Archive for October 2015

Enhancing Your Melatonin Production

Melatonin may be your tool for a better night’s rest which is important for health and beauty. Read my last blog about how lack of sleep can affect the skin. Melatonin is a hormone produced and secreted from your pineal gland located in the brain. This gland is so named because of its pine cone shape.

brain glands

Once thought to house the human soul, the pineal gland is quite mysterious. It produces and secretes melatonin in a cyclical pattern; increasing at night to promote sleep and decreasing during the day to promote wakefulness. and thus helps set our circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. It is thought that melatonin may also have an effect on mood and be related to SAD (seasonal affective disorder), play a role in decreasing cancer risk and act as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. As we age, the pineal gland decreases in size and so decreases the amount of melatonin secreted.

So to improve sleep  and balance mood, we want to increase our night time levels of melatonin while decreasing our daytime levels of melatonin. There are ways to do this naturally.

Light Exposure. Light decreases melatonin levels and when melatonin decreases it also helps melatonin increase at night. So try to increase your exposure to natural sunlight during the day as  much as possible, especially in the morning. Get out in the morning for a walk or to just sit on the patio if possible. If this is difficult to do during the winter months, consider sitting under a full-spectrum light box.

Also, decrease your exposure of bright light at night. This might mean not using a night light and dimming the lights in your living room as evening progresses. Red or yellow lights interfere less with melatonin production so consider using these color lights if you need a night light. Staying up late in artificially lighted houses and sleeping in bedrooms continually invaded by stray light can rob us of the restorative powers of total darkness, most of which are mediated by melatonin.

Alcohol Intake. Although its easy to have a glass of wine in the evening to help relax, alcohol intake may actually decrease nighttime melatonin levels and thus affect sleep patterns. So go easy on the alcohol if you have difficulty sleeping. Other drugs that may affect melatonin and cause sleep problems include ibuprofen, blood pressure medications, caffeine and estradiol.

Foods. Many foods either contain melatonin or can otherwise boost melatonin levels. These include oats, sweet corn, rice, ginger, tomatoes, bananas, cherries, squash, milk, and apples. Herbs that can elevate melatonin include maca, panax, schisandra, feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), and Huang-qin (Scutellaria baicalensis). On the  other spectrum, foods rich in sugar, caffeine, green tea, etc can contribute to insomnia.

Step away from electronics such as TV and computers before going to bed and spend a few moments in quiet. Enhancing your melatonin production may do more than just help your sleep. Increased melatonin may help many aspects of your life including mood, anxiety, headaches, and possibly reduce the risk for cancer.

Yawen Zeng, Jiazhen Yang, Juan Du, Xiaoying Pu, Xiaomen Yang, Shuming Yang, and Tao Yang. Strategies of Functional Foods Promote Sleep in Human Being. Curr Signal Transduct Ther. 2014 Dec; 9(3): 148–155.Published online 2014 Dec. doi: 10.2174/1574362410666150205165504 PMCID: PMC4440346

Russel J. Reiter, Dun-Xian Tan, Zhou Zhou, Maria Helena Coelho Cruz, Lorena Fuentes-Broto, Annia Galano. Phytomelatonin: Assisting Plants to Survive and Thrive. Molecules 2015, 20(4), 7396-7437; doi:10.3390/molecules20047396

How Lack of Sleep Affects the Skin

We’ve all heard about the importance of sleep for the body. It has important physiological effects on both the brain and the body. What are the effects of sleep, or lack of sleep, specifically on skin?

woman sleeping

Several studies have found that sleep deprivation can damage the immune system, increase fine lines on the face, decrease collagen, increase uneven pigmentation, cause dry skin, and even decrease our perception of attractiveness.  Lets look closer at some of the factors involved.

Growth Hormone. Growth hormone is a natural hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. It is secreted during deep sleep or slow wave sleep and is important for cellular and tissue repair processes as well as collagen production. Sleep deprivation decreases the secretion of growth hormone and thus skin repair.

Skin Barrier Function. The skin barrier function is one of the most important roles of skin. It helps keep water in the body and helps keep the outer environment out of the skin. Studies have found that lack of sleep can decrease the skin barrier function and lead to water loss from the skin. This can also potentially increase the risk of further skin damage or infection.

Cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. It is also increased with lack of  sleep. Cortisol can breakdown collagen in the skin causing the skin to be more fragile and lead to increased wrinkles.

Immune System. Lack of sleep has also been found to decrease our immune response. This is not only important for the role of skin but also makes us more prone to colds and flu.

Recovery. One study looked at the time it took the skin to recover from ultraviolet induced skin damage. In sleep deprived individuals this recovery time was increased.

Melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland. Its levels increase during the dark hours of sleep. It acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent in the body.

Decreased sleep can also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and other diseases.

Now I hope these facts don’t stress you out making it more difficult to sleep. Read my next blog on the role of melatonin with tips for getting better sleep.

References for more information on sleep and beauty:

Sleep deprivation linked to aging skin, study suggests. Science Daily

Oyetakin White P, Koo B, Matsui MS, Yarosh D, Fthenakis C, Cooper KD, Baron ED. Effects of Sleep Quality on Skin Aging and Function. International Investigative Dermatology Meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland 2013

Axelsson J1, Sundelin T, Ingre M, Van Someren EJ, Olsson A, Lekander M.
Beauty sleep: experimental study on the perceived health and attractiveness of sleep deprived people. British Medical Journal. 2010 Dec 14;341:c6614. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c6614.