If you’ve ever had trouble sleeping and looked for a gentle over-the-counter solution, chances are you’ve come across melatonin. However, new findings illuminate exactly how this amazing hormone might work its nighttime magic on our bodies.
Have you ever wondered what it is, exactly, that causes you to feel drowsy once nighttime sets in? Isn’t it strange to realize that virtually all humans are wired to be awake during the day and asleep at night? It’s no coincidence that these things occur: our brain’s hypothalamus carefully regulates the chemical processes responsible for sleep and wakefulness, as part of a routine and rhythm meant to maximize our waking hours on this planet.
Most important to our natural drowsiness is presence of the naturally-occurring hormone melatonin. Melatonin begins to present itself in your body once daylight ends and night begins, and it continues to proliferate until the next morning. For most people, melatonin is actively produced between roughly 9pm and 9am.
Once that hormone starts pumping through your body, the idea of sleep begins to feel more “inviting.” It’s different than regular fatigue or exhaustion: melatonin induces deep, lengthy nighttime sleep that’s critical for our bodies to recharge their essential functions and energy stores.
As you can imagine, for people who don’t produce melatonin to a desirable degree, sleep can be challenging or seemingly almost non-existent, depending on severity. As such, melatonin has been available over the counter as a natural and basically safe sleep aid for quite some time now.
Like many chemicals and hormones, melatonin binds to a specific receptor in our brains that’s designed to receive it. The recently-identified MT1 receptor is responsible for that lovely drowsy feeling that occurs once melatonin begins producing around nightfall.
Why is the discovery of the MT1 receptor so important? Well, in order for melatonin manufacturers to produce the most effective and safe product possible, they’ll want the strongest, most consistent main effect… with as few side effects as possible. If it were hypothetically possible to design a melatonin supplement that only targets the MT1 receptor (current options all bind to multiple receptors), researchers now believe that the result would be deeper, more satisfying sleep, with fewer undesirable side effects.
Having trouble sleeping lately? Ask your doctor if beginning to add melatonin into your supplements and vitamins is a viable option for your health. Considering the fact that there are no known serious adverse reactions from melatonin overdose, it can be a tantalizingly natural solution to issues of insomnia or irregular sleep.