Do you have trouble falling or staying asleep?
Do you feel like you’ve been chasing an 8-hour quality sleep for months?
Hear, hear! Been there, done that.
I found a quick and simple solution for my problems, and it is the same one that I often recommend to my coaching clients – melatonin.
This precious little supplement can help you sleep better within days. However, I believe you have tons of questions running through your head (this part doesn’t help you sleep, for sure).
Here’s the trick: It takes a lot of time for me to study different ways that could help you sleep better and melatonin in particular. I will share with you the information I gathered over the years, and how this supplement affected the quality of my sleep.
If this is your first visit to my blog, my advice might help you sleep better.
Let’s dive right in!
Define your problem first
As someone who had issues with their sleeping patterns, I understand how hard it is to be tired all the time and keep on functioning without taking a nap in the middle of the day. This was a problem that followed me through a significant part of my adult life.
I tried everything to find the way back to healthy sleep. Eight hours a night, each night, that was my goal. I succeeded, with melatonin. This is a story with a happy ending.
In the beginning, I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of taking any pills or supplements, so, I said to myself “okay if I’m going to take something to help me sleep, it better be something natural.”
I talked to medical professionals, researched, asked around, and I found the reasonable solution – melatonin.
Here’s the deal: Today, I’ll be answering all of these questions for you, and you will learn the proper way to manage your melatonin supplementation.
BUT: I need you to do something for me first.
If you are diagnosed with any sleep disorder, or you can recognize the symptoms of one of the following:
- Sleep apnea
- Restless leg syndrome
Talk to your doctor first.
They are the ones who should determine the course of your therapy. In some of these situations, melatonin might not be the right or the best treatment for you (e.g., in case of sleep apnea).
You should be aware that it is a sleeping aid, but it is not the cure.
Follow the same advice if your sleeping problems are a secondary symptom of some other health problem. In this case, melatonin can still be helpful, but make sure you treat the underlying health condition first.
It might also interact with the other medicaments you are taking, so, don’t forget to check with a medical professional if it is okay for you to use it.
If your doctor decided to offer you melatonin supplements as a part of your therapy for your health problems, they’d give you a detailed explanation on how to use it.
My article is going to help you navigate your melatonin intake, but your doctor’s orders should be your priority.
Now, that this is clear, we can proceed to the fun part!
What Is Melatonin & How Does It Work?
Before I give you details on the dosage and when you should take your supplements, let’s cover the basics. It is essential that you know what melatonin is, how does it work and why it could be beneficial for your sleep before you start taking it.
Melatonin is a hormone, naturally produced by your brain. Its central role is to help you maintain your body’s circadian rhythm. This means it helps you regulate the natural, daily sleep and wake cycle.
When the sun comes down and the evening starts, your brain increases the production of melatonin. Darkness triggers this clever mechanism, which tells you its time to sleep.
On the other hand, when morning comes, the concentration of this hormone in your brain significantly drops. Therefore, exposure to light affects melatonin production and signals that it’s time to wake up.
As you can see, your body and your brain are a well-organized system. The melatonin release is their way of communicating an important message – when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to be awake.
Studies suggest that a significant percentage of people who struggle with falling and staying asleep might have a problem with melatonin deficiency.
That is why I recommend melatonin supplements as an aid for the regulation of natural sleep and wake cycle.
Even though they might help you achieve better sleep, melatonin supplements should be used in recommended amounts, at the appropriate time of day.
When I first started taking melatonin, it was late autumn, early winter. The season of the colds. Surprisingly, I didn’t get sick, not even once, which was really weird in my case at the time.
After I’ve done some reading, I realized melatonin might have helped strengthen my immune system. I was thrilled when I learned about this benefit!
Is Melatonin Safe? What about its Side Effects?
Just as any other medication, melatonin supplements come with specific side effects and safety concerns. If you take melatonin following my recommendation, this shouldn’t worry you too much, but I would still like you to be informed.
So, I will list out all of the safety precautions and side effects that you should have in mind, so you could pay attention and seek adequate help if some of them manifest in your case. The safest way of taking melatonin, for most adults is when taken by mouth, applied to the skin or injected into the body in the short term.
However, if you decide to go with a long-term melatonin consumption (up to two years, by mouth), you will still most likely be safe, but with certain side effects. These side effects include headaches, daytime sleepiness, irritability, short-term depression-like symptoms, dizziness and stomach cramps.
As melatonin affects your sleep and wake cycle, it is recommended that you avoid driving or using machinery for four or five hours after taking your daily dosage.
Special warnings you should have in mind
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is best to stay away from melatonin. Studies suggest it is possibly unsafe when taken orally or injected during pregnancy. On the other hand, there is not enough evidence to draw definitive conclusions about the safety of melatonin supplementation during breastfeeding, which is why you should avoid it during this period.
- If you are trying to get pregnant, you should stop using melatonin as well because it might interfere with ovulation and make the whole process more difficult for you.
- Think twice before giving melatonin to your children. It is only possibly safe when given orally, as a single dose. On the other hand, it is potentially unsafe when administered by mouth or injected, in multiple doses, even in the short-term. You should avoid giving or taking melatonin during adolescence as well, because of its interaction with other hormones and possible interference with child’s development.
- If you have any bleeding disorder, you should be aware that melatonin might make bleeding worse, so consider other options.
- If you’ve struggled with depression during your life, melatonin supplementation might not be such a good idea for you. The relation between sleep and depression is rather complicated, and studies have shown that melatonin might make your symptoms worse.
- In patients with diabetes, melatonin has a potential to increase blood sugar. This is why, if you decide to go with melatonin supplements as a sleep aid, you’ll need to monitor your blood sugar very carefully.
- Similarly, melatonin can raise your blood pressure if you are taking meds to control your hypertension. It is best that you avoid using it.
- If you are diagnosed with any seizing disorder, you should be aware that melatonin could increase the risk of seizure.
- If you had a transplant surgery, which means you received an organ, melatonin might interfere with immunosuppressive therapy you are taking. Melatonin supplements can increase immune function, which is excellent in general, but in this situation, it is counterproductive.
Should you be worried about melatonin interactions?
When I recommend melatonin to my clients I tell them what I told myself when I decided to take it for the first time: follow instructions thoroughly. We are dealing with the supplement that is about to make you sleepy, and the label on the melatonin box says no driving or using machinery while you are taking it. This means you should be careful.
This is my general advice: Make the list of all of the medications and supplements you are taking at the time. Check for possible melatonin interactions and then decide if you should go with melatonin as your sleep aid. Also, steer away from alcohol and make sure to eat before taking your bedtime pill.
I will explain everything in a moment, but first, let me give you the list of drugs melatonin interacts with so you could start comparing.
1Drugs melatonin can interact with
- Anticoagulants and antiplatelet medicines, supplements, and herbs;  – They are used for the reduction of blood clotting. If you combine them with melatonin, you are increasing the risk of bleeding.
- Anticonvulsants – If you have a child with neurological problems, melatonin may inhibit the effects of these drugs.
- Blood pressure drugs – Melatonin can potentially worsen your blood pressure in this combination.
- Contraceptive drugs – Contraceptive pills might increase both melatonin’s effects and side effects.
- CNS depressants – Melatonin can cause an additive sedative effect when used in combination with CNS depressants.
- Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) and cytochrome P450 2C19 (CPY2C19) substrates – If you are taking drugs such as diazepam (Valium), melatonin might cause additional sleepiness and drowsiness.
- Diabetes medications – In this case, melatonin might increase your sugar levels.
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox) – When combined with melatonin, fluvoxamine can cause unwanted excessive drowsiness.
- Immunosuppressants – Melatonin can boost your immune function and therefore, interfere with your immunosuppressive therapy.
- Seizure threshold lowering medications – In this situation, melatonin might increase the risk of seizures.
2Foods and alcohol combined with melatonin
You should always have a meal before you take your melatonin dosage. It should be a healthy snack, considering the fact that you are taking it before bedtime, and that heavy foods can mess up your sleep if you eat them late.
However, there are no significant interactions between food and melatonin supplements.
What you should avoid are foods and drinks rich in caffeine.
This might be logical, but I still feel the need to remind you.
Caffeine (which includes both coffee and cola) can decrease melatonin levels in your body. A cup of coffee could reduce the effectiveness of melatonin supplements.
I’ve experienced this on my own skin when I slept through an important test I had back in college. I studied immensely, the day and the night before, and I drank coffee to stay focused, counting on melatonin to give me about four hours of peaceful sleep before the test.
It didn’t work.
I had troubles falling asleep, but I did, however, manage to oversleep and fail the test.
So, be careful with melatonin and caffeine interaction.
3Why is staying away from alcohol crucial?
Take a look at this paradox:
Alcohol is a sedative, and it probably makes you sleepy after you had a few drinks. However, it reduces the amount of melatonin your body creates.
This can interrupt your already broken sleep cycle. Because of that interaction, combining alcohol and melatonin have adverse effects on your health.
This combination can increase melatonin’s potential side effects, such as:
- Increased anxiety
At the same time, combining alcohol and melatonin can impair your liver’s ability to produce specific enzymes. This may result in following complications:
- Abnormally fast heartbeat
- Feeling unusually cold or shivering
- Flushing in your upper body and face
- Passing out
- Swelling in your ankles and feet
- Trouble breathing
- Trouble thinking clearly and focusing
The conclusion is, stay away from alcohol while you are taking melatonin. Hopefully, you won’t be taking it for a long time, so you’ll be able to get back to your glass of wine that you love so much sooner than you expect.
The conclusion is, stay away from alcohol while you are taking melatonin. Hopefully, you won’t be taking it for a long time, so you’ll be able to get back to your glass of wine that you love so much sooner than you expect.
What is the right dosage for you?
As a general recommendation regarding melatonin dosage, you should stay with the least possible dose that proves to be effective in your case. However, there are more detailed instructions on how much you should take depending on your symptoms.
Of course, melatonin supplements can be bought over-the-counter as a fruity drink or in a gummy form, but this doesn’t mean you should take them lightly. The following information I will provide, regarding the right dosage for different melatonin-related problems, comes from scientific research which means you can rely on it.
How much melatonin should you take as an adult?
Here’s the detailed guide on how much melatonin you should take if you are an adult, consuming the supplement orally:
- If you have trouble falling asleep, you should take 0.3 to 5 mg of melatonin, each day. Make sure to limit the duration of your therapy to nine months max.
- If you are dealing with insomnia, 2 to 3 mg of melatonin will be sufficient. Take it before bedtime and try to keep your therapy short-term. However, you can use it for up to twenty-nine weeks.
High doses of up to 12 mg daily can also be efficient, but only if you use them for shorter durations (up to four weeks).
- If you have sleeping problems caused by sleep-wake cycle disturbances, your doctor will recommend 2-12 mg of melatonin taken daily, at bedtime for up to four weeks.
- If you are a blind person who struggles with sleep disorders, 0.5 mg to 5 mg of melatonin, once a day, before bedtime is what’s recommended. You can continue this therapy for up to six years.
If you are about to use higher doses, such as 10 mg an hour before bedtime, you should use it only for up to nine weeks.
- If you travel a lot and jet lag is a part of your everyday life, you can use 0.5-8 mg of melatonin at bedtime, on the arrival day at your destination.
You should continue with this therapy for 2 to 5 days. If you want to avoid the hypnotic properties of high doses, you should stay with 0.5-3 mg.
- Melatonin supplements can also be used for the treatment of endometriosis, high blood pressure, jaw pain, to reduce anxiety before surgery or combined with conventional therapy as a treatment for solid tumors or as a treatment and prevention of lowered clot-forming cells associated with cancer chemotherapy.
If you are interested to find out more about the right dosage for each of these problems, follow this link.
- As I already mentioned, melatonin can be used as a gel, applied to the skin. However, in this form, it won’t help your sleeping problems, but you can use it as a sunburn reliever.
Usually, a gel contains 0.05% to 2.5% melatonin, and you should apply it 15 minutes before sun exposure or up to 4 hours after.
How much melatonin should you give to your child?
If you’ve read this article carefully, you know that melatonin is only “possibly safe” for children.
The decision is up to you, whether you want to give it to your child or not. However, if you decide to do so, these are the general guidelines you should follow:
- If your child is dealing with insomnia, you can administer 5 mg or 0.05-0.15 mg/kg of their body weight at bedtime for four weeks. This will work best in 6 to 12-year-olds who are struggling with primary insomnia.
On the other hand, if your child (3-12 years old) has secondary insomnia, which means that insomnia is a part of some other medical condition, 6-9 mg of melatonin, given before bedtime for four weeks can help.
- If a child has trouble falling asleep, 1-6 mg of melatonin before bedtime might help them fall asleep faster. This therapy can be used for up to one month.
- If your child’s sleeping problems are caused by sleep-wake cycle disturbances, 0.5-12 mg of melatonin daily can be administered. This therapy can last for up to twelve weeks, in children three months to 17 years-old.
- When sleep disorders appear in blind children, you can give them 0.5-4 mg of melatonin daily, for up to six years.
- Melatonin is sometimes given to children to reduce anxiety before surgery. In this case, in children 1 to 8 years-old, 0.05-0.5 mg/kg of child’s body weight should be taken before anesthesia.
If you followed my story, you know that I’ve experienced problems both falling and staying asleep. I talked to many professionals, and they said that different systems of melatonin intake suit different people.
If you have difficulty maintaining sleep, there are a few options you can consider – taking higher dosage once a day, repeated low-dose and controlled-release melatonin.
I started with a repeated low-dose system, but I experienced something that I like to call “melatonin hangover” in the form of grogginess after waking up.
Then I switched to controlled-release melatonin, and my hangover disappeared. Make sure to find something that suits your organism’s needs.
Is it possible to overdose on melatonin?
Yes, even though it is rare and not really dangerous, melatonin overdose is still something you should be aware of. Unfortunately, the timed release of melatonin, combined with other drugs can lead to interactions that can be harmful to your health and in some cases, even cause death.
The math is quite simple. Your body naturally produces about 0.1mg of melatonin each day. The usual dosage that most supplements contain is 3-5 mg of melatonin per tablet. Ingesting over 20-50mg is considered an overdose.
You would have to take between five and ten tablets at once to hit that limit, which means you are not really in any danger if you control your daily intake.
What are the symptoms of melatonin overdose?
Remember, symptoms of melatonin overdose vary from one person to another, which means identifying them correctly might be a bit tricky. However, this is the list of symptoms that might appear in case you take more than 20-50mg:
- Eye issues
- Joint pain
- Liver issues
- Psychotic thought patterns
- Speech impediment
- Stomach irritation
Except for the symptoms on this list, melatonin overdose may also cause your blood pressure to drop beyond normal. If you have high blood pressure, nerve or liver disorders, it is best to get pre-screened before including melatonin supplementation in your daily routine.
Before I was introduced to melatonin and the way it works, my primary concern was its lethal dosage. What I wanted to know was if there is a dosage of this supplement that could kill me so I could stay far, far, far away from it.
What I learned is that every single medicine on the market has its own “LD 50”. LD 50 is the lethal dose of the substance, an amount that kills at least 50% of the experimental animals (rat or mouse) it was tested on.
Melatonin is relatively safe, and your life wouldn’t be seriously endangered even if you took 100 times higher dose than recommended, as such high doses weren’t enough to cause death in a single mouse.
What to do in case of melatonin overdose?
If you suspect you, your children or anyone else you know, might have overdosed on melatonin, seek medical attention immediately. The treatment will depend on the severity of the symptoms.
In case that situation is emergent, your doctor will do everything to stabilize your condition in the first place. However, if the symptoms are combined with chest pain or breathing issues, you might need additional medical interventions.
However, the best treatment is also the simplest one – reduction or complete elimination of melatonin usage. No scientific evidence indicates that it’s unsafe to stop using melatonin suddenly.
When Should You Take Melatonin?
When it comes to taking melatonin, the dosage is not the only aspect that matters. Timing is just as important.
When I first started using it, I wasn’t taking it quite seriously so I took my daily dosage when I had a chance to do it, or when I remembered I should do it. This made my sleep problems worse because I threw off the natural circadian rhythm of my body.
Remember, your body naturally produces more melatonin during the evening and night, when it’s dark outside. If you take your supplementation too early, before the sun starts to set or before your bedtime, you are putting yourself at risk of making the same mistake I made. You should never go against the natural sleep-wake cycle of your body.
So, make sure to take your melatonin before bedtime, as I stated in the guidelines above.
The interesting thing you should know is that the first person who suggested melatonin as a solution to my sleep problems was my grandma!
She was taking them too at the time, and when your granny gives you advice, it must be good, right? Soon, I found out that as you age, your brain starts to release less and less melatonin.
So, when the elderly struggle with falling and staying asleep during the night, decreased melatonin production may be a significant part of the problem.
However, if you have seniors who are taking melatonin in your family, make sure they stay under close doctor’s supervision because their other health conditions and prescribed medications might have a complicated interaction with the supplementation.
What if I forget a dose?
The first time I forgot to take my melatonin supplementation was about ten days after I started taking it.
What do I do now?
How will I fall asleep without it?
To my surprise, I fell asleep like a baby.
After about a week of regular melatonin intake, your circadian rhythm shifts back to “normal,”
which means even if you skip a dosage, nothing extraordinary or tragic will happen.
My advice is this:
- If you forgot to take the dose at the right time (as 1-2 hours before bedtime) take it as soon as you remember, before going to sleep.
- On the other hand, if you forget it entirely, start again the next day.
- Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
How to preserve melatonin?
Preserving melatonin is no nuclear science. You should store it just like any other medicine:
Place it in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light, as well as reach and sight of children. Scientific research has shown that melatonin extract will be stable in various condition, but you should still keep it in air-tight boxes or the original packaging it came in.
There are a few things I want you to remember after reading this article:
- Melatonin might be a good short-term solution for your sleeping problems;
- The best dosage is the smallest one that shows significant, positive effects in your case, but it depends on the nature of your problems;
- Timing is essential, make sure that you don’t mess up your natural sleep-wake cycle;
- If you experience any side effects or overdose symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
As someone who consumed melatonin supplements for a brief period, I can tell you that it can be a good option for many people if you use it correctly.
My suggestion is that you try other things first. Medications, even the ones that can be bought over-the-counter, such as this one, are not always necessary, and there is no reason to interfere with the natural rhythm of your body if you don’t have to.
Maybe you are just not sleeping on the right pillow, or you need to limit your screen-time before bed or work through some personal issues that won’t go away no matter how much melatonin you take. Improve your sleeping hygiene first and if that doesn’t work for you, think about melatonin as a possible solution.
I hope that my experience with melatonin and my worry about its safety helped you get the right picture of the medication. If you have any questions or thoughts you would like to share with me, feel free to leave a comment. Also, share this article with people who might find it helpful and raise awareness that there are various solutions to sleep problems.
Sleep tight and take your supplements timely!