It’s 1:00am and you’ve spent the last couple hours trying to sleep. Your sheep count has climbed well over 1,000 and simultaneously practicing deep breathing exercises has not proven successful. Ready or not – in just 4hrs 58min you need to get up and begin another day. Sound familiar? You are not alone – more than half of Americans claim they don’t get enough sleep.
You might find a successful night’s sleep in trying to regulate your body’s melatonin levels. Melatonin is a natural hormone found in your pineal gland (located right in the middle of your brain). At night, our bodies activate this gland which releases Melatonin and makes us feel sleepy. When daylight comes, we signal our pineal gland to take a break so our Melatonin levels lower once again.
Sometimes, we throw our melatonin levels off without even knowing it! Studies have shown that bright lights, especially from electronics such as your TV, iPad or Kindle, send false “daytime” signals to the brain keeping your Melatonin levels low and the mind active. When you start thinking about bedtime, try turning off the TV, dimming the lights and maybe spend a few minutes reading a relaxing book. Also, make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible when you feel ready to sleep. You definitely won’t regret investing in some heavy curtains.
If you find yourself feeling groggy in the morning, start thinking about ways to decrease your melatonin levels too. Try taking off your sunglasses on a sunny morning and turning on your kitchen lights when eating breakfast. During the day, see if you can spend some time outside, even a couple minutes might make a big difference. And one final tip – during the dark winter months many people find success in UV lamps, which replicate the sun’s rays and trick the brain into waking up. Give it a try!
Photo by: Alan Cleaver