We mentioned our friend melatonin in a previous blog: Sleep - The Chemical Cascade, however, this sleep hero deserves far more acknowledgement. For starters, melatonin's chemical name is N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine. Quite a mouthful as is its main function in circadian rhythms known as entrainment.
Entrainment is a mind-blowing physiological concept. Entrainment is the idea that all living things are integrally connected. This may sound very 'earth mother' but it is actually true. All living things are connected - by melatonin. You see, as the earth rotates on its axis it sets a cycle for all of its inhabitants: day and night, the seasons, the moon and ocean tides. Melatonin can be found in all of earth's inhabitants including microbes, plants and animals. Melatonin helps everything and everyone stay on schedule as the earth orbits through space. Mushrooms, birds, hydrangeas, dogs and people sense the circadian rhythms, the ebb and flow that is light and dark, warm and cold, activity and rest and they change their behaviour to match.
As the earth moves away from the sun, the light dims and the temperature drops. This signals the release of melatonin which causes drowsiness and changes in the human body temperature. As melatonin surges, the core body temperature drops and the skin temperature increases (especially the skin of the hands and feet). This helps not only initiate sleep but also maintain sleep. The effects of this dose of melatonin lasts 12 hours - the same length of time it takes the earth to spin around and face the sun again.
So it is by no coincidence then, that as the sun is rising, your melatonin levels begin dipping and you start to wake - along with all the other creatures that share our planet. Go melatonin go.