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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
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%.
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
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
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.
- garbanzo beans
- cottage cheese
- chicken liver
- pumpkin seeds
- watermelon seeds
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).
Have you tried any of the above melatonin solutions? Let us know what you found!
- Reiter, R. Melatonin. Bantam Books. New York: 1996.