Photo: Getty Images
Sleep is an important aspect of our lives. While it may seem like a passive activity, a lot goes on in our brains that affects how we function every day.
When we are sleeping, we go through five different stages of sleep: stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 4 and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
During the night, about 50 percent is in stage 2, 20 percent in REM, and 30 percent in the other stages of sleep, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Certain hormones play an important role in our sleep.
How can we tell when it is time to be awake and time to be asleep? This is related to the hormone melatonin, which is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. When it becomes darker, we begin to feel drowsy because our bodies produce more melatonin. The opposite occurs when it becomes light, thus causing us to wake up.
But our melatonin levels can become disrupted, affecting our sleep. For example, melatonin levels can be altered if we are not exposed to enough light in the day or if during the evening we are exposed to bright lights. The University of Maryland Medical Center noted that poor vision, shift work and jet lag can interfere in a person’s melatonin cycle, affecting her sleep.
There are supplement forms of melatonin. The University of Maryland Medical Center stated that studies on melatonin supplements may help people who have low melatonin levels or disrupted circadian rhythms, such as individuals who work on the night shift at their jobs.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke warned that the side effects of the supplement are still not fully known. Individuals interested in using melatonin supplements should talk to their health care professional.
Sleep Deprivation and Hormones
If we do not get enough sleep, it can affect other hormones. In a study conducted at The University of Chicago and published in the journal The Lancet, researchers looked at how chronic sleep loss affects hormone secretion.