Stress and anxiety are two major mental problems that everyone experiences at some stage in their life. If left unaddressed, these ailments can lead to worse problems and real illnesses. Insomnia, a lowered immune system and depression are directly linked to unmanaged stress. Therefore, relaxation and other coping methods are highly important to master at an early stage.
Work-related stress is the most common form of the ailment. It can cause insomnia, which affects work productivity and energy. This creates a snowball effect that can lead to a spiralling decline in physical and mental performance if it is not dealt with. Stress can also lead to high blood pressure, diabetes and depression. However, there is a natural hormone in our bodies, called melatonin, which can prevent stress.
Melatonin regulates the body’s circadian rhythms – or the natural sleep/wake cycle. This hormone promotes relaxation, lowers the heart rate, regulates blood pressure and encourages sleep. It is a naturally-occurring chemical that can help people to manage their stress and sleeplessness. But how does melatonin do this?
Melatonin leads to relaxation
This hormone is produced in the pineal gland within the brain. It is often referred to as the ‘sleep hormone’ as the pineal gland secretes melatonin as the body begins to drift off to sleep. Melatonin tells your muscles and organs to slow down and relax. This encourages faster and deeper sleep, so it helps people to get a restful night and wake up feeling energised.
Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant that supports eye health, treats ulcers in the body, reduces heartburn and minimises tinnitus (the ringing of the eardrum). It can tell the stomach when it is time to eat, as well as regulate body temperature, blood pressure and other hormones in the body. Melatonin has many functions that are necessary for healthy living.
It binds to receptors throughout the body that slows down nerve activity. This promotes relaxation and encourages the onset of sleep. Studies show that the brain produces more melatonin as the sun sets and less of the hormone just before sunrise. Stress, smoking and exposure to blue light before bed can decrease the amount of melatonin produced by the pineal gland.
Melatonin as a supplement
Some people do not produce enough melatonin. Those suffering from stress and anxiety may need a boost of melatonin from external sources. Recent research indicates that taking a melatonin supplement before bed can promote more restful sleep. In 20 separate studies that have been conducted on people with insomnia, the results all showed that melatonin reduces the time it takes to fall asleep by an average of seven minutes.
In most of these studies, the participants reported improved quality of sleep for longer periods of the night after taking melatonin before bed. In addition, nine other studies investigated the use of melatonin for jet lag. Researchers found that this hormone is highly effective in minimising the effects of jet lag and a lack of sleep. Melatonin also helps to sync the body’s sleep/wake cycle with the new time zone when travelling.
People have their own ways to deal with stress – some use meditation as an escape, others like to do yoga or exercise. The key to minimising stress is to do something relaxing or an activity that can take your mind off the problem. Melatonin will help to promote relaxation and reduce stress. It can be purchased in oil form and taken at night, just before bed, for the best results.
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