Sleep

3 Ways to Increase Melatonin and Sleep More Soundly

Do you struggle to fall asleep, tossing and turning in search of some shut-eye? You could be lacking in melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your sleep cycle and which your brain produces in response to darkness. Being exposed to light at night (hello, TV and phone) can block the production of melatonin, making it hard to get your zzzs.

Good news, though — a good night’s sleep can be yours! These three easy fixes restore a melatonin shortfall, so you can snooze soundly until dawn.

Bonus: Melatonin boosts your immune system, too!

Trouble falling asleep? Roll your eyes.

A five-cent melatonin tablet helps folks doze off faster and sleep better 90 percent of the time, British research reveals. Now, scientists have found another melatonin-boosting trick: rolling your eyes at bedtime. “The idea is that this mimics what your eyes do in a deep state of sleep,” says Josh Axe, D.N.M., D.C, C.N.S. — something researchers theorize tricks the brain into thinking it’s time to ramp up melatonin production. To do: Close your eyes and move them back and forth horizontally for one minute just before sleep.

Tossing and turning? Layer a heavy throw.

Weighted blankets are known for helping lull folks to sleep, and a new study reveals just how huge a difference they make. Researchers at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that people who pulled up heavy covers were 26 times more likely to experience a drop in insomnia within four weeks than those who used a regular blanket. “Weighted blankets provide gentle pressure, which increases feelings of safety and relaxation,” says Dr. Axe. Indeed, University of Massachusetts at Amherst scientists say the effect significantly increases melatonin production. Just cozy up under another one of Grandma’s heavy quilts — or try a weighted blanket! (These work great for kids, too.)

Waking up too early? Have pudding for dessert.

An Oxford study found folks who upped their intake of omega-3 fatty acids slept 58 minutes longer per night than those on a placebo. “A shortfall of omega-3s has been linked with lower melatonin levels,” says Dr. Axe. One option: omega-3–rich chia pudding. Just whisk together a quarter cup each of coconut milk and almond milk, two tablespoons of chia seeds, one teaspoon of vanilla and one tablespoon of honey. Chill at least one hour.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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