So, now we know that the sleep clock has two fundamental parts, the demand your body has for sleep plus the cues the brain receives from light. When these two parts are in sync, the sleep clock is set.
All that’s missing to make sleep effortless and sustainable is the sleep hormone melatonin.
Melatonin is called the sleep hormone because it creates that relaxing cascade on the way to sleep, and it also tells your body not to wake up until the repair your body needs is finished.
The wonderful news about melatonin is that you are the leading manufacturer in the world of your own melatonin, meaning you don’t need to get it from anywhere else but your own body.
Here’s how it’s made.
Melatonin is first made when sunlight interacts with the amino acid tryptophan in the retina, forming the pre-cursor to melatonin, the neurotransmitter serotonin. Much like a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, serotonin eventually turns into melatonin.
This transformation to melatonin happens once serotonin travels through the retinal pathway and is stored in the pineal gland, where it is eventually synthesized into melatonin and stored. About 2 hours after darkness arrives, melatonin is eventually released into the bloodstream and the 3 parts of sleep begin to work together as a team.
Melatonin is mainly produced and restored in 2 stages:
1. Getting sunlight through the eyes.
- Spending enough time outside
- Not wearing sunglasses
2. Blocking artificial blue light during the day when inside, and then at night.
- Computer screens actually deteriorate melatonin molecules in the eye
- Blue light at night prevents your pineal gland from releasing melatonin
What I’d like for you to know is this, the 3 parts of sleep working together for you is completely possible. If they have not been working for you up until now, the problem is not you the person, it's the process you are going through.
I understand that sometimes life gets in the way of allowing these 3 parts to work in harmony but sleep is a much simpler and more approachable when the sleep clock and melatonin are managed appropriately.
Have Great Sleep! - Derek