Winter is entirely underway, and it seems as though more and more of my day is spent indoors trying to stay cozy, even in mostly sunny Los Angeles! I’ve been trying to pay special attention to maintaining a proper circadian rhythm by scheduling regular outdoor activity and sticking to a consistent nighttime routine, even when it gets dark at 4 pm now. I also regularly use one of my favorite supplements, melatonin, to keep my circadian rhythm in check throughout the darker months. Many people don’t realize it, but melatonin can also positively impact immunity. Some health experts are even connecting melatonin to a potential reduction in COVID-19 transmission.
Our body’s natural routine of being asleep or alert is a circadian rhythm- a natural process linked to an internal clock inside our brain that springs us awake in the morning and gently nudges us to sleep in the evening. Circadian comes from the Latin phrase Circa Diem, which translates to “around a day.” This 24-hour “clock” also manages other vital processes in the body, like the digestive and endocrine system, and it is susceptible to light. The time you spend awake or asleep can affect a great deal more than just your outward appearance.
When it starts getting dark out, our pineal gland is alerted to produce and release the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin in a much higher amount than any other time of the day. It flows throughout our bloodstream and lets us know it is time to start thinking about bedtime. I often have a hard time unplugging, especially in the evening. It can feel as if there is always more to do, and the next thing I know, it’s close to midnight! If you are like me and happen to be keeping the lights bright or staring into your phone, you’re not doing yourself any favors. These habits prevent the release of the correct amount of melatonin, as your brain starts to confuse artificial light with the light from the sun. You are missing out on our body’s natural healing system in a significant way.
What may come as even more of a surprise is that melatonin also has powerful antioxidant properties and is massively anti-inflammatory. This anti-inflammatory response has beneficial effects on the immune system. Almost all diseases and illnesses result from inflammation and making sure your circadian rhythm stays consistent so you can have a good night’s sleep is one of the simplest ways to protect and heal your body.
In a recent study conducted at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, Feixiong Cheng and his team discovered that melatonin has potentially positive effects on the COVID-19 virus. They found that people who got tested for COVID-19 and were also taking melatonin had a lower incidence of being positive for the virus. The researchers believe that melatonin may increase the tolerance of the host to the virus. While there is much more research that needs to be done on this topic, it is clear that melatonin has a powerful effect on immunity.
Here are some of my top recommendations for keeping your circadian rhythm in check to boost melatonin and immunity:
- Get outside! I try to go out for at least one walk a day, so my body can access sunlight. Spending time outdoors helps your internal clock “keep time” and ensure that it doesn’t send out sleepy signals too early.
- Commit to a tech-free end to the day. I aim to put all my electronics, such as my phone and laptop, away by 8 pm and limit screen time from TV’s to about an hour before I get ready for bed.
- Dim the lights. After dinner, I recommend turning the lights down around your home. It will prompt the pineal gland to activate and prepare the body to wind down ahead of bedtime.
- Take a Melatonin supplement. I take a high-quality melatonin supplement called, Dr. Whitakers Restful Night because of the possibility that its immune-boosting properties may positively impact my body’s response to COVID-19.
Always check with your doctor before trying a new supplement. If you’re interested in more tips for enhancing your immune system, I invite you to work with me virtually one-on-one! Learn more about working with me here.