not all who wander are lost.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sound Sleep

For the past three weeks I have been having a really difficult time sleeping. Feeling exhausted but unable to sleep ranging to being wide awake and alert - tossing and turning. To me: this is unacceptable. A good nights rest is just as important as a healthy diet and a regular yoga practice. I don't need as many Hours of sleep as some, but I do need for those few hours to be uninterrupted sound sleep. The sleeplessness started in Seattle, but I was blaming that on the time difference. Once I returned back East, I still had trouble sleeping - but then attributed that to time change (again). But now that I've been home for a fair amount on time I'm getting frustrated. I find myself doing Legs-Up-The-Wall at 3 o'clock in the morning, focusing on the rising and falling of my breath, with my headphones on playing some soothing music (check out "Manose"). I hate the idea of taking any medicine: benedryl leaves you with a benedryl hangover and I'm not game for taking any of those PM products. I've cut out all caffeine, with the exception of my morning cup of coffee. So until I'm able to figure out what is keeping me tossing and turning, I've turned to Melatonin. I have been taking one at night about an hour before I go to sleep, and along with some earplugs (sorry Dad, but your snoring has become unbearable) I have been able to get a deep, sound sleep through the night. Here's what it's all about:

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland, a small gland in the brain. Melatonin helps control your sleep and wake cycles. Very small amounts of it are found in foods such as meats, grains, fruits, and vegetables. You can also buy it as a supplement.

What does natural melatonin do in the body?

Your body has its own internal clock that controls your natural cycle of sleeping and waking hours. In part, your body clock controls how much melatonin your body makes. Normally, melatonin levels begin to rise in the mid- to late evening, remain high for most of the night, and then drop in the early morning hours.

Light affects how much melatonin your body produces. During the shorter days of the winter months, your body may produce melatonin either earlier or later in the day than usual. This change can lead to symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or winter depression.

Natural melatonin levels slowly drop with age. Some older adults make very small amounts of it or none at all.

Why is melatonin used as a dietary supplement?

Melatonin supplements are sometimes used to treat jet lag or sleep problems (insomnia). Scientists are also looking at other good uses for melatonin, such as:

  • Treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
  • Helping to control sleep patterns for people who work night shifts.
  • Preventing or reducing problems with sleeping and confusion after surgery.
  • Reducing chronic cluster headaches.

It may be that melatonin, when taken as a supplement, can stop or slow the spread of cancer, make the immune system stronger, or slow down the aging process. But these areas need more research.

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