Q: How do I produce melatonin at the right times?

Q: How do I produce melatonin at the right times?

Asked by Allan


Karen’s thoughts:

The quickest and easiest way to produce melatonin at the right time is to take a melatonin supplement. These supplements are much healthier than taking prescribed sleeping medications. Supplements are a great way to kick-start a healthy sleep pattern. In North America, you can buy melatonin supplements at any pharmacy. However, they aren’t available in all countries.

Reduce caffeine

Usually, melatonin levels begin to increase two hours before you fall asleep, reach their peak between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., and then begin to decline in preparation for you waking up. Stanford University found that coffee drinking halved the melatonin levels that were produced. The reduction lasted 10 hours. This is a powerful finding, because that reduction is definitely going to cause delays in falling asleep. If at all possible, give up caffeine completely if you have insomnia. Or, the second best thing would be to limit your tea and coffee consumption to just in the morning. Especially if you have ADHD, as people with ADHD often have very sensitive systems — so caffeine could be affecting you much more than you realize.

Light, and blue light

Sunlight is a spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, and when it hits the earth, it can be divided into 5 groups. Ultraviolet A, B, C, visible range, and infrared range. The visible range spectrum is visible to the human eye, and blue light is part of this spectrum. Light is important because it can both help and hinder your sleep. Our eyes need to be exposed to light daily, as it regulates our sleep pattern. But blue light suppresses melatonin and is bad for sleep. If we go from one man-made environment to the next, house to car to office to car to house, our melatonin levels don’t change and our body doesn’t know when to sleep or when to be alert. You can help your body by spending time outdoors (and without your shades) every day. Here are a few examples:

- Go for a walk during your lunch break
- Do your exercise outside rather than inside
- Run errands on foot rather than driving

Conversely, you might be getting blue light when you don’t want it. TV and computers can give off blue light, which keeps you awake. So it’s important not to engage in these activities two hours before bedtime.

As well as staying away from TV and computers, you can take extra measures. There is something called “blue light blocking glasses” which have been found to be highly effective for treating sleep disorders. You wear them for two hours before bed, so that melatonin can be released, and you feel sleepy by the time you go to bed.

Their lenses are orange, and a quick Google search for “blue light blocking glasses” brings up pages of suppliers so you can find them in the country you live in. If you wear prescription glasses, you can get lenses that fit over your glasses.

A melatonin-friendly bedroom

Your bedroom needs to be completely dark when it’s time to sleep, as even just a pinch of light will interfere with melatonin release.

Here are some strategies on to do this:

1) Purchase some blackout curtains or blinds. These will completely block out the light, even at the seams. Carol from Virginia e-mailed me saying she would routinely wake up at 5 a.m. However, from the very first night she slept with blackout curtains, she was able to sleep all the way through to 7 a.m.

2) Keep your bedroom cool. While you don’t want it to be an ice box, you do want it on the cool side — because this also lets the pineal gland know that it’s time to produce melatonin. Personally, this is why I freaking love air conditioners.

3) Don’t have any electrical gadgets that produce light in your bedroom. The obvious items are TVs and computers. Less obvious are alarm clocks that have a digital light, or a cell phone that lights up when you get a text or e-mail.