Melatonin: Overview, Function, and Use as an Aid for Sleep

Melatonin is a chemical compound which can be found in nearly every living thing including animals and plants, as well sa bacteria. When talking about animals, it acts as a hormone and performs a myriad of crucial functions.  Most people are probably familiar with it as an aid for falling asleep, or more technically, as a tool which aids in maintaining our circadian rhythm.

The chemical structure of melatonin makes it able to travel throughout the body quickly and efficiently. Melatonin has properties making both compatible with water and with fat.  This is known as amphiphilic.  This attribute allows melatonin to easily enter cell, fluid or other structure in the body.

It was first discovered in 1958. It was extracted from the pineal glands of cattle. The first researchers discovered melatonin's ability to lighten the skin of frogs and fish.  This led them to believe that it was potentially useful for treating various skin conditions.

In the 1970s, it was observed that the pineal gland released melatonin in conjunction with the circadian rhythm.  Since then, more research has discovered melatonin's roles in helping toregulate the sleep-wake cycle. More recently, it was also found that melatonin also has antioxidant properties.

The most widely researched function of melantonin is its functioning in helping to maintain the circadian rhythm. From the age of three months, levels of melatonin in the body correspond to a cyclical pattern that persists throughout life. In animals, the internal sleep-wake clock is located within two collections of cells located in the hypothalamus.  This is known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Based on the daily cycle of dark and light, the suprachiasmatic nucleus initiates and maintains a daily cycle.

During certain times of the day (cycle), particular hormones are released. Late in the afternoon and through the evening, the body begins to prepare for sleep. During the early morning, the body begins to preprare for waking up. Buried within the center of the brain, the pineal gland, releases melatonin when it gets dark. On the other hand, when light begins to appear, the pineal gland slows the release of melatonin.

The most recent research has observed that even if a person has no access to sources of light or time, the body tends to maintains a regular circadian rhythm.  The average, naturally-occurring rhythm is around 24.2 hours.

Some of the other functions of melatonin are as an antioxidant, as a component of metal chelation, and in the normal functioning of the immune system.

Melatonin has been used as a treatment for a myriad of sleep disorders.  These treatments have had varying rates of success. The best indicators for melatonin as a successful treatment for sleep disorders are for those whose problems are rooted in behavior, development, or who are suffering from a mental disorder.  Melatonin has also been shown to be effective for treaing problems falling asleeping for older people and children, insomnia arrising from jet lag, or insominia arising from having delayed sleep phase syndrome.

However, even though it has been shown that melatonin serves a crucial role in maintaining healthy and regular sleep cycles, taking a melatonin supplement absent the presence of an underlying condition does not seem to result in sleep being longer or deeper.
Side effects of melatonin

According to most indications, melatonin has few potential side effects. Various clinical studies have measured short-term use, low-dose use, and regular use of up to three months, and have observed no negative effects.  One study indicated that negatives side-effects, including headache, drowsiness, and nausea occurred at equal rates for both melatonin and a placebo.

What You Eat Affects How You Sleep

Getting sufficient sleep always makes your day much better. You are more well-rested, you have more energy, your mind is sharper. If you are one of the many people who suffer from insomnia, you understand how tough your day can be after a night of bad sleep.

However, sleep is also vital for maintaining good health. Those who suffer from chronic insomnia have an elevated risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Many who don't get an adequate amount of sleep at night often use caffeine to help keep them awake throughout the day. Caffeine is probably the most popular stimulant there is - found in coffee, tea, chocolate, sodas, and energy drinks. However, taking in too much caffeine can result in feeling jittery, and if consumed late in the day or evening, caffeine can make it quite difficult to fall asleep.

Reducing caffeine intake can be difficult. Many actually have caffeine withdrawal symptoms including headaches, tiredness, irritability and lack of focus. These can generally be avoided by gradually reducing your intake.

This is just one example of how your diet can directly affect your ability to get a good night's sleep. Here are a number of other diet tips that might help you sleep better:

1) Try to limit how many heavy or spicy foods you eat. Also limit your intake of any foods that cause you to have heartburn, which can make falling asleep extremely difficult.

2) Have a light snack before going to sleep. Eat something that includes both carbohydrates and dairy, such as a bowl of cereal with low-fat milk. Carbohydrates can help make it easier to fall sleep, and dairy contains tryptophan, which can help promote feelings of drowsiness. Some other foods that have tryptophan include turkey, oats, bananas, and honey.

3) Do not eat an excessive amount of fat. Those who consume excessive quantities of fat often have difficulty in falling asleep. Ensure that you are getting adquate omega-3 fatty acids every day, however, since eicosapentaenoic acid (a type of omega-3) plays an important part in inducing sleep.

4) Eat some cherries. They are not only full of vitamins, but also contain melatonin, another compound that is vital in regulating sleep. Eating some cherries before bed time could help you fall asleep more easily.

5) People who are over-tired have a tendency to overeat, particularly through including sugary and carbohydrate-filled snacks to their diet. These excessive amounts of extra calories often lead to obesity. This shows that not only does your diet affect how well you sleep, but the amount and quality of your sleep can also affect what food you eat.

6) Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Even though drinking alcohol may initially result in feelings of drowsiness, excessive drinking often results in a restless, uncomfortable night.

Habits to Help you Sleep

Sleep hygiene are habits that help you be able to maintain a consistent sleep schedule and regularly get a good night's sleep. Just like developing the habits of brushing, flossing, and going to the dentist, you should create and maintain a routine of good habits to help improve your sleep hygiene. Following these tips can help you to make sure you always get a good night’s sleep.

1) Try to wait until you are feeling sleepy before you go to bed. If you still feel awake at the time you usually go to bed, do something to help relax your body and/or calm your mind by reading or some other relaxing activity.

2) Pre-bedtime rituals can help you to feel more relaxed at night before going to bed. Taking a warm bath, eating a light snack, or taking several minutes to read or listen to music can help to prepare you for a good night's sleep. Always avoid ingesting heavy meals to close to bedtime.

3) If you are still awake after 20 minutes, getup. Leave the bedroom and try to do something that can help calm and relax you enough to make you drowsy.

4) Keep a consitent schedule of sleeping and waking. Get up at about the same time every day, even when you have the option of sleeping in.

5) Maintain a consistent daily schedule. Keeping a consistent schedule for eating, taking medications, doing chores, and other activities can help to keep your internal clock regular.

6) Try to get a full night's sleep regularly. Get sufficient sleep each night so that you are well-rested.

7) Avoid taking naps. If you need to nap, keep it shorter than an hour and don't take a nap after 4pm or so.

8) Only use your bed for sleep. Do not do other activities in bed, such as reading, eating, or watching TV.

9) Try not to ingest caffeine after lunchtime.

10) Do not drink alcohol within 5 or 6 hours of going to bed.

11) Don't smoke cigarettes within a coule of hours of going to bed.

12) Get regular exercise, but do not take part in overly-strenuous activities within a few hours of going to bed. Getting exercise regularly is healthy, but try to get it done earlier in the day.

13) Do not take sleeping pills, or take them sparingly. Only use sleeping pills as instructed by your doctor.

14) Empty your mind of things that are making your worry or stress. Find ways to reduce stress before going to bed. Your bed is a place to relax, not a place to stress over your concerns.

15) Keep a quiet, dark environment in your bedroom. Extremes or warmth or coolness should be avoided. If you sleep better with some type of noise, use white noise or very quiet music.

Natural Remedies for Grinding Your Teeth (Bruxism)

Grinding your teeth at night can result in damaging effects to not just your gums and teeth, but also to your entire body. Those who grind their teeth at night generally do not get the an adequate amount of sleep. Because of this, it is essential that teeth grinding is treated as soon as you realize that you suffer from it. Ignoring teeth grinding can only make the problem much worse. Go to the dentist to get your teeth and mouth checked out. Also, following are some natural home remedies and treatments for teeth grinding (bruxism) that you can try.

1. Before bedtime, eat on an apple, carrot, or another crunchy fruit or vegetable. Chewing exercises the mouth and is healthy for the gums. It may be able to help calm your mouth before going to sleep. A calmer mouth can result in a reduction of teeth grinding at night.

2. Apply a warm washcloth to help relax your jaw muscles. Simply place a washcloth soaked in warm water to your face. This can help stop your jaws from clenching. Pain in the head can also be reduced.

3. Get a massage or take a warm bath. Teeth grinding is often triggered by stress. Stress caused by work can be a primary reason of why people grind their teeth at night. To relieve this stress, take a nice warm bath before bedtime or get a massage.

4. Trying sleeping on your back. There's no better position for helping to reduce teeth grinding than sleeping flat on the back. Sleeping on one's sides can only increase the incidence of teeth grinding. Try not to sleep on your stomach or side.

5. Have a cup of warm milk or herbal tea before sleep. If you need to drink something before bedtime, make it milk or tea. Also, the warmer their temperature, the better. Always avoid drinking alcohol before going to sleep. Drinking alchohol can contribute to teeth grinding.

6. Take a calcium and magnesium supplement. These minerals can contribute to lessening the amount of teeth grinding at night. Try taking these supplements each day.

7. Practice deep breathing. Deep breathing methods can help relax tight, tired muscles. If the body is completely relaxed before bedtime, teeth grinding is less likely. Perform breathing exercises for several minutes before bedtime each night.

These are some of the natural home remedies and treatments for teeth grinding that you can try. Practicing these each night can slowly help you to reduce your teeth grinding and clenching.

Vitamins and Supplements for Better Sleep

For a good night's sleep, your body needs sufficient nutrients. A number of nutrients act to relax the nervous system and can aid in promoting better sleep. Whole foods often have many of these natural sleep remedies, but supplementation is also available to help make sure that you get adequate dietary amounts.

Calcium is often referred to as nature's tranquilizer. Some people think that calcium is better absorbed during the evening, and suggest that the folk remedy of drinking milk before going to bed could be an excellent idea. Natural sources of calcium include dairy foods and green vegetables, such as spinach. Also, a spoonfull of sesame seeds contains 10 times the amount of calcium as an equivalent amount of milk.

Magnesium is required in order to absorb calcium. Most calcium supplements also include magnesium. Magnesium acts as a muscle relaxant and is vital for maintaining blood sugar and pressure levels. Dietary sources of magnesium include halibut, whole grains, spinach, seeds, bananas, avocadoes, and nuts, such as peanuts. Diabetics and people taking diuretics need to make sure they are getting sufficient magnesium, as a lot of magnesium is lost through urine. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include muscle spasms, low appetite, and nausea.

Vitamin D is also required to support calcium absorption by the body. Dairy products are often fortified with vitamin D. Research has discovered that it is hard to get adequate vitamin D from sun exposure, particularly during the winter, so supplementation is often needed.

L-theanine is a primary component of green tea. It is an amino acid that has calming properties. R-glutamylethylamide is the whole name of this compound. Research shows that theanine can calm the brain by inducing alpha waves. Apart from its ability to calm, theanine can also help to reduce blood pressure.

5-HTP is short for L-5-hydroxlytryptophan. L-Tryptophan is one of the amino acids. This nutrient is found in high amounts in turkey and many say that it is what causes post-Thanksgiving dinner sleepiness. Some people have used tryptophan in order to help lift mood, as it is thought to aid with the serotonin mechanisms of the brain.

GABA is a neurotransmitter. It's whole name is gamma-Aminobutyric acid. It is often used to treat depression. It functions to help regulate muscle tone and nervous response.