In a study at the University of Colorado in Boulder, researchers evaluated the circadian rhythms of a group of healthy Boulder residents.
What they found was surprising. Instead of melatonin levels rising only during the nighttime hours, about two hours after waking, melatonin levels would surge, causing significant daytime drowsiness period.
After delving deeper, the researchers discovered that this circadian imbalance (called chronodisruption) was the result of excessive exposure to artificial light at night.
The study showed that after just one week of camping without artificial light, the chronodisruption adjusted and melatonin levels normalized 100%.
Research has found that such circadian imbalances are linked to a host of health concerns related to bone and heart health, the integrity of the microbiome, prostate health, as well as one’s overall longevity. (2)
Top 10 Natural Ways to Increase your Melatonin Levels
1. No Artificial Light at Night
Ambient light or artificial light at night blocks the production of melatonin needed to get to sleep and stay asleep. Begin reducing blue and artificial light exposure starting at sunset, or 2-3 hours before bed. Make sure there are no lights on at night while you sleep. If necessary, use blackout curtains or an eye mask to block ambient light.
I am also a big fan of a “No Artificial Light Weekend.” A reset of the circadian rhythms can take place camping… or in your own home!
Take a weekend and do not turn on any lights, turn off the Wi-Fi and “lose” your cell phone for a weekend. If you can’t part with your cell phone, turn on the night filter that most cell phones have now. There are also apps that will apply a filter to block blue light emissions. Go to bed by candlelight, have dinner by candlelight, read by candlelight, and have a good night’s sleep. (1)
2. No LED Lights at Night
The earth’s sun gives off about 25% blue light, while LED light bulbs, computer screens, cell phones and televisions give off blue light levels at about 35%.
Research shows that it is the blue light, in particular, that blocks the melatonin levels first thing in the morning which normally would help you wake up and start your day. Blocking melatonin at night, by watching TV or checking your emails on your phone, will compromise the full production of melatonin while you sleep. (3)
This doesn’t just affect the depth of your sleep. Melatonin’s real job is to detoxify you, rebuild you and rejuvenate you during the wee hours of the night. (2)
We may only need a small amount of melatonin to get us to sleep and keep us asleep, but hindering the full production of melatonin may not show its harmful effects for years to come. This is just one of the reasons why I encourage testing your melatonin levels now before it’s too late.
3. Soak Up the Sun (in moderation!)
In order for us to produce an optimal amount of melatonin, we require an optimal amount of daylight or sunlight. Melatonin levels at night are dependent on a complete shutdown of melatonin during the day. This can only be accomplished if we are exposed to extremely bright sunlight during the day.
Light intensity is measured in lux. Most offices produce about 400 to 500 lux during the day. The sun can produce 4000 to 5000, and even more lux during the day–suggesting that sunlight may be 10 times or more brighter than indoor light.
Studies show that exposure to bright daylight can significantly increase melatonin production at night. (4,5,6) This makes good sense, as melatonin is the special hormone that connects us to the light/dark cycles.
4. Eat Melatonin-Rich Foods
One way to naturally boost our melatonin levels is to eat more melatonin-rich foods. Studies show that tart cherries have a significant amount of melatonin in them, and are linked to deeper and better quality sleep. (7)
Some of the foods that have high levels of melatonin or goji berries, tart cherries, walnuts, almonds, pineapple, tomatoes, bananas, oranges and many others. (8)
We RecommendEat Foods with Melatonin & Improve your Health
5. Take a Hot Bath at Night
Research shows that taking a hot bath at night has a relaxing effect on the body, and a resultant boosting effect on melatonin levels!
Perhaps this is due to the relaxing effect on cortisol levels from a hot bath. As cortisol decreases, melatonin levels will rise. (2,9)
6. No EMF or Wi-Fi Exposure at Night
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are produced by pretty much every electrical device. Generally, the EMF levels are only dangerous when you are occupationally exposed to high levels of EMF for prolonged periods of time. (15)
There is little research on Wi-Fi and cell phone service radiation on melatonin levels, but the research that has been done suggests reducing your exposure to EMF levels, particularly while you sleep, may offer an ounce of protection.
Avoid sleeping with your cell phone under your pillow, next to your pillow or next to your bed. Do your best to create a master Wi-Fi switch that can be turned off at night, power down your cell phones and computers and give your pineal gland every chance it can get to produce optimal melatonin levels.
7. Regulate Your Caffeine Intake
Most people have figured out that if they drink a cup of coffee too late in the afternoon or in the evening, they don’t sleep as well that evening. While coffee beans are loaded with melatonin, much of their beneficial effects are neutralized by the caffeine. (14) Caffeine is a stimulant and has been linked to a reduction in melatonin levels. Having a small amount of caffeine in the morning may help reduce melatonin production, but drinking excessive amounts of coffee or caffeinated beverages during the day can decrease melatonin production over time. (12,14)
Unfortunately, most people who drink coffee find themselves needing more and more of it to experience the benefits of mental clarity, energy and bowel regulation. If you are going to drink coffee in the morning, try to limit the amount of caffeine you ingest so not to become dependent on taking more and more of it. Over time, the increased intake of coffee may reduce your natural production of melatonin.
8. Take Time to Pray or Meditate
Studies show that people who meditate produce more melatonin then people who do not. (13) Melatonin seems to require a settled mind and body for it to be produced in the early evening hours.
This makes sense because relaxation techniques, such as prayer and meditation, help to lower cortisol and de-stress the body. When the body is de-stressed, many good things happen, including an increased production of melatonin.
9. Hot Milk Before Bed
Milk, whether it be from a mother, cow or goat is rich in melatonin. Drinking a cup of hot milk before bed has been shown to boost melatonin levels and support healthy sleep. (14) Stick with non-homogenized and vat-pasteurized milk whenever possible.
10. Eat Tryptophan-Rich Foods
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and one of the precursors to melatonin production. Increasing your intake of tryptophan-rich foods may boost melatonin levels. Some of the foods with the highest amount of tryptophan are spirulina, soy nuts, cottage cheese, chicken liver, pumpkin seeds, turkey, chicken, tofu, watermelon seeds, almonds, peanuts, and yogurt. (2)
Garbanzo beans, however, win the tryptophan prize. They are loaded with free tryptophan (meaning it is not attached to a protein like in other foods) making the uptake of this source of tryptophan the best.