Why regular sleep is essential to good health and what to do if you’re not making the cut.
Melatonin is naturally secreted by our pineal gland in our brain in response to darkness and in accordance with your circadian rhythm, your body’s internal clock that oscillates parallel to the 24-hour daily cycles of the earth. Melatonin is typically secreted between 9-10 PM, but this can be affected by a number of factors; having the TV on in the room, jet lag, lack of bright sunlight exposure during the day, temperature over 70 degrees in your bedroom, to name only a few.
The importance of getting a restful night’s sleep cannot be under stated. It is essential to mood, mental clarity, cognition, memory, immune system functioning, weight gain/retention, hormone secretion and regulation, and gene expression. Some research is even showing a lack of sleep to increase your risk of developing cancer. It can be difficult to commit to a nightly sleep hygiene routine, but try to pick a time to have “lights out” (and I mean OUT) and follow through. This would optimally be between 10-11 PM. If you are already having sleep issues, some things to try are turning off all electronics for at least one hour before bed, keeping your thermostat set to below 70 degrees, and sleeping in as close to total darkness as possible. If you’re still having trouble, I would recommend consulting your physician on melatonin supplementation to help get you back on track with your sleep/wake cycles.
There are many additional benefits to melatonin supplementation, including a decrease in muscle soreness and tension, but by far the most profound would be its potential to aid in disease prevention. According to a study in the Journal of Pineal Research, supplementation with melatonin has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer by regulating the sleep wake cycle and thereby regulating hormone production and gene expression. The study also concluded that melatonin can help to decrease this risk by inhibiting the growth of several cancer types while also signaling cancer-cell specific death.
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