Following her introduction to melatonin earlier in the week health writer Patsy Westcott shows how you can do without supplements and boost your melatonin naturally.
* Boost melatonin with diet. Put cherries, tomatoes, bananas, pineapples and oats on the menu – they are said to push up melatonin levels.
* Go easy on sugar and caffeine. They causes surges in blood sugar which in turn increases production of cortisol, which opposes the action of melatonin.
* Keep it dark in the bedroom. Darkness is vital to encourage production of melatonin. Use blackout blinds or thick curtains. And no technology in the bedroom. Banish TV, your mobile or tablet from the room you sleep in. ‘Light exposure, especially the ‘blue’ light from phones and TV can reduce melatonin,’ says nutritional health expert Marilyn Glenville.
* Get some daylight. Exposure to daylight is essential to keep your body clock working as it should. Be sure to get out into the daylight for some time every day, especially in winter. (During the long, dark days of midwinter a daylight lamp such as those made by Lumie can help you get your quota.
* Manage medication. Beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, anti-anxiety drugs, nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids and some antidepressants can block melatonin production. Ask your GP or pharmacist for advice on the best time of day to take them.
* Magic magnesium. Known as ‘nature’s tranquilliser’ magnesium, found in green leafy veg, has a calming relaxing effect on the body.
* Beef up the Bs. B vitamins vital for a healthy nervous system can help if stress is stopping you sleeping well. Vitamin B 6 is found in beans, poultry, fish, dark leafy greens, papayas, oranges, and cantaloupe, B12 in fish, poultry, meat, eggs, or dairy and folate in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, breakfast cereals, and fortified grains and grain products
* Remember G for ginseng. ‘Siberian ginseng, a tonic for the adrenal glands, can be useful if you keep waking up during the night.
* Brew up a cuppa. L-theanine an amino acid, found in tea (green or black) is known for its calming, relaxing effect on the mind. ‘It can stop those endless thoughts that stop you falling off to sleep’ advises Marilyn Glanville
* Step up. A study found that a 10-week moderate- to high-intensity step aerobics training programme improved sleep quality and increased the melatonin levels in sleep-impaired post-menopausal women.