by Tony Gjokaj April 11, 2020 4 min read

Sleep deprivation is a problem worldwide. It is one of the more popular topics to search for on the Internet, and it makes sense: over 1/3rd of the U.S. population is sleep deprived.

While we have mentioned previously that sleep deprivation causes a plethora of problems (both physical and mental), we wanted to dive into a hormone & a neurotransmitter that may reinforce sleep: melatonin and serotonin.

Although melatonin is one of the more commonly known "sleep reinforcers", serotonin is one that keeps coming around as a result of scientific research.

Based on results from sleep research, scientists have theorized that both serotonin and melatonin have some sort of special connection in regards to sleep quality - whether directly, or indirectly.

In this article, let's discuss the two, and how to optimize both!

Melatonin: For Sleep

Melatonin is a hormone that our brain secretes in the evening: It primes our body for sleep.

Melatonin is influenced by our environment in the evenings after the sun has set. Individuals who understand this tend to reduce light exposure to prepare their bodies to unwind and sleep.

Reducing light exposure would also mean to eliminate electronics before bed - we're going prehistoric!

Melatonin is also popular to take in the form of oral supplements to facilitate or improve sleep quality for many, including people with insomnia.

In knowing how to optimize our melatonin levels, we may have the opportunity to improve our sleep quality.

Serotonin: For Wellbeing

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, digestion, bone density, and possibly even sleep. In the past, there was a lot of conflicting evidence as to whether serotonin had benefits to sleep, alongside melatonin.

Recently, a study has shown that serotonin may in fact facilitate sleep in the evening. According to this study, scientists studied the serotonin system of zebrafish and mice and found that serotonin may influence sleep.

It has been theorized that sleep is influenced by the following:

  1. Circadian Clock: our body typically being energized by light in the daytime, and unwinds towards the darkness in the evenings.
  2. "Sleep Pressure": When we wake, we are energized and ready to go. As we continue to expend energy, our body eventually builds enough pressure for us to want to rest.
  3. For us to truly optimize our sleep, we must encounter both at the same time, meaning we need to build up sleep pressure and follow the circadian clock.

Reinforcing this theory, scientists from this study believe that serotonin builds up sleep pressure. Although more information will be needed, we believe knowing how to optimize our serotonin levels will be a great opportunity for us to improve our sleep quality.

Optimizing Serotonin and Melatonin

Now that we know that serotonin may indirectly influence sleep, and that melatonin influences sleep, let's dive into optimizing both to improve your sleep quality! 

Melatonin

Recall that melatonin is produced in the evening as a result of light exposure. This means that any form of light suppresses melatonin synthesis, making it more difficult to sleep.

We all have a knack of scrolling through our social media feeds before bed, but we typically waste time and sleep poorer as a result of doing so!

To optimize melatonin levels, we typically recommend eliminating all light, even blue light from electronics in the evenings. If you find this difficult or impossible to do, consider using a computer program like F.lux, or your phone's "night shift" to eliminate the blue light electronics give off.

While it's still light, it is typically easier to fall asleep and get better quality sleep as a result. This is based off my experience and experiences of others.

In regards to supplementation: supplementing with melatonin has not shown that it has any negative responses with it, making it something great to have in your arsenal.

Our upcoming supplement, Drift, is a sleeping powerhouse: combining melatonin, and other nootropics to enhance sleep!

Serotonin

Serotonin is typically produced as a result of what we eat, and sunlight exposure. In regards to food, we recommend the following:

  • Eat foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, nuts, and seeds. You are also able to supplement with fish oil.
  • Leafy greens: spinach
  • Fruits: Bananas

In regards to sunlight exposure: sunlight produces Vitamin D, which produces serotonin as a result. Make sure to get 15-20 minutes of sunlight exposure daily. I typically do this by waking up in the morning around 6 am-7 am and getting direct sunlight first thing in the morning. It primes my mood as well!

Remember that energy expenditure on the theory of "sleep pressure"? Exercise also regulates serotonin, which makes a lot of sense with the theory. 

Anecdotally, I used to have insomnia when I was overweight. I contribute exercise to it being eliminated, as I slept like a baby afterwards.

In regards to supplementation: You are able to supplement with serotonin, however, we prefer supplementing with Vitamin D, as it is an essential micronutrient that most people are deprived of!

Serotonin & Melatonin: Buddies

Melatonin and Serotonin: these two seem to have a special bond when it comes to overall wellbeing in us. 

While we have mentioned optimizing morning and evenings through previous articles, we believe it's imperative to learn everything we can about optimizing our days. This will allow us to perform our best, and seize every opportunity life sends us.

Any questions, or other insights? Throw them in the comments below and let's discuss!

Thanks for reading, Reforged Legion!

Tony Gjokaj
Tony Gjokaj

Tony is the Owner of Reforged Performance Nutrition. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help bridge the gap between physical & mental health through fitness.



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