Melatonin and cortisol are hormones that regulate our sleep / wake cycles. These hormones suppress each other, and have opposite rhythms. Cortisol levels begin to rise as the sun dose, or just before our normal, regular time to wake up. Cortisol increases our body temperature, where melatonin lowers it so we can sleep better. Cortisol levels continue to rise throughout the day, while melatonin levels stay low. When cortisol peaks, then starts its decline as the daylight fades, this is when melatonin levels begin to rise.
Melatonin receptors are found in the brain, organs, digestive tract and eyes. A person who is blind does not have these receptors in their eyes. Our bodies make between 2-3 mg a day, and most of that is produced in the digestive tract. (Perhaps that is why it is so beneficial for reflux)
If you remember that light suppresses melatonin, then you can understand why using electronic devices that emit light (esp the blue wave), watching TV or leaving all the lights on till you go to bed, can really affect your sleep.....right? Now if you lived in a dark cave, your melatonin wouldn’t be suppressed, causing you to sleep more than being awake.
Taking melatonin can be helpful for sleep, but the strength, type and timing are determined by the issue of either not being able to fall asleep, or not being able to stay asleep. Full spectrum light is a part of the equation also, so 20-30 min each day, either from exposure to the sun, or sitting in front of a full spectrum light box.
For those who can’t fall asleep, light exposure in the morning, and immediate release melatonin is best. If the problem is waking up and struggling to go back to sleep, then later afternoon light exposure, and a timed released melatonin work best. It’s important to remember that we’re not trying to suppress the symptoms of insomnia, we are trying to “reset” your internal clock, by changing the hormone levels.
Working on your internal sleep / wake hormonal rhythms requires patience, consistency, and perseverance. Going to bed at the same time each night, no food within two hours of bedtime, and avoiding electronic devices and bright light and hour before bed.
I have provided the basics here, but this might not work for everyone because we all have different situations that may affect our sleep. I am here to help with you on your individual sleep issues