sleep issues

Melatonin: The Sleep Hormone

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Few things are as beautiful as the rays of the morning sun. The first light of morning is energizing and motivating—unless you’ve been awake half the night. In this case, the morning light just means that you didn’t get enough sleep. Again.

As soon as those first rays hit your eyes, your stress begins to mount. You’re exhausted. How are you going to make it all day long on so little sleep? You feel emotional just anticipating the struggle to concentrate and stay alert—especially during the afternoon hours when the drowsiness really kicks in.

Does this describe you? If so, you are not alone. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 60% of Americans have sleep problems. That means more than half of us struggle to sleep. The reasons for sleep difficulties are many—from stress to caffeine to individual differences in body rhythms.

But whatever the cause, the bottom line is that if you suffer from insomnia or other even minor sleep issues, you need help. And one of the safest ways to get that help may be to take melatonin.

Help from a Hormone

You have probably heard of melatonin. It is a hormone produced by your brain in your pineal gland. Some of your melatonin is also produced in your gut. Mainly, melatonin helps to control your sleep and wake cycles. Normally, melatonin levels will begin to increase in the mid to late evening, stay high during the night, and then begin to decrease early in the morning. This helps you to sleep during the night and be ready to wake up in the morning.

When there are higher amounts of melatonin in your body, you feel sleepy. When the levels are lower, you feel more alert and awake. Your regular sleep and wake cycle is your own internal clock, and this clock is directly tied to how much or how little melatonin your body makes.

There are other things that affect the melatonin in our bodies. For example, as we age, our bodies produce less melatonin. Daylight plays a key role, too. When the days are shorter during the winter, the time of day that our bodies produce melatonin changes. Rather than producing melatonin during the mid to late evening hours, we may get a surge of it earlier in the day as the daylight begins fading earlier.

When the amount of melatonin or the production schedule of melatonin changes in your body, you may find yourself struggling with sleep patterns.

Without enough melatonin, you will have trouble sleeping. But even if you make enough melatonin, your internal clock may be off if the melatonin is being released at the wrong time of day. Nobody wants to get sleepy at 5:00 PM from a melatonin release! Not only is this inconvenient, but also, when the natural decrease happens several hours later (to help you wake up), you’ll be alert and ready for the day by 3:00 AM!

Fortunately, if your melatonin levels are low or simply off schedule, you can help yourself by taking a melatonin supplement. These are available without a prescription at drugstores and at health food stores. Just be sure to buy a reputable brand to ensure you get a quality product.

Doses range from 0.1 to 20 mg, depending on the reason you are taking it. Your doctor can help you choose the right dose, as well as help you determine the best time in the evening to take it. Timing is important, since the melatonin, once ingested, will run its course in your body—taking you from drowsiness to wakefulness on schedule. It’s a handy way to reset your internal clock and get the sleep you need.

Adrenal Fatigue: What Is It?

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Stressed? Tired? Craving sugar? Can’t sleep?

All of these can be related to the constant stress we feel in our lives. We know that stress can have a huge impact on our health and wellness. And, since your adrenal glands produce stress hormones, adrenal fatigue (or “HPA Axis Dysregulation,”) is a popular theme lately.

Your adrenal glands look like walnuts that live on top of both of your kidneys. These important glands produce many hormones, including stress hormones.

But what happens when they become “overworked?”

You’ve heard of “adrenaline junkies,” right?

Adrenaline and cortisol are the stress hormones that give you the commonly known adrenaline rush; when you're totally alert and living in the moment. This feeling is known as your body's "fight or flight" response.

Some people (perhaps you?) just love that intense feeling.

The release of hormones in the fight or flight response is your body's normal reaction to stress. Stress can sometimes be positive, like when it helps you swerve and prevent a crash.

After a short time, the flight or flight response dissipates, your body goes back to normal, and all is good.

But what would happen if you felt constant stress? Like all day, every day? Like “chronic” stress?

It wouldn't feel like an awesome (once-in-a-while) "rush," anymore would it?

And what do you think happens to your poor adrenal glands when they’re constantly working?

They’d get fatigued, right?

Do I have adrenal fatigue?

When your adrenal glands start getting tired of secreting stress hormones day in and out, you can start getting other symptoms.

Symptoms like fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, weight loss or gain, joint pain, sugar cravings, even frequent infections like colds and the flu are signs that your adrenals are overworked.

First off, I have to tell you that there aren't medically accepted blood tests for adrenal fatigue. In fact, it's not recognized by most medical professionals until the point when your adrenals are so fatigued they almost stop working. At that point, the official diagnoses of "Adrenal Insufficiency" or "Addison's Disease" may apply.

However, if you do have symptoms, you should see your doctor to rule out other conditions. He or she may even be open to discussing adrenal fatigue, or at the very least, wellness strategies that can help to reduce your stress (and symptoms).

What to do if I have these symptoms?

There are many actions you can take to reduce your stress and improve your health and energy levels.

Ideally, if you think stress is starting to burn you out, stress reduction is key. There are tons of ideas how you can reduce your stress. My favorites are meditation, walking in nature, light exercise, more sleep, or taking a bath.

Of course, I also recommend reducing sugar and processed food intake and eating more fruits and vegetables. Better nutrition can only help your body. So go ahead and do it.

Conclusion

Your adrenal glands produce hormones in response to stress. After long-term daily stress, they may get tired.

Adrenal fatigue is a controversial disease that doesn’t have a true diagnostic test, nor specific telltale symptoms.

The most important thing you can do is to get tested to rule out other potential conditions. You can also try stress reduction techniques like meditation, walks in nature, light exercise, more sleep, or even a lovely bath.

Recipe (Stress-reducing bath salt): Lavender Bath Salts

Per bath

2 cups epsom salts10 drops lavender essential oil

As you're running your warm bath water, add ingredients to the tub. Mix until dissolved

Enjoy your stress-reducing bath!

Tip: You can add a tablespoon of dried lavender flowers.

References:https://www.thepaleomom.com/adrenal-fatigue-pt-1/https://www.dietvsdisease.org/adrenal-fatigue-real/