Welcome to Fall
It’s the same every year: the days get shorter and that means the season is changing. When summer starts to make way for fall, the pineal gland tells birds that it’s time to migrate.
For the “human mammal”, the approach of autumn, especially when it comes to lifestyles that have formed over time, coincides with the start of a new activity cycle, a change in pace that needs suitable mental and physical energy.
The pineal gland (a structure the size of a pea, located deep inside our brain) does not just regulate our circadian rhythms for day and night, but also the changing seasons and the rhythm of life itself.
Fall, which is a time for taking stock and good intentions, is also the perfect time to take care of our well-being, to check our lifestyle and plan out a personal strategy for preventing illness – seasonal and otherwise.
The immune system is formed by tissue and cells that circulate in the lymph system and in the bloodstream; we can consider it as the body’s weapon against the germs and viruses that cause diseases.
“When a patient falls ill, this is because of a malfunction in their immune system, which is the body’s first line of defence against illness. It works like a surveillance system, continuously monitoring our body to discover the presence of viruses, bacteria, and other outside invaders”
Our lifestyle can have a vast influence over the efficiency of our immune system: disorderly rhythms, lack of sleep and exercise, a poor diet and acute or prolonged stress can weaken our immune system.
Why is sleep so important?
“If we don’t get enough sleep, the workshop inside our body is no longer able to carry out its extraordinarily important task” Walter Pierpaoli.
Sleep is a precious ally when it comes to our well-being. Physiological, restful sleep is characterised by the regularly alternating phases of light and deep sleep, but if our sleep is broken or disturbed, our deep sleep phase is interrupted.
It is during deep sleep that many organic systems slow down: heart rate and blood pressure decrease, body temperature lowers and metabolism slows down, while the body’s growth hormone increases so that cells can focus on self-repair and the body itself can regenerate.
Melatonin’s role at night
The pineal gland – our light-sensitive biological clock – is triggered by the dark when “it’s time for bed” and it produces melatonin to stimulate relaxation in the evening, helping to synchronize our body’s rhythms with the environmental cycle of light and dark.
When our lifestyle interferes with this natural rhythm, such as when we are exposed to light sources until late in the evening (especially the blue light from electronic devices, which is particularly harmful), the pineal gland is unable to correctly secrete melatonin, which leads to circadian dysrhythmia and poor sleep quality.
Hormones also follow a typical physiological, cyclical pattern over a 2-hour period. This can be affected by many factors, including irregular sleep, leading to dysfunctions, such as increased cortisol (stress hormone), and negative effects on metabolism and the endocrine system.
At night, melatonin acts like a modulator for antibody response, especially with its effects that synchronize the whole neuroendocrine system, which in turn, controls the immune system.
Get your sleep back: Melatonin can help
If you want to stay healthy then it is essential to make sure you sleep. Stick to a lifestyle that respects natural circadian rhythms, and organise your daytime activities to suit it.
By taking melatonin at night, you can help to rebuild a biological cycle that is out of synch,
kick-starting a system that has had its rhythms altered.
But melatonin is not a sleep-inducing drug and cannot have the same effect as sleeping pills because, unlike sleeping pills – which are formulated to have a sedative effect on the central nervous system – melatonin supports the body in performing its proper physiological functions, including sleep, restoring the body’s natural tendency to relax in the evening, with a “gentle” action.
For elderly people, but also for many others, whose biological rhythms are unsettled by unnatural lifestyles, it may be necessary to wait a few weeks for the pineal gland to restore the sleep pattern and allow the brain to return to natural, physiological rhythms that take time to return to normal, especially if they have been altered for years.