Happy Birthday Canada!
To celebrate this year, I’m going to go to a cherry stand in my rural neighbourhood and buy a basket full of fresh local cherries.
They’re totally in season right now and they match our beloved maple leaf Canadian flag. And everybody knows that it’s not a sundae until there’s a cherry on top.
But did you know that cherries are also a wonderful sleep aid? As much as I like having a holiday from my day job in the middle of the week on a Wednesday, it might disrupt my sleep patterns by sleeping in and staying out later. I’m hoping that eating some fresh cherries tonight might help keep me on track.
The secret is melatonin.
Do you ever wonder how your body knows what time it is? As we go about our life, day by day, our body is constantly monitoring the environment and is making infinitesimal calculations and adjustments that we don’t have to consciously think about – thank goodness, because I already have enough on my plate. Studying circadian rhythms is complex and fascinating and sunlight is one of the elements that cues our bodies to function. And sleeping is an important part of that whole process.
Nightfall triggers an increase in the production of melatonin which prepares the body for sleep. Melatonin is a potent antioxidant and hormone produced in the pea-sized pineal gland, which regulates the body’s circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles. As people age, melatonin levels decrease and that may account for some insomnia in adults. Of course, living in a world where artificial light is available 24-hours a day, has screwed up our internal clocks to a certain degree also.
Melatonin production is stimulated by darkness to induce sleepiness and low melatonin levels at night will contribute to insomnia or jagged sleep. So, even increasing your melatonin levels slightly at night can improve the quality of your sleep.
Russel J. Reiter, Ph.D. of the University of Texas has been researching the effects of melatonin for 30 years and is co-author with Jo Robinson of the book, Melatonin published in 1996 by Bantam. Dr. Reiter proposes that eating a handful of tart cherries, (a good food source of melatonin) before bedtime, may help increase melatonin levels in the blood, which will promote restful sleep.
So share some cherries with your neighbours as you watch the fireworks tonight in celebration of Canada’s birthday and you will sleep more soundly later. Let me know if you’ve tried this tip and have noticed a difference.