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How to use melatonin to induce sleep

How to combat stress and fatigue

Difficulty falling asleep: on holiday, but not only

Difficulty falling asleep is a problem that affects a growing number of people throughout the year.

As also reported by ANSA (the leading Italian news agency), on the occasion of the World Sleep Day 2016, nine million Italians regularly suffer from insomnia. The right number of hours of rest, however, is fundamental to the overall well-being, taking also into account the fact that many important functions of the body take place precisely during sleep (as, for example, the consolidation of memory and the production of some hormones).

That's why it's good to identify the causes of sleep disorders and take the right precautions to combat them: in these cases the intake of melatonin to sleep better or to fall asleep faster can be a valuable additional help to solve or alleviate the problem.


Hot weather and travelling: the factors that can aggravate insomnia

For most workers, August is the holiday month during which they often travel, even if for a few days or weeks, to distant or nearby places. Sometimes, the goal is to visit distant countries, with different time zones.

Especially if the target destination is far away, the coveted holiday can be affected by problems such as constipation or travel jet lag that can cause difficulty in falling asleep at bedtime and then fatigue, malaise and bad mood during the day.

Jet lag is caused by the sudden change of time zone, but you can have other factors such as climate change, intense heat, stress and sudden changes of habits, all of which are likely to alter the sleep-wake rhythms, sometimes preventing us from falling asleep naturally.


What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone produced in our body mainly by the pineal gland; this gland is located in the deepest part of the brain, near the "third eye", the "seat of the soul", as they thought in the past.

Melatonin is responsible for signalling our body that it's time to prepare for sleep.

The pineal gland secretes melatonin in relation to light: shortly after the beginning of darkness, the pineal gland releases melatonin, which reaches its maximum concentration in the blood between 2 and 4 in the morning and then gradually drops in the early morning. During daytime the melatonin concentration is, however, minimum: the stimuli of daylight indeed inhibit the secretion of melatonin.


Uses of "exogenous" melatonin

Besides being produced by the body, melatonin can be taken, if necessary, through supplements, medications or ointments.

The reasons for which it is consumed are mainly two:

  • to reduce the time needed to fall asleep;

  • to limit the effects of jet-lag.

Numerous studies are being carried out to investigate other possible effects of melatonin, such as the influence on the proper functioning of the immune system.


Melatonin for insomnia

Melatonin helps reduce the time required to fall asleep. Melatonin can be a viable alternative to sleeping pills and tranquillisers because it is usually well tolerated by the body.

Facilitating rest, melatonin may also counteract some side phenomena due to insomnia, such as difficulty concentrating and headaches.


Melatonin for jet lag

As we have seen, melatonin helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, and its production is influenced by exposure to light. It is therefore easy to see how a long journey, during which you quickly cross meridians and parallels, jumping from one time zone to another, can interfere with the regular production of melatonin.

The pineal gland is indeed in crisis as it is not receiving the dualistic signals of light and dark on which it is normally calibrated: the production of melatonin is then altered, the sleep-wake cycle is changed and can cause insomnia; the whole body pays the consequences for it. This determines the occurrence of the dreaded phenomenon of jet lag.

This "short circuit" may also be favoured by strong emotional stress situations (including pleasant experiences) with a consequent reduction in the production of melatonin.

Melatonin is also of great help in counteracting the effects of jet-lag.


How to take melatonin?

When our body, for various reasons, is not able to produce melatonin to sleep a sufficient number of hours, we can take this substance through specific supplements. On the market, you can find various types of supplements in tablets, sprays or drops.

In general, in the formulation of supplements, melatonin may be pure or "enriched" with herbs such as chamomile, lemon balm and passion flower, which, supporting rest, relaxation and mental well-being, "enhance" the falling asleep effect.

Other products, however, may contain magnesium, useful in dealing with fatigue, or added tryptophan (a precursor to serotonin and melatonin) and B-complex vitamins, which promote a normally functioning nervous system.

To reduce the time it takes to fall asleep you must take at least 1 mg of melatonin just before bedtime.

For a beneficial action against jet-lag, you need to take at least 0.5 mg of melatonin just before bedtime in the first day of travel and in the following.


7 rules to promote "sweet dreams"

According to experts, those who usually struggle to get to sleep are more exposed to some problems. Indeed, chronic insomnia can also facilitate, over time, the appearance of disorders such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, mood swings.

Besides taking melatonin for sleep, to aid relaxation and sleep quality it may also be helpful to follow some specific rules, many of which are common sense. Let's have a look at them together.

1) Take your laptop and tablet away from your bed

Your bedroom should be a relaxing place to sleep, so you'd better keep your tablet, computer, smartphone away from it and avoid activities such as study after lying down.


2) Ideal light and temperature

Your bedroom environment should be designed to ensure maximum comfort and relaxation: quiet, dark enough and with the right temperature. Some experts consider that the ideal temperature for a bedroom is between 15 and 19 ° C.


3) Beware of caffeine

Those who usually suffer from insomnia or have difficulty sleeping, should limit the doses of caffeine and avoid consuming drinks or foods containing this substance (coffee, tea, chocolate etc.) from the late-afternoon or evening.


4) Password: regularity

To support the physiological sleep tendency, it would be good, as far as possible, to maintain regular habits, i.e. to go to bed and wake up almost always at the same times. Those who habitually report difficulty getting to sleep, should respect this rule even over the weekend or on holiday.

5) Avoid binge eating

We advise you not eat too much junk food and generally avoid "binge eating" especially at night, so as not to burden your digestion, which would negatively impact your sleep quality. It would also be good to limit the excessive consumption of alcohol or spirits in the evening: alcohol, indeed, is definitely a "sedative", but also has a very quick action and, once the effect is over, may encourage night-time awakenings.


6) Avoid the afternoon "siesta"

Not to alter the sleep-wake cycle, those who usually find it hard to fall asleep should avoid naps during the day, except for a brief post-prandial break (lasting up to 30 minutes).


7) Avoid exercising too late in the evening

Exercise, especially high-medium intensity, should be done in the first part of the day and early in the evening, while it should be avoided in the 2-3 hours preceding the time of going to sleep. As a matter of fact, the body would not have enough time to relax, which would make it more difficult to fall asleep.


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