We all have a pea-sized gland located right above the middle portion of our brains. This little gland is known as the pineal gland. The gland produces a particular hormone known as melatonin, which is also sometimes called the sleep hormone.
The main job of this hormone is to regular our sleep-wake cycle. Typically, the melatonin levels in your body follow the circadian rhythm, which means that the level of the hormone rises during the evenings, and decreases during the morning. A rise in the level of melatonin prepares our bodies for sleep.
It can be thus understood that irregular levels of melatonin can disrupt our sleep cycle. When it comes to the plight of international students, most of these young men and women already face a lot of difficulties with getting proper sleep.
This can be contributed to many factors, such as stress, academic pressure, relationship issues, or lifestyle changes, which can disrupt their sleep cycles. However, light can also play a significant factor in the melatonin production of an individual.
Small, seemingly insignificant actions such as looking at your phone screens before bed, scrolling on your laptop, watching TV, or even reading on a device can disrupt the melatonin production in the body. Subsequently, students have insomnia, or only not getting enough healthy hours of sleep regularly.
Since melatonin is produced naturally by the body, it is thought to be a natural relaxing agent, which calms you down and lets you know that it is time for bed.
However, certain activities can lower the levels of this hormone, which can not only disrupt the sleep cycle of a student but also affect other areas of their life. Less sleep means the student is cranky, foggy minded, cannot focus or concentrate on academics, and performance decreases significantly.
Thankfully, there are a few simple things that can naturally regulate your melatonin levels and allow you to sleep well at night.
Here are some of these simple things you can do:
Avoid Screens Before Bed
One of the worst things that you can do to your body, especially in this extensive technology riddled world, is to stare at your screens before bed. Many people do it out of boredom, others, only out of habit.
Most of our devices emit a blue light, which has similar effects to sunlight on our bodies. The blue light, upon reaching our retinas, gives specific signals to our brains. In turn, our brains tell the pineal gland not to produce melatonin- our beloved sleep hormone.
To avoid this from happening, make sure that you switch off your devices at least an hour before bed or more. You can consciously choose to not play with your phones or laptops, or keep them in a different room so that you are not tempted to touch them in bed.
Read More: Sleep Apnea in International Students
You should try and make this a habit, and instead, choose an unusual activity before bed. Make sure you pick something relaxing, like reading, or listening to music, or even an audiobook.
Eat Foods Rich in Melatonin
You will find several delicious food items that are quite rich in melatonin. You can bring these foods into your daily diet, eating them a few hours before bed to boost your melatonin levels.
Some of this food include corn, asparagus, cucumbers, nuts, pomegranate, olives, flax, walnuts, rolled oats, and even barley. These are just a few choices, but you can research and find a lot more options than you can slowly integrate into your diet.
Try the ‘corpse Pose’
As morbid as it sounds, the ‘corpse pose’ is a famous Yoga pose, which is correlated to higher levels of melatonin. The pose is – lie on your back, flat, with your arms spread out beside you, and concentrate on your breathing.
This simple pose, also known as savasana, can help boost melatonin levels and help you regulate your sleep cycle.
Keep Your Bedroom Dark, or Dimly Lit
The best thing that you can do for your bedroom is to keep it completely dark. However, if you are not a fan of the dark, you can also choose to keep a night light or dim lights in your room. This encourages the production of melatonin in your body.
Having too much artificial light in your bedroom will trick your body into thinking that it is daytime, and thus will not let your mind or body relax and rest. Buy some dimming lights, or keep all the lights off.
Quit Bad Habits
Yes, bad habits are closely related to what kind of hormones your body releases or does not release, and how much. Things such as caffeine and nicotine have a direct relation with the amount of melatonin that your body produces.
If you are a fan of coffee or enjoy smoking cigarettes, then it is time to think about cutting down, and finally quitting. Very soon, you will see a drastic change in the level of melatonin produced by your body, and you can enjoy a good night’s sleep.
Find Ways to Deal with Stress
As a young student, it is not realistic to ask someone to stop stressing simply. There are a lot of stressful factors in life, and the only thing you can do is learn to deal with stress healthily. Stress releases a hormone called cortisol, which affects melatonin levels, and thus, your sleep cycle.
Engaging in relaxing activities like yoga, exercise, mediation, and having green tea, chamomile tea, and even journaling can have a significant effect on your stress levels, slowly reducing them. It is essential to practice these habits regularly and diligently, of course.
As your stress levels decrease, so do cortisol levels, and melatonin naturally increases from the evening hours.
These are just a few simple things that international students can do to increase and balance their melatonin levels naturally. By practising these regularly and keeping oneself healthy, it is possible to regulate your melatonin levels naturally and, thus, allow yourself to have a peaceful night’s sleep daily.