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Sleep Better: 4 Ways to Manipulate Your Melatonin Levels #30DaysofGOOD

Still can't get to sleep? Maybe it's time to start tweaking your brain chemistry.

Things are easier said than done, or so the old adage goes, and we couldn't agree more. That's why we do The GOOD 30-Day Challenge (#30DaysofGOOD), a monthly attempt to live better. Our challenge for May? Sleep better.

If you've already set a sleep schedule, optimized your bedroom, and tried some of the sleep apps on the market, take things a step further and start meddling with your melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that's produced in the pineal gland and helps regulate your circadian rhythm. It's sometimes called the "hormone of darkness," because it's produced at night. Melatonin supplements were popular in the 1990s as a remedy for jetlag. Supplements still exist, but there are also a variety of natural ways to increase your melatonin levels.

Cherry juice: For a natural boost, try drinking cherry juice. A 2011 study by researchers at Northumbia University found that volunteers who drank cherry juice for a week experienced a roughly 15 percent jump in melatonin levels, which translated into less daytime napping, almost 30 minutes more sleep each night, and better-quality sleep.

Meditation: Research has also shown that meditation can boost melatonin levels. If you have a hard time falling asleep, consider spending 15 minutes before bed concentrating on your breathing and clearing your mind—it'll actually change your brain chemistry.

Tryptophan: The amino acid tryptophan is used to make melatonin. It's often credited (or blamed) for the post-Thanksgiving dinner coma. Indeed, tryptophan is abundant in turkey, but also in other poultry, dairy, fish, and eggs. Consider a glass of milk before bed.

Supplements: There is also a wide variety of over-the-counter melatonin supplements available. There are pills you can buy in drug stores, of course, but also newfangled products like Lazy Larry "supplement squares," which try to tap into the market for marijuana brownies. These products exist in a legal grey area and aren't without their drawbacks, though, so read up before scarfing one down.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user D H Wright

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