We’ve mentioned it before, but today we’re going to take a closer look at melatonin and serotonin. Like I’ve said before, melatonin is released by the brain when it gets dark outside, whereas serotonin is released when the sun comes up. Seeing as most of us don’t rise and fall with the sunset and sunrise, these levels are probably off. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant (how great! we’ve discussed antioxidants before, what if you just had to close your eyes to get a powerful dose of antioxidants, sounds good right?) that, along with prolactin, controls immunity while you sleep. Surging melatonin during the dark encourages white-blood cell activity specifically designed to respond to pathogens like bacteria living in your gut (so without sleep you become defenseless and autoimmune). Melatonin works during the night to restore ovarian and testicular function, an rev up the immune system for the next waking period. It lowers our body temperature during NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep in order to slow metabolic processes and stave off hunger (also to slow bacteria). The winter melatonin ‘clock’ keeps the prolactin ‘timer’ going longer at night, which in turn means you secrete no prolactin in the daytime. If prolactin happens in the daytime, it suppresses leptin’s actions and leaves you craving carbs (basically melatonin works with prolactin to control sugar-carb cravings in the winter). Over the counter melatonin (often used for jet lag) actually decreases the natural production of melatonin by shrinking the pineal gland. What about the other half of the equation, serotonin? Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in charge of impulse control– by reducing the ability to make connections. Higher-than normal levels of serotonin mean danger because the food supply is up and it must be mating season, so readiness for competition rules over all of your system. Serotonin keeps instinct for drives like eating, sex, and aggression subdued enough for survival. The other half to serotonin is dopamine. People with low serotonin are happy people because low serotonin means high dopamine levels (just like high serotonin causes a depressed mindset). Sleep controls carb cravings, who’s consumption controls water retention (to change blood pressure) and insulin production (which facilitates cholesterol production). No sleep. No control and serotonin build-up. When you don’t sleep and eat carbs all day, week, year, decade, you swim in a chronically high serotonin because it never gets turned into melatonin. That’s when depression and heart attacks occur. The chronic serotonin reads as an endless state of stress or threat you’ll never work your way out of, no matter what. That’s why those with high levels (who consume a high carb diet) and have serotonin resistance live in a with insensitivity, create a constant twitchy aggressive, paranoid state. Sleep normalizes these levels because melatonin can only be made by using available serotonin. Today’s post just reiterates the importance of sleep for your body’s hormones, appetite, mood, and more! Once again, turn out the lights and get some sleep!