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Sleep hormone melatonin could aid in your weight-loss efforts

In recent years, scientists have learned that there are certain types of fat in the human body that actually burn energy, rather than store it. In this particular case, a type of fat known as "beige fat" can multiply in the human body when supplied with the sleep hormone melatonin. Beige fat generally resides along a person's spine and collarbone.

For the study, researchers conducted melatonin experiments on two groups of rats — some of which had type 2 diabetes and were obese, and others that were completely healthy. Select rats from each group were provided with melatonin supplements daily for six weeks, whereas the remaining rats received no melatonin at all.

They found that the group of diabetic and non-diabetic rats supplied with melatonin generated an increased amount of beige fat, and as a result, experienced a rise in metabolism that led to a boost in energy and fat-burning. Separate studies conducted in the past have shown that melatonin supplements can also improve insulin sensitivity, while also lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Despite this new finding, experts are not urging Americans and obese individuals to take melatonin supplements for weight loss since the study remains partly inconclusive. In some cases, melatonin supplements taken incorrectly can have adverse effects on sleep health such as a disruption to the natural circadian rhythm and sleep cycle.

Instead, the study authors recommend that melatonin levels be improved using the following methods:

1. Exercise on a regular basis

Exercise has the ability to naturally improve sleep and increase melatonin by strengthening our natural circadian rhythms, in addition to helping with weight loss. Make sure you exercise no less than three hours before bedtime to avoid being kept awake by that extra energy boost.

2. Expose yourself to sunlight regularly during early hours

Since humans are diurnal (the opposite of nocturnal) by nature, exposure to sunlight is crucial to our overall health and sleeping rhythms. Sunlight can strengthen your body's circadian rhythm and make you feel tired at night when you're supposed to go to sleep. Make sure you expose yourself to sunlight early on in the day as possible.

3. Avoid exposing yourself to light at night time

Melatonin levels naturally begin to increase as soon as it starts to get dark, but exposing yourself to artificial light can delay your body's melatonin production. Take steps to make sure your bedroom is completely dark at night time, especially during sleeping hours, and avoid watching television or sitting in bright rooms in the hour or two directly before bedtime.

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