Why is quality sleep important?
Sleep is an important time for the body to regenerate and repair from the day. As light dims and darkness envelopes the night, the pineal gland is activated to secrete melatonin. Melatonin plays a large role in establishing the circadian rhythm that regulates the fluctuating hormone production throughout the day. It also is a strong antioxidant, has been found to inhibit the growth of cancers, decrease anxiety, and increases the immune system. Because melatonin’s release is regulated by light and it has a strong effect on regulating hormones, many women find that their menstrual cycle is affected by the lunar cycle.
But wait, there’s another aspect to melatonin as well. When melatonin is released at night, it lowers the cortisol levels that were elevated during the day for energy production, cognition, mental clarity, and resisting stress and inflammation. This lowering of cortisol, allows growth hormone to rise during the first 2 hours of deep sleep, creating the ideal healing situation. Growth hormone is an important part of the body’s natural ability to heal itself because it promotes repair of cells, increases regeneration of muscles, enhances fat utilization for energy, increases lean body mass, stimulates cartilage and bone growth, and as a whole has anti-aging effects.
What can you do to support a healthy production of melatonin?
- Sleep in a dark room – Sleeping in a completely dark room will naturally increase the levels of melatonin that are released because the pineal gland is not being stimulated by light.
- Relax before you go to bed – Relaxation will help the cortisol levels lower naturally. Lowered cortisol levels will help your body receive the regenerative benefits of growth hormone.
- Read a book instead of watching TV – Watching TV can be emotionally stimulating and anxiety producing, experiences that can make it more difficult for the body to relax. If you read a book, you are activating the parasympathetic nervous system response just by focusing your eyes on the words. The parasympathetic nervous system will help your body relax and naturally lower the cortisol levels.
- Deep breathing – Place your hands on your abdomen and take a slow deep breath. Your hands should rise with your breath. Repeat 5 times to relax and let the stress of the day melt away.
- Herbs – there are a variety of botanicals that can help stimulate the release of melatonin, lower anxiety, and promote relaxation. Just some of these include Lavender, Kava kava, Passionflower, Milky oats, and Hops. Because botanicals have a specific indication and can interact with medication, it is suggested to talk with someone to find the right combination of herbs for you.
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