Have you ever had those mornings where you wake up tired despite the amount of sleep you have had? We have all had early nights only to wake up feeling exhausted the next morning. For some of us this is once in a while and for others its every day. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), ME and lethargy are diseases that are exasperated by lack of quality Deep sleep. Improving your Deep sleep and getting more energy is only a 2-minute read away.
The typical sleep cycle lasts for 90 minutes where we move through the 5 stages of sleep, this should repeat for between 3-5 times during the night. The first 4 stages are Non- Rapid Eye Movement sleep (NREM), with stage 4 being Deep sleep. Deep sleep is when delta waves take over. A slow brain wave that oscillates between 0.5-4 hertz and it’s very hard to be woken when in this phase of sleep. It is the Deep sleep phase that is required for energy restoration, brain detoxification and cell repair and maintenance. The fifth stage is Rapid Eye Movement Sleep which is the phase of sleep we dream in.
Poor Quality Sleep
People who have chronic fatigue, ME or feel tired in the morning are lacking enough Deep sleep. These people will most likely remain in REM sleep where most dreaming will occur. They may even stay in light sleep meaning they will be restless whilst sleeping. REM sleep is essential for memory filing and consolidation but it does nothing for restoring energy levels or repairing cell damage.
Poor sleep leads to tiredness which leads to more poor sleep and the cycle of destruction continues. Over time someone who is simply waking up tired in the mornings could develop CFS.
Mitochondria hold the key
Mitochondria are our cell’s batteries. They are powered by ATP and break down food which they then mix with oxygen to create our energy. Like any system within a living organism, inflammation and cell damage occurs when running metabolic processes. Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and Free Radicals (FRs) are produced which cause the mitochondria to become less efficient, and a less efficient battery will not supply sufficient energy.
Our Biological Superhero – Melatonin
Melatonin is often termed the sleep hormone, but melatonin plays a more important role in our bodies. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that repairs cell damage. The more melatonin we produce the better repair we have in our cells and mitochondria. Melatonin has been proven to control mitochondria bioenergetic function and increase autophagy. The more melatonin we can produce the better our healing and repair mechanisms whilst we sleep. In layman’s terms this means deeper restorative sleep and more energy.
Supplementation is not the answer
Context applied here for people who have a medical condition that hinders the release of melatonin. As a general rule of thumb one should never supplement on a hormone as our bodies can produce under the right environmental conditions.
Absence of blue and green light passing through the eyes is enough to maximise your melatonin production, coupled with regular sun exposure. Studies in rodents have shown thinning of the retina when it comes to melatonin supplementation. Also, when one supplements on something that can be produced by the body naturally it can hinder the body’s ability to make it naturally. This is not good as you could become reliant on the supplement for life.
Melatonin is also produced under very specific environmental conditions i.e. in the absence of blue and green light, how are we to know what damage we may be causing ourselves if we supplement melatonin under the wrong light conditions?
Finally, our bodies know exactly how much melatonin to produce. By supplementing we are guessing our optimal dosage which could disrupt our endocrine system. I always advise to tread with caution when it comes to melatonin supplementation.
How to Get More Melatonin Naturally
Melatonin is a hormone produced mainly in the pineal gland but also in multiple places around the body. Melatonin is created from a chemical reaction between serotonin and tryptophan. More melatonin starts at sunrise as sunlight has been shown to increase serotonin levels in the gut. The more serotonin we can produce naturally the more melatonin we can create later in the day. This is why I always get outside as much as possible, especially at sunrise to allow sunlight to manufacture serotonin in my gut.
Melatonin secretion is supressed by blue and green light, this is why we don’t secrete melatonin during the day, if we did we would want to sleep all day, not good for diurnal creatures such as humans. The issue we face today is after sunset when ancestrally we should not see lots of blue and green light we switch on our house lights, open our fridge, watch TV or scroll through our smart phones. What this does is supress melatonin which means we cannot get the deep restorative sleep our mitochondria need. We need to block out the blue and green light using blue light blocking glasses that block between 400-550nm, all blue and most green light. Ideally, we would also limit screen time and also install red light bulbs in our house.
More deep sleep is pivotal to greater energy levels the next day. Deep sleep is governed by proper light hygiene. Sunlight during the day with no sunglasses or sunscreen on coupled with no blue/green light after sunset is the perfect recipe for increased Deep sleep. Adhere to these basic principles and experience greater energy levels in no time at all and power up those mitochondria!