Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in your brain that controls your circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. When light decreases in the evening, you produce more melatonin, causing you to feel sleepy. After you sleep, and it becomes light outside, melatonin levels decrease. However, increasing prevalence of artificial light, stimulant use and other factors can disrupt your sleep cycle, causing you to feel drowsy during the day and be unable to sleep at night.
Spend time outside in the sunlight during the day. It is not only the dark at night that causes higher melatonin levels, it is the orderly cycling between light and dark.
Darken your environment and allow yourself time to relax before going to bed. Going to sleep is a process. You can't just flip a switch and be asleep. Relaxation without light or other stimulation allows melatonin levels to rise before bed.
Avoid excessive use of stimulants. The effects of stimulants – such as caffeine, chemicals in tea, some anti-depressants and nicotine – prevent your brain from producing high levels of melatonin and interfere with its effects.
Maintain a dark, cool and quiet environment to sleep. Because the pineal gland that produces melatonin responds to light, artificial light, noise and discomfort can disrupt melatonin production and otherwise make it difficult to sleep well.
Be active during the day. A sedentary lifestyle can disrupt hormone production in your body, including melatonin. The rise in growth and recovery hormones following exercise also increases the levels of melatonin produced at night.
Reduce stress in your life. Physical and mental stress can lead to a rise in stress hormone levels, such as cortisol, that can interfere with your sleep cycle. Try aroma or music therapy during your time before bed to shed some of the stress from the previous day. Reducing your stress at night will help your body release melatonin.
Take sleep aids only as a last resort. They can be habit forming and only mask underlying problems.
Severely disrupted sleep can be a sign of an underlying medical condition. If you have persistent problems sleeping, see your doctor.