10 Ways to Increase Melatonin Naturally for Better Sleep

From tryptophan, sun, and superfoods to blocking blue light, and minimizing caffeine and EMF, we have your covered for connecting to circadian rhythms.

In This Article

Go Outside for Melatonin + Circadian Rhythms 

In a study at the University of Colorado in Boulder, researchers evaluated circadian rhythms of a group of healthy Boulder residents. 

What they found was surprising. Instead of melatonin levels rising only during nighttime hours, about two hours after waking, melatonin levels would surge, causing significant daytime drowsiness. 

Delving deeper, researchers discovered this circadian imbalance (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%. 

After just one weekend of camping without artificial light, circadian rhythms normalized by 69%.1 

Research finds such circadian imbalances are linked to a host of health concerns related to bone and heart health, microbiome integrity, prostate health, as well as overall longevity.2

>>> Learn more about the importance of melatonin here. 

10 Natural Ways to Increase Melatonin Levels 

1. No Artificial Light at Night 

Ambient or artificial light at night blocks melatonin production, needed to fall and stay asleep. Begin reducing blue and artificial light exposure at sunset, or two to three hours before bed. Make sure there are no lights on 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 circadian rhythm reset 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. If you can’t part with your 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%. 

lifespa image, blue light dangers, woman reading on computer at night

Research shows that it is blue light, in particular, that blocks 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 full production of melatonin while you sleep.3

This doesn’t just affect 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 full production of melatonin may not show its harmful effects for years. 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 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 400-500 lux during the day. The sun can produce 4000-5000+ lux during the day, suggesting sunlight may be 10x+ brighter than indoor light. 

Studies show exposure to bright daylight can significantly increase melatonin production at night.4-6 This makes sense, as melatonin is the special hormone that connects us to the light-dark cycles.

4. Eat Melatonin-Rich Foods 

Every plant on the planet carries a certain amount of melatonin. They, too, are dependent on making light-dark cycle adjustments in order to survive. 

One way to naturally boost melatonin levels is to eat more melatonin-rich foods. Studies show tart cherries have a significant amount of melatonin, and are linked to deeper and higher quality sleep.7

High Melatonin Foods 

  • goji berries 
  • tart cherries 
  • walnuts 
  • almonds 
  • pineapple 
  • tomatoes 
  • bananas 
  • oranges

5. Take a Hot Bath at Night 

Research shows 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 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, EMF levels are only dangerous when you are occupationally exposed to high levels for prolonged periods of time.15 

There is little research on Wi-Fi and cell phone service radiation’s effect on melatonin levels, but the research that has been done suggests reducing 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 to produce optimal melatonin. 

7. Regulate Caffeine Intake 

Most people have figured out if they drink a cup of coffee too late in the afternoon or evening, they don’t sleep as well. While coffee beans are loaded with melatonin, much of the beneficial effect is neutralized by caffeine.14

Coffee consumption woman drinking coffee image

Caffeine is a stimulant linked to reduced melatonin. Having a small amount of caffeine in the morning may help reduce melatonin production at the right time, but drinking excessive amounts of coffee or caffeinated beverages can decrease overall 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 as not to become dependent on taking more and more of it. Over time, increased coffee intake may reduce natural melatonin production.

8. Take Time to Pray or Meditate 

Studies show people who meditate produce more melatonin than people who do not.13 Melatonin seems to require a settled mind and body to be produced in the early evening. 

This makes sense because relaxation techniques, such as prayer and meditation, help lower cortisol and destress the body. When the body is destressed, many good things happen, including increased melatonin production.

9. Hot Milk before Bed 

Milk, whether 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. Increasing intake of tryptophan-rich foods may boost melatonin levels. 

Tryptophan-Rich Foods 

  • garbanzo beans 
  • spirulina 
  • soybeans  
  • cottage cheese 
  • chicken liver 
  • pumpkin seeds 
  • turkey 
  • chicken 
  • tofu 
  • watermelon seeds 
  • almonds 
  • peanuts 
  • yogurt2

Garbanzo beans win the tryptophan prize. They are loaded with free tryptophan (meaning it is not attached to a protein, like in other foods), making uptake of this source of tryptophan the best. 

If you still need melatonin support, I suggest trying the following: for a circadian reset, start with one drop of LifeSpa’s Low-Dose Melatonin (1 drop = .1mg melatonin) 45-60 minutes before bed and increase by one drop every five nights until you have a deep and restorative night’s sleep without morning grogginess. Most never need to exceed ten drops. 

Once the best dose is found, stay on it for three months. Then, most of my patients can slowly lower their dose. The correct dose of melatonin will encourage natural production of your own melatonin (rather than suppress natural production). 

Read all my melatonin articles. 

Have you tried any of the above melatonin solutions? Let us know what you found! 

References

  1. http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(16)31522-6 
  2. Reiter, R. Melatonin. Bantam Books. New York: 1996. 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4734149/ 
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14740000 
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3185865 
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8018787 
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22038497 
  8. https://nutritionfacts.org/2014/04/03/foods-with-natural-melatonin/ 
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3659736 
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9933863 
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23051584 
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26378246 
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14976457 
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3402070/ 
  15. http://www.emfs.info/limits/limits-organisations/icnirp-2010/ 

References

  1. http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(16)31522-6 
  2. Reiter, R. Melatonin. Bantam Books. New York: 1996. 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4734149/ 
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14740000 
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3185865 
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8018787 
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22038497 
  8. https://nutritionfacts.org/2014/04/03/foods-with-natural-melatonin/ 
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3659736 
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9933863 
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23051584 
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26378246 
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14976457 
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3402070/ 
  15. http://www.emfs.info/limits/limits-organisations/icnirp-2010/ 

 

19 thoughts on “10 Ways to Increase Melatonin Naturally for Better Sleep”

  1. Sounds great but I’d personally skip the milk recommendation. Just watched the “What the Health?” documentary. A real eye opener.

    Reply
    • I think (and I say think because I have zero facts to back this up) although my husband recently started taking insulin shots at night and he swears that “he’s never slept so good and in such a deep sleep in years”. So I’d agree with you on this one!!

      *****

      Reply
  2. I wouldn’t drink milk before going to bed because it makes me go to the toilet and I would loose my sleep although I used to. Plus having a small light plugged into the side of the wall I think doesn’t cause any affect on your sleep because my mother likes doing this.

    Reply
    • Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for your comment. As an alternative to regular milk, you can substitute with coconut or almond milk. These are particularly compatible with the Ojas Nightly Tonic for restful sleep and thereby increasing your melatonin production.

      Be Well

      Reply
  3. I have a relaxing 20 minute mp3 I listen to on my phone which puts me to sleep but the phone needs to be on. If I just put the iPhone on airplane mode, the mp3 plays (no light on) and then I fall asleep. Would a cell phone that is next to my bed, that it is in airplane mode not emitting any light be OK?

    Reply
    • Hi Steve,

      Thanks for your question. If that practice helps you fall and stay asleep, it does not sound bad to us. Making sure it is on airplane mode and far as practically possible from your body would be our suggestions. Relying on that playlist long-term might not be the solution, but for now if it helps, keep doing it.

      Be Well

      Reply
  4. Could not agree more. Eat Tryptophan-Rich Foods to have deep sleep.
    Here all information’s are very useful to everyone. Thanks for all these information.

    Reply
  5. I am wondering what time a day you recommend eating the melatonin and tryptophan foods? Is it best to space it out throughout the day or try to eat it in the evenings?

    Reply
  6. HI Dr. John!

    Wondering if the low dose melatonin with raspberry and vanilla natural flavors are made from real Non-GMO raspberry and vanilla beans, or are these natural flavors made with MSG that cause migraines to those of us who are so very sensitive to chemicals? I wish it was possible to create a low dose melatonin that had only one or two ingredients. Perhaps melatonin and organinc cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. Thank you SO much for your ongoing information that you provide each week that gives us such wonderful insight in how to keep our bodies as healthy as possible!
    Sincerely,
    Suzanne

    Reply
  7. Garbanzo beans cause so much gas and indigestion in our family.
    We soak them for at least 12 hours (overnight), then cook them well with some bicarbonate of soda. Sometimes with a little seaweed.
    Still discomfort persists…

    Reply

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