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How Melatonin and Serotonin Affect Your Sleep Pattern

Melatonin and serotonin are hormones found in the human body and, as well as many other functions, work together to contribute to a peaceful night's sleep. Depending on what country you live in, they can also be taken in supplement form as a natural sleep remedy.


Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. For sleep, its purpose is to stimulate sleepiness, lower the body's temperature and control the sleep cycle. This signal is part of the process required to have a healthy and regular sleep. 

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter located in the central nervous system, platelets, stomach and intestine of the body. It has a calming effect on the body and will regulate sleep. Melatonin and serotonin are interrelated and work together to aid sleep. 

As the night approaches and the sky darkens, the levels of serotonin in the body increase, sending signals to the brain to produce melatonin. These two features combine to kick start the body's natural sleep cycle.

Other functions of melatonin and serotonin:

  • Melatonin also works with the immune system and slows the process of ageing, as it is an antioxidant. It is a clever hormone that works alongside other antioxidants and helps to prevent oxidative stress.
  • Serotonin has many functions. Some of these include: gauging appetite, affecting organ development, regulating mood and contributing to feeling happy.

melatonin and serotoninA building block of these two sleep regulators is an amino acid known medically as tryptophan. It is an essential amino acid needed in the body obtained from dietary sources. Tryptophan is primarily found in food containing protein e.g. meat, cheese, eggs, milk and wheat flour. 

Tryptophan can also be found in some fruits and vegetables. The body needs this amino acid to function correctly and this is why it is essential. Tryptophan is available as a dietary supplement but there have been varied results obtained from research carried out in regards to its effectiveness. 

 

Therefore, as with any nutrient required in the body, it is better to obtain tryptophan by consuming real, healthy food. Vegetarians and vegans should not worry about a deficiency in the amino acid as it is in many food types that will suit their diet. 

 

Levels of melatonin, 'the Dracula of hormones', are affected by light. During day time hours, especially in the summer time when it is extremely light for long periods, the light will be converted through the retina and then sent via an electric pulse to the hypothalamus. 

The hypothalamus transmits a signal to the body's glands to reduce the levels of melatonin being supplied. The opposite effect can happen during winter months, whereby the lack of prolonged periods of light can cause the body's glands to over produce melatonin which can, in certain cases, result in seasonal affective disorders (SAD).

Melatonin supplements can be used to help treat numerous sleep related conditions. Insomnia is one of the main conditions that can be treated. It's a prolonged period of sleeplessness and affects many adults and children around the world. 

Experiencing poor sleep can happen to anyone at any stage of their life. Even young children and babies can have periods of insomnia and restlessness. The symptoms of sleeplessness, and other sleep disorders, can be difficult to live with because the repercussions of disturbed nights can spill into day time activity and leave a person feeling lethargic and drowsy. Sleep is made very difficult without the correct levels of melatonin and serotonin.

Natural Ways of Boosting Melatonin and Serotonin

melatonin and serotoninEating protein and choosing not to avoid healthy fats is required for hormonal processes. 

Many believe that fats should be avoided. Good (unsaturated) fats are important, whereas products containing saturated fat (such as junk food) should be steered clear of. 

Attempting to better your routine and to regulate sleep will work well for promoting healthy levels of serotonin. Although the neurotransmitter works to aid sleep, it has to work even harder when sleep patterns are not regular. 

If there is nothing preventing you from having regular quality sleep, then you should try and set a routine for yourself if at all possible. When the body is resting properly, all parts of it will be more efficient. 

Try and avoid any stimulants when possible and especially before sleeping. These fake substances may feel uplifting but over time they can exhaust valuable hormones. Opt for caffeine free products if you miss the flavor of the drink.

What happens if someone has low levels of melatonin and serotonin?

Due to the fact that it is a neurotransmitter that promotes a happy feeling, supplements can be given to promote this if a person has a serotonin deficiency. This is often advised to people experiencing anxiety, stress, depression and poor sleep. Serotonin is a common ingredient in antidepressant medication.

melatonin and serotoninSimilar to serotonin, anxiety can be linked to people who have a low level of melatonin. 

When the levels of uplifting, happy feelings are not being produced as much in the body, this can make a person anxious, paranoid and depressed. 

It is hard to cope with psychological disorders but it even more difficult when you cannot pinpoint what is causing the problem. If could be a physical reaction, or lack of action, occurring in the brain.

In conclusion, to benefit from and maintain a healthy, natural sleep pattern, both physical and mental wellbeing is of utmost importance. There are so many different factors that can be beneficial or detrimental health. If you are unsure of what these are, you can speak to your doctor or physician. 

In general, sticking to the following rules should help:

  • Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet full of good food and nutrients
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid overly sugared, processed fluids
  • Exercise regularly to the best of your ability
  • Regulate sleep by attempting to get between six and nine hours every night when possible. This rule does not apply to children as they require a lot more sleep than adults.



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