Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. Its levels vary in 24-hour cycles and controls the body clock. Melatonin is important in helping regulate the internal body clock’s cycle of sleep and wakefulness. Production of melatonin is activated by darkness and inhibited by light. This is why it is often called ‘the hormone of darkness’.
When it gets dark outside, it is supposed to be “melatonin time”. Turning on the lights at night and staying up late tricks our body into thinking it is daytime, keeping the day hormone levels higher. Then, when you finally go to bed and turn out the lights, melatonin may not have enough time to do its job before morning. And if the bedroom is not completely dark – an outdoor street lamp is shining through the window onto our skin, for example, melatonin may not be activated at all.
The body needs around 9 hours of complete darkness each night to ensure melatonin is being activated properly and doing its job. This does not mean you must be in bed sleeping for that length of time. Instead of watching TV before bed try and do something in the dark. Dark time can provide an opportunity for meditation, contemplation or listening to music. This way it is easier to quiet the mind before trying to sleep and activate the melatonin hormone to ensure a restful sleep.