Serotonin is an essential brain chemical or neurotransmitter, it function to regulate the sleep and wake cycle. Diets that provide the amino acid tryptophan can help the brain to regulate serotonin levels. Certain habits or lifestyle options can disturb the production of serotonin like frequent travel and irregular sleep schedule. When serotonin levels are not in check, problems like sleep disturbance, insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome and even depression can be experienced.
Serotonin Importance In Sleep Cycle.
Even up to now, sleep is not fully understood by science. However, when it comes to serotonin, it is known to play a significant role in sleep cycle. High levels of serotonin is associated with a wakefulness while low levels are associated with sleepiness. Serotonin gets synthesized by the pineal gland and it makes melatonin, the hormone that is directly associated with good sleep. Melatonin is made into supplements to help people with sleep disorders to fall asleep faster and remain asleep for the night, even though high melatonin levels can also lead to sleep troubles and other health problems.
Role In Dreaming.
Serotonin levels are at their lowest level while sleeping in comparison to being awake. Serotonin becomes even lower while REM sleep, the stage of your sleep where you start seeing dreams. In fact all neurons receptors that have serotonin are found to be active to an extent during all stages of sleep until the REM sleep.
So serotonin tends to act as REM inhibitor as reported by the “Sleep Research Online”. Intact when serotonin levels drop significantly during REM sleep, another neurotransmitter called acetylocholine rises in level which promotes the dreaming.
That explains why antidepressants reduce the frequency of dreaming because they elevate serotonin levels which inhibits REM sleep and dreaming.
Significance In Sleep Disorders.
Sleep disruption and sleep disorders like insomnia are found to be strongly associated to low levels of serotonin. Stress is one of the most common causes of low serotonin levels, resulting in spinning in a closed circle of depression, anxiety, disrupted sleep, fatigue and inability to concentrate.
Scientists say you can improve the production of your serotonin and hence the quality of your sleep by eating foods high in tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin. In combination of getting daily exercise.
In general foods high in carbohydrates like grains and potato provide considerable levels of tryptophan, as well as most dairy products and Turkey meat.
Also practices that promote mindfulness like meditation and yoga can improve the production of serotonin.
While good levels of serotonin can make you feel grateful, generally happy and enjoy a good sleep, excessive levels of serotonin can be toxic to the brain and can cause a condition called serotonin syndrome.