Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter that affects a person’s mood, ability to sleep, energy level and so much more. Like most other biological components, a proper balance must be struck between serotonin and other chemicals and nutrients in the brain for optimum function. Unfortunately, there are many factors that can affect serotonin levels; lower levels can cause depression, fatigue, insomnia and a number of other problems. Some of the primary factors in lower serotonin levels can be avoided or, failing that, supplements can be taken to encourage serotonin levels.
Stress is one of the biggest factors determining the amount of serotonin in the brain. Lack of sleep, inadequate exercise, anxiety and a hectic schedule are all factors that can greatly contribute to stress and severely lower the levels of serotonin, resulting in feelings of fatigue, down moods that can turn into depression, insomnia, loss of appetite and many other related issues. No matter how hectic your day gets, it’s always important to take a little bit of time to de-stress -- simply taking a break with a good book, some meditation or relaxing music may help reduce the risk of significantly lowered serotonin levels.
Sunlight plays an important role in serotonin synthesis and regulation. When the body is deprived of sunlight due to extended hours indoors or other factors a drop in serotonin levels can result. This problem is most common in the winter months when decreased hours of sunlight and colder temperatures often keep people indoors for extended periods of time and at higher intensity can become Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Finding ways to increase your exposure to sunlight or, in areas of extreme winter weather, even daylight simulation light bulbs may help you retain your overall feeling of well-being.
A balanced, healthy diet is important for anyone’s health, but it may surprise you some of the things that may be considered unhealthy in a diet. Many people, especially women, who are dieting to lose weight may also be lowering their serotonin levels with low-carb, high-protein diets. The lower levels make it more likely that any weight lost will be regained quickly as well as affecting one’s overall sense of well-being. In addition, foods such as caffeine and alcohol will lower serotonin levels and should only be taken in moderation.
Drugs and medications should be taken with caution and under the guidance of a physician at all times, but especially if you have had any issues with depressive disorders. Diet pills, pain pills, narcotics and recreational drugs can all seriously affect serotonin levels and may induce severe depressive episodes. If you already have difficulty sleeping, depression, fatigue or other symptoms linked to neurotransmitter deficiencies be sure to let your doctor know and ask specifically if prescribed or over-the-counter medications may cause problems.
In addition to all these factors, the aging process in itself can cause lower serotonin levels; as your body ages it may have more difficulty synthesizing neurotransmitters necessary for daily function including serotonin. To some degree, this age-related drop in neurotransmitters can be checked by supplements or prescription medications as well as careful attention to your daily habits.