By Anupum Pant
It is astounding how the tiniest things can affect your life greatly. Who would have thought that sleeping with lights on can change you into a completely different person, over time?
Sleeping with lights on, or simply not getting enough exposure to darkness can have long-lasting effects. Darkness is good for you.
Melatonin – The Darkness Hormone
Melatonin is a hormone found in all living creatures from the most basic ones to humans. Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland (a part of the brain), by the retina, lens and GI tract. Production of melatonin is influenced by the information received from the retina about the daily pattern of light and darkness. It is primarily secreted when the information of “darkness” is obtained by the gland.
Its levels vary in a daily cycle. In humans, it plays a role in the regulation of several biological functions. Three of its functions we are interested in here are – its effect on out mood, performance and aging process.
Aging, behavior and memory effects:
According to one study, in mice that were aged artificially, Melatonin had immense anti-aging effects. In a similar study, the combined effect of physical exercise and increase in of Melatonin concentration led to improvements in behavior, learning and memory.
Studies on humans have also produced results on similar lines. The hormone’s effect on mood, performance, memory and visual sensitivity were assessed among 14 healthy men in a study carried out at MIT. It was found that externally administered Melatonin had a significant but short acting sedative-like effect on humans. In terms of mood, it had a calming effect.
Melatonin causes cancer cells to self-destruct. The hormone also boosts your production of substances that make your immune system stronger. As a result, your system gets better at identifying and attacking mutated cells that lead to bad cancer.
Improving your Melatonin production
- Avoid screen time during the last few hours of your day before going to bed.
- Avoid using any sort of night-light or bed-side lamp. Sleep in complete darkness.
- Avoid waking up abruptly due to loud alarms or bright light. Use a crescendo for alarms.
- Sleep away from your phone.
- Maintain a set light and dark, wake and sleep rhythm.
- Most important of all, to optimize the production of this hormone, you need exposure to bright sunlight during the day. Unlike what just-the-headline suggests, it is important to note that you are not doing yourself any good by lying in darkness all the time. There has to be a continuous rhythm of light and darkness.