While there is still no proven cure for COVID-19, medical professionals are getting a better handle on how to most effectively treat this deadly virus. Scientists are hopeful that melatonin may help treat some COVID-19 patients, after discovering that the naturally occurring hormone may inhibit the COVID-19-induced cytokine storm.
Before we discuss how melatonin inhibits cytokine storm, it’s important to know exactly how this hormone works in the body. Once you have a grasp of this information, you will also be able to leverage your knowledge of melatonin to improve your own sleep cycle.
How Melatonin Regulates Sleep Cycles
Melatonin is a key hormone in the body that is responsible for the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. Individuals who experience low melatonin levels may be at an increased risk of poor sleep quality, making it more difficult to get through the day without drowsiness or even extreme fatigue. In addition to helping to promote sound sleep, melatonin has also been shown to provide a number of benefits to your physical and mental health. While melatonin is produced naturally in the body, it can be stymied by a variety of factors, including too much caffeine and alcohol, smoking, poor vision or working a night shift.
The body produces more melatonin at night, while production drops during the daylight hours. Individuals who miss out on the natural light and dark cycles may experience difficulties falling and staying asleep. Because melatonin production decreases with age, you may find it more challenging to get the rest that you need as you get older.
Understanding How Melatonin Inhibits Cytokine Storm
As the body goes to battle with the novel coronavirus, it is not unusual for the patient to experience a cytokine storm as a response. A cytokine storm is the body’s reaction to increased immune activity as a result of the body working too hard to fight off a virus or other health threat. Many of the most severe cases of COVID-19 involve the occurrence of an intense cytokine storm.
Previous research has demonstrated that melatonin can help prevent the cytokine storm associated with COVID-19 by inhibiting inflammasomes. However, new research now demonstrates that melatonin may also inhibit the cytokine storm by reversing aerobic glycolysis in immune cells. These latest findings shed more light on how melatonin inhibits cytokine storm.
Immune cells like macrophages and monocytes exist to help protect the body from infection and disease. Under inflammatory conditions, these cells switch their metabolism to a process called aerobic glycolysis, which, among other things, allows for increased production and release of cytokines. This cytokine “storm” also generates an overwhelming quantity of free radicals, which can damage the body’s systems. The recent study found that melatonin helps to reverse the process of aerobic glycolysis, helping to inhibit the cytokine storm.
Other studies examining the powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities associated with melatonin have shown that this hormone may also be instrumental in neutralizing free radicals and supporting cellular activity to prevent lung disease and fight off the virus. By protecting the lungs from further damage, the patient will be better equipped to handle the effects of the virus.
Boosting Melatonin Levels Naturally
Boosting your own melatonin levels may have a profound positive effect on your ability to get a good night’s sleep, while also strengthening your immune response against deadly viruses like the novel coronavirus. Here are some ways to boost melatonin levels naturally.
Manage Your Exposure to Light
The single best thing that you can do to regulate your melatonin levels is to manage your exposure to light. Start your day with at least 15 minutes of exposure to sunlight for best results. You should also avoid electronic devices for at least two hours prior to bedtime to lower your exposure to blue light.
Many people find great success with taking a melatonin supplement approximately one hour before they want to fall asleep. A melatonin supplement is a powerful tool if your goal is to promote a consistent sleep routine.
Nourish Your Body With Melatonin-Rich Foods
In addition to taking a melatonin supplement, you can also find this hormone naturally in a variety of foods. The best melatonin-rich foods include tomatoes, tart cherries, walnuts, flax seeds and orange bell peppers.
Boost Your Calcium Intake
Calcium has been shown to increase the production of melatonin in the body, making this mineral a great addition to your diet. Foods that are rich in calcium include cheese, milk, yogurt, collard greens, kale, almonds and broccoli.
It might be that your exercise routine is messing up your odds of getting a good night’s sleep. You should try experimenting with working out at different times of the day to see if late-day exercising is sabotaging your efforts to fall asleep.
Meditate and Relax
You cannot expect to hop into bed and fall right asleep if your body and mind are not in a relaxed state. Meditating or praying before bed will help to send the signal to your body that is time to rest. Many individuals also find great success with a warm bath or a soothing mug of herbal tea before crawling under the sheets.
While researchers know a significant amount of information about melatonin and its role in helping to regulate sleep and wake cycles, this new information about how melatonin inhibits cytokine storm accentuates the fact that this hormone may also prove instrumental in helping the world to continue the battle against COVID-19.