How To Use Melatonin Properly
Dr. Andrefsky offers these tips for using melatonin:
Timing is key. Dont take melatonin right before bed because it takes several hours for it to become effective.
If you are a night owl who normally stays up past midnight, but would like to nod off around 11 p.m., take melatonin at 6 p.m. Conversely, if you go to bed at 8 p.m. and rise at 4 a.m., its better to take melatonin in the late morning or early afternoon.
Dont overdo it. More isnt better. Just 0.3 mg to 1 mg is sufficient, although many over-the-counter preparations may be upwards of 5 mg each. Overusing melatonin has consequences, including:
- Losing effectiveness over time because brain receptors get desensitized to it
- Worsening insomnia
How Much Melatonin Is Too Much
The various melatonin supplements available are typically formulated into doses ranging from 1 mg to 10 mg. Some are even higher.
So … how much melatonin should you take?
Generally speaking, you don’t need a dosage above 5 mg, but, in reality, the ideal dosage isn’t well-established and likely varies from person to person.
“Some evidence suggests that doses below 1 mg are often as effective as higher doses, so it’s best to start with the lowest dose possible and see what works for you,” recommends Dr. Ramkissoon.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Taking Melatonin
Melatonin supplements may help with certain conditions, such as jet lag, delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, some sleep disorders in children, and anxiety before and after surgery.
Jet lag affects people when they travel by air across multiple time zones. With jet lag, you may not feel well overall and you may have disturbed sleep, daytime tiredness, impaired functioning, and digestive problems.
Research suggests that melatonin supplements may help with jet lag. This is based on medium-sized reviews from 2010 and 2014.
- Four studies that included a total of 142 travelers showed that melatonin may be better than a placebo in reducing overall symptoms of jet lag after eastward flights. Another study of 234 travelers on eastward flights looked at only sleep quality and found low-quality evidence that melatonin may be better than placebo for improving sleep quality.
- Two studies that included a total of 90 travelers showed that melatonin may be better than a placebo in reducing symptoms of jet lag after westward flights.
Delayed sleep-wake phase disorder
People with DSWPD have trouble falling asleep at the usual times and waking up in the morning. They typically have difficulty getting to sleep before 2 to 6 a.m. and would prefer to wake up between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Some sleep disorders in children
Because of these uncertainties, itâs best to work with a health care provider if youâre considering giving a child melatonin for sleep problems.
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Cautions With Other Medicines
Some medicines and melatonin can interfere with each other and increase your risk of side effects.
Certain medicines may increase or decrease the drowsy-making effects of melatonin.
Speak to a doctor or pharmacist before taking melatonin if you take any of the following:
- antidepressants such as fluvoxamine or imipramine
- blood pressure lowering medicines
- zaleplon, zolpidem or zopiclone
How To Take Melatonin
You donât need a big amount of melatonin to see any benefit. Taking more of it doesnât make it work better or faster. Start with a small dose. If you find you need more, you can slowly take more over time.
When you take it may be even more important than how much you take. The best timing of your dose depends on the sleep issue youâre trying to solve:
- To deal with jet lag, take it when you arrive at your destination at the time youâd like to go to bed. Some studies have found that taking it as early as 3 days before your trip can help jet lag symptoms. Keep in mind, though, that melatonin is best when youâre traveling east. Thereâs no evidence that it helps you adjust to westward travel.
- If you work the night shift, take it at the end of your workday, but never before you drive home.
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How And When To Take It
The dose will vary depending on why you’re taking it. Follow the instructions that come with your medicine if you’re taking melatonin to:
- prevent headaches
If your child is prescribed melatonin, follow the doctor’s instructions carefully. Find out more about giving melatonin to children from Medicines for Children.
Parents Are Using Melatonin To Help Their Children Sleep Here An Expert Weighs In On Whether These Over
Emily Elveru is the Staff Health Editor at Parents, where she covers kids and womens health, parenting advice, and the occasional lifestyle story. When she isnt working from home, she enjoys taking long, slow walks around her Brooklyn neighborhood, browsing a local bookstore, or diving into a new craft project.
Kids need plenty of shut-eye to fuel their growth and development but 15% to 25% of young people have trouble falling and staying asleep, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics . Lack of sleep has plenty of negative consequences, ranging from difficulty concentrating to obesity to crankiness. Thats why some parents are tempted to give their children a sleep supplement like melatonin during restless nights.
You may have seen a 2022 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that reported a 530% increase in melatonin overdoses in kids between 2012 and 2021. It also announced 260,435 pediatric melatonin overdoses during the past decade . Additionally, there were 4,000 hospitalizations, 300 ICU cases , and two deaths related to melatonin.
Of course, this raises an important question: Is melatonin OK for kids? The truth is that low doses can be safe for children, but researchers dont yet understand the long-term effects. If you use melatonin, its important to follow appropriate dosing directions and store the supplement out of the reach of childrenpreferably in childproof cabinets or containers.
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How Does It Work
Melatonin supplements may improve sleep by boosting melatonin levels in people whose bodies do not produce enough of this hormone.
These supplements may also improve sleep in people who produce enough melatonin but still struggle to sleep for other reasons.
Melatonin changes how the body responds to darkness, helping it enter a rhythm of nighttime drowsiness.
Exposure to light at night including light from computer and television screens may suppress the bodys natural melatonin production and disrupt sleep.
Likewise, people who sleep during the day because they work at night may not produce melatonin when it is time to sleep. Melatonin supplements can help counteract this effect.
Research consistently shows that melatonin can help people sleep longer and fall asleep more quickly.
Although melatonin is a natural chemical, it is important to treat it the same as any other medication. It is possible for melatonin to interact harmfully with other drugs by reducing their effectiveness, triggering negative side effects, or changing the way that the body metabolizes the drug. People who take other medications should talk to a doctor before trying melatonin.
As with any medication, an allergic reaction is possible. People with a history of allergic reactions to supplements should avoid melatonin.
of melatonin in children show that it is safe, including in children with autism.
What Are The Side Effects Of Melatonin
“While many studies have examined melatonin, the side effects aren’t firmly established,” says Dr. Ramkissoon.
The most commonly reported melatonin side effects include:
- Daytime sleepiness
“Certain studies also report short-term feelings of depression and irritability, as well as stomach cramps,” adds Dr. Ramkissoon.
Lastly, since supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA like over-the-counter and prescription medications are, you’ll need to do some research to be sure you’re getting a quality product that has undergone testing and been certified by an independent third-party laboratory, such as NSF.
For instance, a 2017 study testing more than 30 different melatonin supplements found that the amount of melatonin in the product often didn’t match what was listed on the label, and that some products contained ingredients other than melatonin. These are issues that can affect the side effects a person experiences, as well as the product’s overall safety.
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What Is The Average Age For Treatment
The average age of hormone therapy patients differs depending on their specific symptoms and medical needs, but most specialists recommend treatments for women between the ages of 47 and 55 to effectively address common symptoms of menopause including hot flashes, fatigue, and hormonal weight gain.
Some doctors may also advise that therapy be started even earlier to increase the benefits, while also reducing the limited risks involved.
Does Melatonin Help With Cancer Symptoms
Studies of the effect of melatonin supplements on cancer symptoms or treatment-related side effects have been small and have had mixed results.
Keep in mind that unproven products should not be used to replace or delay conventional medical treatment for cancer. Also, some products can interfere with standard cancer treatments or have special risks for people whoâve been diagnosed with cancer. Before using any complementary health approach, including melatonin, people whoâve been diagnosed with cancer should talk with their health care providers to make sure that all aspects of their care work together.
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Is Melatonin Safe To Take Every Night
Americans arent sleeping well. Roughly 80% of U.S. adults say they struggle to fall asleep at least one night a week, according to a recent Consumer Reports survey. And research has found that sleep problems are also on the rise among adolescents.
While the causes of Americas sleep woes are up for debate, theres little disagreement about Americas favorite remedy: Melatonin, the countrys most-used sleep aid.
Is It Bad To Take Melatonin Every Night
Regardless of whether it truly helps with sleep or not, Dr. Ramkissoon doesn’t recommend taking melatonin long-term.
“Namely, because if you think you need to take melatonin every night to get to sleep, we need to understand why that’s the case,” explains Dr. Ramkissoon.
Is poor sleep caused by a lifestyle habit that needs correcting or some underlying issue that needs to be addressed?
“Melatonin isn’t a long-term fix for sleep issues,” Dr. Ramkissoon adds. “If you’re consistently suffering from insomnia, we need to determine why and find an effective solution for it.”
What’s more is that the safety of using melatonin long-term hasn’t been established in well-controlled studies.
And while the occasional, short-term use of melatonin such as to combat jet leg or adjust to shift work does appear to be safe for most people, this isn’t the case for everyone.
Don’t take melatonin if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. And know that these supplements can interact with other medications, such as some blood thinners, and that they may not be safe to take if you have certain health conditions.
“It’s always important to consult your doctor before taking a new supplement,” adds Dr. Ramkissoon.
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When To See Your Doctor
There have been no cases of harm in overdose with melatonin. If you have taken more melatonin than it said on the label, you might become very sleepy. Stay somewhere safe, with a friend or family member to watch you while you sleep off the effects. Tell your doctor or pharmacist as well. It should take about 12 hours for your body to deal with the extra doses. Do not try to drive or do anything that could be dangerous to yourself or others.
Stop taking melatonin and go to a doctor straight away if you get any of the following symptoms:
- fainting or losing consciousness
- dizziness or vertigo
- feeling mixed up and confused
- severe chest pain, or changes in heartbeat
- a flaky pink/red rash on your skin, particularly on your elbows and knees, called psoriasis
Those Who Are Pregnant Or Breastfeeding
There is not enough information available on the side effects of melatonin supplements to determine if pregnant or breastfeeding people can safely take these supplements. Those who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should avoid melatonin supplements unless directed by their physician. If you are struggling with sleep, ask your doctor for other ways to improve sleep during pregnancy.
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Can Melatonin Help With Insomnia
People with insomnia have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. When symptoms last a month or longer, itâs called chronic insomnia.
According to practice guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American College of Physicians , thereâs not enough strong evidence on the effectiveness or safety of melatonin supplementation for chronic insomnia to recommend its use. The American College of Physicians guidelines strongly recommend the use of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia as an initial treatment for insomnia.
What Happens If I Have Too Much Or Too Little Melatonin
The bodys natural melatonin level tends to go down as we age. Low levels of melatonin can also be caused by not having enough sleep, travelling across time zones, doing shift work and taking some medicines. Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can also lower melatonin levels.
In some people, melatonin levels are too high. This can happen because they:
- are taking too many melatonin pills
- remain in the dark for too long
- are taking some medicines
- have seasonal affective disorder
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When And How You Use This Potent Natural Sleep Aid Matters
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I first heard of melatonin in the mid-1990s after complaining to a friend that I wasnt a morning person. Take melatonin, she said, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. At the time, a Newsweek cover was touting the supplement as a magic sleep bullet, and prominent signs in windows of health food stores proclaimed, We have melatonin. Excited that I might become one of those people who savors watching the rising sun, I started taking itbut not for long.
I did fall asleep and wake up earlier, but after a few days, I was living in a mental fog, something Id never experienced before. When I stopped taking the supplement, the fog lifted and I decided that sunrises are overrated after all.
Fast-forward to my interview with Michael Grandner, Ph.D., sleep expert at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and I understand what happened in my personal melatonin experiment. With no clue about how to use it, I took too much, and I took it at the wrong time of day.
What To Look For When Buying Melatonin
The FDA does not oversee how companies make supplements. They also don’t test their quality. If you buy a melatonin supplement, it may not be what it says that it is on the label.
A 2017 study analyzed 31 melatonin supplements. The levels of melatonin ranged from 83% lower to 478% higher than what the product labels stated. In some cases, even different bottles of the same product varied a lot.
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