Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced in the body.
Melatonin helps regulate your circadian rhythm—your internal clock that regulates the sleep/wake cycle.
As a 100% drug-free sleep supplement, melatonin can help you fall asleep faster.
The proper melatonin dosage depends on your age.
If you’ve ever struggled to fall asleep—or stay asleep—you might have considered taking a sleep aid product. While traditional over-the-counter or prescription “sleeping pills” have been around for decades, they’re medications that can have serious long-term side effects if they are overused or abused.1 These medications can also be habit-forming which is why many people turn to melatonin, a 100% drug-free sleep supplement that can support restful sleep and falling asleep faster. But you may wonder, what, exactly, is melatonin? And when and how much melatonin should you take, and for how long?
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the pineal gland found in the brain.2 Created in response to darkness, melatonin plays a role in the body’s circadian rhythm, your internal clock that regulates your daily sleep/wake cycle. It’s important to note that when you’re exposed to “blue” light in the evening (think glowing cell phones, computers and TV screens), this can impede the body’s natural production of melatonin resulting in disrupted sleep.3
It is therefore best to turn off all your screens at least 30 minutes before you plan to fall to sleep.
How Much Melatonin Does Your Body Produce Naturally?
The production of melatonin signals your body that it’s nighttime, allowing you to relax and lowering your body temperature. This helps you transition to sleep easier and promote consistent, quality sleep.4 Most people produce adequate melatonin to sleep on their own, with levels increasing at night and then diminishing in the morning, which is when the hormone cortisol increases, that promote wakefulness. The amount of melatonin the body actually produces varies throughout your lifetime, with levels increasing and decreasing during various life stages.5 Further, the aging process, diet, and stress can all disrupt the body’s normal production of melatonin, which may make quality sleep more difficult.
Why Do Some People Need Extra Support to Sleep?
Imagine you’re traveling across the country, spanning a time zone or two along the way. It could wreak havoc on your sleep (a.k.a. jet lag). Or what if you occasionally work the night shift, throwing your sleep/wake cycle completely off balance? But even something as common as stress might make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep sometimes. Taking a melatonin supplement may help in these instances.3 Practicing sleep hygiene tips for better sleep, such as reducing screen time at night, and going to bed at the same time each night may also help. Some people can’t relax their mind as they wind down for the night.
What Is The Proper Melatonin Dosage For Adults?
If you’re considering taking a supplement, you might be asking yourself, “How much melatonin should I take?” Or you might wonder how much melatonin someone should take for the desired effect—is less more? How much melatonin is too much, and how long should I take it for?
A safe amount of melatonin that can be taken ranges in doses from 0.3–10 mg per day, but it really depends on your age and specific sleep issue. Typically, it’s best to start with a low dose (0.3-3.0) and increase it (as needed after a week) to find what works best for you.6 If you aim to support sleep quality, take melatonin about 30-60 minutes before you go to bed for maximum effectiveness. If you feel groggy the next day after using melatonin as a natural sleep aid, you may have taken too high of a dosage. If this happens, try taking a lower dose next time and see if that solves the problem.4
Taken on a short-term basis, melatonin has very few side effects and when they do appear, they tend to be mild. Research shows that some side effects of taking melatonin can include headache, dizziness, nausea, and sleepiness.3Low dose melatonin can safely be taken for up to 3 months, however doses higher than 5 mg should not be taken for longer than 2 months.
If you’re pregnant or nursing, you should consult your physician before taking melatonin. Keep in mind that, like all supplements, melatonin might interact with certain medications, such as antidepressants, blood pressure or blood thinning medicines so best to check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking melatonin if you are taking prescription medications. In older adults, melatonin may remain active in their bodies longer than it does in younger people and also may cause daytime lethargy.3
If you struggle to fall asleep (or sleep through the night) once your head hits the pillow, you might benefit from taking melatonin to help regulate your body’s sleep cycle. The optimal melatonin dose depends on your age, so start with the lowest dose of melatonin as may be effective to meet your needs. If you’re not sure whether takinga melatonin supplement is the right choice for you (or how much melatonin to take), talk with your health care professional for guidance and support.
Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. “Clinical Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Intrinsic Circadian Rhythm Sleep-Wake Disorders: Advanced SleepWake Phase Disorder (ASWPD), Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder (DSWPD), Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Rhythm Disorder (N24SWD), and Irregular Sleep-Wake Rhythm Disorder (ISWRD). An Update for 2015.” 2015. Accessed on: September 18, 2020. https://aasm.org/resources/clinicalguidelines/crswd-intrinsic.pdf
Lisa Beach is a seasoned journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Eating Well, Parents, AARP’s Disrupt Aging, Optimum Wellness, and dozens more. She also writes for a variety of health/wellness-focused brands. Check out her writer’s website at www.LisaBeachWrites.com.