Did you know that almost half of all Americans get less than five hours of sleep each night? From work stress, watching TV, staying up too late surfing the web and even chronic insomnia, sleep deprivation is a very real health issue in our country. 

So, how can you start sleeping like a baby tonight without the use of sleep drugs? The answer is simple: melatonin; the natural sleep hormone secreted by the pineal gland in your brain. Around 9pm each night, your body naturally begins to get itself ready for sleep by producing this incredible hormone. It also helps your body clock distinguish day from night, so while melatonin levels increase throughout the night, they begin to decline in the morning, telling your body it's time to wake up. Pretty neat, right?!

Unlike most hormones, you can encourage your body's ability to naturally produce melatonin so that it knows when to secrete it, and when to not. It's important to expose yourself to light and sunlight during the day and sleep in complete darkness at night to preserve your body's natural melatonin production. Known as the light-dark circle, when you expose yourself to light at night, you confuse your brain and interrupt melatonin production.

While you can help your body produce its melatonin, sometimes it's not enough to get a good night's rest, which is when supplementation comes in. If falling and staying asleep is and has been a problem for you, then adding a little bit of melatonin to your bedtime routine could very well benefit you. Daily doses of 1-5 milligrams may help you not only fall asleep faster but keep you asleep throughout the night and allow you to wake up feeling refreshed, rather than groggy. 

If melatonin is new to you, start out by taking 1 mg about 30 minutes before bedtime and see how it works. If 1 mg has you sleeping like a baby, then stick with that dosage. If you feel like you need a little more, you can adjust your dosage as needed. Remember, just like any other hormone, too much can act like not enough, so if you take too much melatonin, it can have the reverse effect on you, causing you to be more awake versus falling asleep.

Finally, supplementing with a high-quality, potent melatonin may also prevent deficiency of this powerful hormone, which can lead to even more sleep issues, a weakened immune system, and an increased risk of cancer. Melatonin has anti-cancer effects as it helps to slow down cell division, causes cancer cells to self-destruct and indirectly boosts your immune system.

Can we get two cheers for this incredible sleep-inducing, cancer-fighting hormone?!