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*Melatonin - What to eat & What to Avoid*

Updated on December 21, 2015

What is Melatonin?

Are there certain times that we can't fall asleep at night? Well, here we are going to take a closer look as to what the Melatonin does in our brain and why is it that we can't fall asleep sometimes.

What is Melatonin? Melatonin is a neurohormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain and it is well known for causing and regulating sleep. Irregular sleep patterns are associated with a wide variety of health problems and premature aging. Normally, by around 8:00 p.m., your melatonin level starts rising. They keep increasing until about 3:00 a.m., when it peaks and your body temperature happens to be at its lowest. The secretion of melatonin increases in darkness and decreases during exposure to light, thereby regulating the circadian rhythms of several biological functions, including the sleep-wake cycle. In particular, melatonin regulates the sleep-wake cycle by chemically causing drowsiness and lowering the body temperature.

Melatonin and Aging

New discoveries are validating melatonin’s ability to guard the brain from oxidative stress and the neurodegeneration that occurs as a result of aging and environmental factors. With this research, melatonin deserves the title of “brain hormone" more than the "sleep hormone." Scientists are increasingly finding that the age-related decline in melatonin levels may be one factor for the age-related increase in neurodegenerative diseases. In fact, some symptoms of melatonin deficiency are seen in patients with Alzheimer’s, such as disruption of day/night patterns and mood changes. Some scientists think the increase in neurodegenerative diseases as we age may be directly related to the age-related decline in melatonin levels. Although there are no solid and grounded finding that this is the case, scientists are working to find more about this.

Melatonin deficiency and Alzheimer’s disease are closely linked, a great reduction in melatonin levels have been found in Alzheimer’s disease patients. Melatonin, which is maintained at high levels in the brain and spinal fluid throughout youth and middle age, begins to decline sharply with advancing age in a way that closely parallels the rise of Alzheimer’s incidence. Serious brain injuries, which include traumatic brain and spinal cord injury and reperfusion (which is restoring the flow of blood to an organ or tissue) due to atherosclerosis, give way to harmful oxidant stress and inflammation. Melatonin has shown a large amount of great therapeutic benefits for such serious conditions with its potent free radical scavenging and anti-inflammatory properties.

One of the most interesting research that has been done about this is Melatonin and it's relation to cancer. So here's the thing, when you turn on a light at night you immediately send your brain misinformation about the 'light dark cycle'. The only thing your brain interprets light to be is day. Believing daytime has arrived, your biological clock instructs your pineal gland to immediately cease its production of melatonin and then the melatonin level just decreases and THAT ladies and gentlemen is why you can't go back to sleep most nights. Whether you have the light on for an hour or for just a second, the effect is the same and your melatonin pump doesn't turn back on when you flip the light back off. You are interrupting your body's sleep and wake cycle which is the worst possible thing you can do for your body and brain. Since humans evolved in the glow of firelight, the yellow, orange and red wavelengths don't suppress melatonin production the way white and blue wavelengths do. In fact here's the interesting part, the range of light that inhibits melatonin is fairly narrow 460 to 480 nm. If you want to protect your melatonin, when the sun goes down you would shift to a low wattage bulb with yellow, orange, or red light. As for the cancer Melatonin inhibits the rapid increase of a wide range of cancer cell types, as well as triggering cancer cell apoptosis (self destruction). The hormone also interferes with the new blood supply tumors require for their rapid growth (angiogenesis).


There are a couple of causes that might contribute to your low production of Melatonin and Insomnia

  1. Elevated Cortisol
  2. Environment
  3. Timing
  4. Using the Bathroom
  5. Hormonal Change
  6. Food
  7. Stress
  8. Blood Pressure Change
  9. Weight Gain
  10. Blood Sugar Imbalance

Foods that increase Melatonin

Foods to consider if you want to increase your Melatonin naturally -

  1. Pineapple
  2. Oats
  3. Barely
  4. Rice
  5. Oranges
  6. Bananas
  7. Tomatoes
  8. Grapefruit
  9. Cherries
  10. Milk
  11. Turkey (Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, this means that are body will not be able to manufacture it.)
  12. Kale
  13. Grapes
  14. Edamame
  15. Miso Soup

Worst foods to avoid!

1. Bacon Cheeseburgers - When you don't get enough sleep, you're more likely to crave high-fat, high-sugar foods the next day. But eating a high-fat diet also has impacts on your sleep, including leading to more fragmented sleep.

2. Wine - It metabolizes quickly in your system and causes you to wake up multiple times during the night. The latest study found that alcohol increases slow-wave "deep" sleep during the first half of the night, but then increases sleep disruptions in the second half of the night.

3. Coffee - An afternoon cup of coffee or tea will keep some people from falling asleep at night.

4. Dark Chocolate - Chocolate contains not only calories, but caffeine, especially dark chocolate. A 1.55-ounce Hershey's milk chocolate bar, for instance, contains about 12 mg of caffeine, or the same amount as three cups of decaffeinated coffee.

5. Spicy Food - Spicy foods before bedtime can give you indigestion that makes it nearly impossible to get a good night's sleep. But even if you can eat spicy foods without discomfort, they are still linked with more time spent awake during the night and taking longer to fall asleep. It can also be a contribution to your nightmares.

6. Red Bull - YES! We all love this drink, but then at the same time an eight-ounce Red Bull energy drink contains about 80 milligrams of caffeine or equivalent to a one-ounce Starbucks espresso. Five-Hour Energy packs 200 milligrams of caffeine into just two ounces, which means you might as well be imbibing 16 ounces of regular coffee.

7. Soft Drinks - Typical soda drinks like Pepsi and Coke contain citrus as well as sodium benzoate and other chemicals which can aggravate the GI tract and promote acid reflux, not a great recipe for a good night's sleep.


It is important to keep your wake and sleep cycle in place in order to get about 7-8 hours of sleep. Your body needs that sleep time but if it's left interrupted then you will be lacking energy and your stress hormone will rise even more and you will not be able to get through your day properly.

Keeping your Melatonin level under control is a great way to keep yourself healthy. If you are pregnant or breast feeding consult with your doctor before taking any Melatonin medications. Stay safe!

Thanks, M


5 out of 5 stars from 3 ratings of Melatonin

© 2015 Mahsa S


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    • mahsa setareh profile image

      Mahsa S 2 years ago

      Thank you glad it was helpful to you

    • profile image

      Missy 2 years ago

      Very clear and great to understand thank you!

    • mahsa setareh profile image

      Mahsa S 2 years ago

      Thank you! :) You are most welcome..Yes those foods do make you sleepy and on the other hand there are certain foods that make you be awake all night.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Very informative and clear. Thanks especially for the list foods that increase and deter Melatonin.