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The often-ignored facet of our lifestyles is finally getting the place it deserves in discussions and I am hopeful that soon it will regain its stature in our lives.

We have grown up hearing the popular adage “Early to Bed and Early to Rise, Makes you Healthy, Wealthy and Wise” which kind of diffused over the years growing up trying to meet deadlines, meeting our ambitions, the fear of missing out on socialising, hectic routine at office, balancing work life schedules and so on and so forth.

Speaking for myself, I have been blessed with a fairly good sleep pattern which I try to maintain (barring a few slips in a year). I love my restorative sleep and prefer to keep it that way.

I have chosen to write about Melatonin today – which is our very own personal Sleep “Advisor” Hormone – to raise awareness and encourage you to sleep well.

I start with words from Johns Hopkins sleep expert Luis F. Buenaver, Ph.D., “Your body produces melatonin naturally. It doesn’t make you sleep, but as melatonin levels rise in the evening it puts you into a state of quiet wakefulness that helps promote sleep,”.

This statement underscores the importance of melatonin in promoting sleep. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland located in our brain. It is a derivative of the amino acid tryptophan and produced by humans and some animals.

In our lives it is crucial for setting and controlling our sleep patterns or circadian rhythms or inner clock. This regulates why we feel sleepy around the same time and wake up around the same time, in usual circumstances.

One very important factor to consider here is the role of light in melatonin production. Its production is influenced by the detection of light and dark by the retina of the eye. For example, the production of melatonin is inhibited when the retina detects light and is stimulated in the absence of light.

Melatonin generation by the pineal gland, which peaks during the night time hours, induces physiological changes that promote sleep, such as decreased body temperature and respiration rate. During the day, melatonin levels are low because large amounts of light are detected by the retina. Light inhibition of melatonin production is central to stimulating wakefulness in the morning and to maintaining alertness throughout the day.

Talking about Melatonin production, sleep and light below are some points to consider:

1. Expose yourself to maximum natural light during the day for alertness.

2. Wind down the screen time towards the evening.

3. Avoid using the screen at least an hour before sleep.

The precursor to melatonin is serotonin, a neurotransmitter that itself is derived from the amino acid tryptophan. It has been proved that the melatonin concentration in human serum could significantly increase after the consumption of melatonin containing food.

Eggs and fish are higher melatonin-containing food groups in animal foods, whereas in plant foods, nuts are with the highest content of melatonin. Some kinds of mushrooms, cereals and germinated legumes or seeds are also good dietary sources of melatonin.

Since, melatonin is a derivative of tryptophan, an amino acid, it is also advisable to include foods rich in tryptophan to help boost its production.

High tryptophan foods include nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, oats, beans, lentils, and eggs. The recommended daily intake for tryptophan is 4mg per kilogram of body weight or 1.8mg per pound. A person weighing 70kg should consume around 280mg of tryptophan per day.

Furthermore, studies show that melatonin exhibits other functions, such as antioxidant activity, anti-inflammatory characteristics, boosting immunity, anticancer activity, cardiovascular protection, anti-diabetic, anti-obese, neuroprotective and anti-aging activity.

It is important that we help boost melatonin and help ourselves sleep better. It is crucial to include melatonin/tryptophan rich foods in the right combinations so ensure their maximum bioavailability else the effort goes down the drain. Lifestyle modifications and light therapy tips need to followed for a seamless sleeping experience and refreshed wakefulness.

Sleep well to be more productive during the day!

Contact us for the next WhatsApp guidance session on Better Sleep and avail of our expertise to lead a happy, healthy, productive life.

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