Sleep: vital for health. Melatonin: vital for sleep

 

Melatonin is an important and powerful hormone necessary for a good night’s sleep.

Unusually it has both water and fat soluble properties, making it one of the only known antioxidants in nature that can protect all parts of a cell. Indeed recent evidence suggests that melatonin plays a critical role in free radical scavenging activities, preserving DNA, protein and lipid from oxidative damage. So, melatonin is vital for sleep, while sleep helps increase production of melatonin. Both are vital for health.

Studies have shown that low levels of melatonin may be associated with hormone-dependent cancers such as breast, prostate, testicular and ovarian, as melatonin has a calming effect on reproductive hormones. Melatonin helps control the timing and release of female reproductive hormones. Preliminary evidence suggests that its strong antioxidant properties may help strengthen the immune system.

The key to melatonin production

Melatonin production is increased by darkness, so make bedrooms conducive to sleep, dark with no bed-lights, tablets or smart phones and also add black-out curtains. Daytime exercise and bright light exposure will also promote a regular circadian rhythm (sleep clock) of melatonin. At day’s end, in preparation for sleep, avoid caffeine, spicy and heavy foods to reduce the risk of insomnia. Jet lag, shift work and poor vision can also disrupt melatonin cycles.

Foods that encourage the production of melatonin

Dairy products (milk, yogurt, though try to avoid cheese), eggs, soybeans, nuts and seeds, mango, bananas, whole grains, cherries. Micronutrients important for the production in melatonin are vitamin B6, magnesium and zinc.

Meals to eat for a goodnight’s sleep: wholemeal pita bread and houmous, mango yogurt smoothie, eggs on whole grain toast, peanut butter and banana sandwich, to drink – a glass of warm milk.

Note of caution: Before you consider melatonin supplements check with your doctor first, as there could be potential side effects or interactions with other medication.

 

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Iris is the founder of No Targets Just Routine. She has researched food since 2009 and believes “Happiness is real food shared with loved ones.”

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