It’s produced from the pineal gland of your brain and is responsible for controlling your sleep and wake cycles.
Melatonin production is controlled by your circadian rhythm and its release peaks up during the night. After production, this hormone is released into the cerebrospinal fluid and the bloodstream. The hormone is then carried by circulation from the brain to other parts of the body.
It’s suppressed by blue light
The level of Melatonin in your body is ten times higher at night than during the day. With reduced light at night, the optic nerve in your eyes sends a signal to the pineal gland in your brain. The reduced light at night signals night time according to the circadian rhythm making the pineal gland release more Melatonin.
However, the high Melatonin levels in your body are suppressed by sources of blue light in your house. Most common sources of blue light in your house include the TV, computer, tablets and Smartphones. Suppressing of the melatonin levels in your body makes falling asleep difficult.
To avoid the suppression of Melatonin levels, reduce your exposure to blue light in the evenings. Alternatively, you could consider the use of red light which turns out to be more friendly to Melatonin.
Melatonin levels fluctuate according to varying degrees of light
Melatonin levels in your body are controlled by the lightning receptors in your brain. Depending on the degree of light received by this lightning receptors, the production of melatonin in your brain is almost always initiated immediately.
These light-sensitive receptors also play an important role in regulating Melatonin in your body. The blind cannot make use of their optic nerves. This means they are unable to regulate their Melatonin levels naturally. For that reason, they have to use melatonin supplements for its regulation.
Melatonin is the natural body’s pacesetter
Apart from having a circadian rhythm, melatonin levels also come with a circannual rhythm. This feature is very instrumental in signaling seasons, days and years.
Higher levels of melatonin often occur in the autumn and winter seasons during long nights. On the other hand, lower levels occur in spring and summer.
Thus, Melatonin helps to regulate the body’s internal natural clock.
Melatonin supplements help to adjust the body’s natural clock to allow falling asleep
Blind persons and most shift workers use Melatonin supplements to induce sleep in their bodies. The Melatonin supplements are consumed in pill form.
Given the nature of shift workers, some find themselves working throughout the night. Finding rest during the day could be a tall order for them given their routines that are out of sync with their circadian rhythms.
People suffering from Insomnia or have experienced a jet lag could benefit greatly from the pills.
Works best with a rigid sleep schedule
The importance of having a regular sleep pattern can never be stressed enough. Going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time daily is important for maintaining your melatonin levels.
Melatonin levels in your body increase at about two hours before going to bed. All the more reason as to why you should maintain a rigid sleep schedule.
Regulates the female menstrual cycle
Apparently, the four commonly known hormones are not the only ones that have a part in the menstrual cycle. These four include oestrogen, progesterone, follicle stimulating hormone and the luteinizing hormone.
These hormones are responsible for the onset, recurrence and duration of the menstrual cycle.
Melatonin comes in to regulate the actions of these hormones.
Only helps you fall asleep
Melatonin can only go as far as making you fall asleep on your cosy latex mattress or any other mattress of choice. After falling asleep many other factors determine the quality and duration of your sleep.
Some factors you want to pay attention to include your sleep and wake time; it has to be consistent, the foods you eat before bedtime; avoid taking stimulants some few hours to bedtime. Also, the bedroom environment greatly counts in ensuring that you get that quality sleep.
It’s important for children with development disabilities
Melatonin turns out to be beneficial to children suffering from autism.
Many of the children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder always find it difficult sleeping. Some of the children affected have been found to have quite low levels of melatonin. Feeding some of these children with Melatonin supplements has been found to help them in falling asleep faster.
Melatonin has also been credited with improving daytime behavior in children with ASD. Other effects the supplement is said to have on children is that it enables them to sleep for longer hours at night while waking up fewer times in their sleep.
High stress levels affect the balance of melatonin and cortisol in one’s body
For cortisol to work well, it needs a rigid sleep schedule. Two hours before your regular sleep time, melatonin levels increase in your body.
However, Cortisol, a stress hormone operates on the opposite cycle. It decreases a few hours to bedtime and increases when a person wakes up.
If it happens that you are experiencing high stress levels, these two hormones become misaligned leading to an increase in cortisol levels and a decrease in Melatonin during sleep time. This greatly interferes with your sleep quality.