I started writing this article yesterday…when the phone rang. Â After the call, I tried getting back to writing. But I just couldnât. Some may call it âwriterâs block,â but I think it was because that call changed my mood.
Mood swings happen to all of us. Something…anything…can trigger a bad or a good mood and make us moody. This is normal. But some people âfeel moodyâ for no apparent reason. Youâve probably experienced days when you felt more irritable, short-tempered, and stressed. Chances are good that these âoff daysâ followed restless nights when you just couldnât fall asleep.
You donât have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that sleep can control our moods. But what controls sleep?
Itâs called melatonin.
How Melatonin Works in Your Body
Once lauded as miracle drugs, melatonin supplements are pill-based hormones created from a âbrain messengerâ called serotonin. It regulates various functions of the bodyâs central nervous system, including mood and appetite.
Natural melatonin production is dependent on the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you are in darkness all day long, your brain can’t appreciate the difference, and melatonin production slows down. Similarly, if you are not surrounded by darkness at night, it can have the same effectâreduced melatonin.
Many scientists believe that production of natural melatonin also drops with age. But there is no conclusive evidence as to why this happens. What we do know for sure is that decreasing melatonin levels can impede a good night’s sleep. Which, in turn, can cause insomnia, depression, and other mood disorders.
One of these disorders is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Itâs a kind of depression that occurs in some people during winter seasons, when there are fewer hours of daylight.
How to Boost Melatonin (and Mood) Naturally
If you find that a lack of sleep is affecting your moods, rather than taking melatonin pills, Iâd recommend you make small lifestyle changes that might help boost your bodyâs own melatonin production. Here are a few tips:
- Avoid watching TV or using your computer in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed.
- Make sure you get BRIGHT sun exposure regularly.
- Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible.
- Try to minimize electronic fields (cell phones) in your bedroom, as they can interfere with melatonin production.
A good nightâs rest is key to good health. So, do your mood a favor and make sure you get your rest.
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Lieberman, H., âEffects of Melatonin on Human Mood and Performance,â Brain Research, 1984; 323 (1984): 201-207; http://wurtmanlab.mit.edu/static/pdf/598.pdf, last accessed July 24, 2017.
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