Your brain produces melatonin, a natural hormone, to help promote sleep-wake cycles. It does this by putting you in a state of peaceful wakefulness hours before your bedtime, so you can fall asleep and stay asleep.
Your body knows to release melatonin thanks to the sun, as the brain’s production of it is blocked or disrupted by light. Melatonin levels increase in the evening as it gets dark out. Inversely, levels drop in the morning when it is light out, helping you feel more relaxed before bed.
There are a number of factors that can disrupt melatonin production, including screen time before bed, jet lag or an altered schedule requiring you to get to bed earlier. Your body also produces less of it as you get older.
A lot of people naturally produce enough melatonin on their own, but for those who go more than two nights with difficulty falling asleep, there are steps you can take to help promote healthy levels. By making sure you get enough time in natural daylight and reducing light exposure before bed, you can help signal melatonin production to your brain. One way to do this is by taking walks outside during the day in bright sunlight and limiting screen time two hours before bed.
There are also supplements you can take before bed. These come in liquid, powder or pill form and can help increase melatonin levels to aid in you falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer.