Melatonin is a hormone secreted by your pineal gland (located just above the center of your brain). During the day, the pineal gland is inactive. In the evening, melatonin levels rise sharply as your brain starts to recognize light reduction. The elevated levels continue for about 12 hours. The following morning, after a night of sleep, melatonin levels return to low daytime levels – barely detectable.
The body’s production of melatonin declines gradually with age. Many doctors believe that the loss in melatonin is associated with several age-related diseases, lowered sleep efficacy, and deterioration of the circadian rhythm.
The circadian rhythm is controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which sits on top of your optic nerve in your eye. Even if you are blind, your optic nerve is still able to detect the difference between day and night albeit with more difficulty (also referred to as light and dark). You can influence your circadian rhythm with external cues, such as sunlight and temperature. This, for example, is why your body can break the circadian rhythm when you travel to different time zones. On the other hand, this is also why your irregular sleeping patterns (staying up late since you cannot sleep) are further modulating your circadian rhythm. There are ways to improve your sleep and wake cycles with routines or with supplements or medications, which we shall explore further below.
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