How Much Melatonin Should You Really Be Taking?

Fact-Checked

The recommended dose of melatonin is the lowest dose that is effective for promoting sleep without causing side effects. The most effective dose varies from person to person, but a typical starting dose of melatonin is between 0.5 milligrams and 5 milligrams for adults.

Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in the body to regulate the cycle of sleep and wakefulness. Normally, melatonin levels are low during the day and rise after sundown, signaling the body to sleep. Its production peaks in the middle of the night and falls shortly before dawn. Certain medications and diseases can inhibit the production of melatonin. Melatonin levels also decline with normal aging. Low nocturnal melatonin is generally associated with sleep difficulties.

Melatonin is also available as a dietary supplement, typically as an oral pill. It's one of the most frequently requested nonprescription sleep aids. People use melatonin supplements to improve total sleep time, improve sleep quality, and to reduce how long it takes to fall asleep. Research suggests that supplemental melatonin may help certain sleep conditions, including:

Although melatonin is available without a prescription in the United States, it's important to speak with a medical provider before using melatonin supplements. People with existing health problems and those taking medications need to be under medical supervision when taking supplements.

What Is the Correct Melatonin Dosage for Me?

The recommended dose of melatonin is the lowest dose that can help your sleep quantity and quality without causing side effects. While the right dose varies from one person to another, between 0.5 milligrams and 5 milligrams once daily is the typical starting dose for adults. Research indicates that taking doses of 10 milligrams or higher may cause side effects. The maximum recommended dose of melatonin is 10 milligrams.

Several factors, such as age, body weight, and sensitivity to melatonin may affect the recommended dosage. The dose also depends on the type and severity of the sleep problem. Certain drugs may also affect the way melatonin is metabolized. Speak to your physician if you are taking other medications before starting melatonin.

When using melatonin for the first time, begin at a low dose and adjust in increments of 1 milligram, depending on response. Generally, the optimum time to take melatonin is one to two hours before bedtime. There's some evidence of tolerance with melatonin use, so it's not recommended to increase the dose over time after reaching the lowest effective dose.

How Much Melatonin Can Children Take?

Few studies look at the use of melatonin in healthy children, including research into appropriate dose levels, so it's challenging to come up with an exact amount. If you're concerned about your child or infant's sleep habits, it's best to speak with your pediatrician before attempting any at-home dosing.

Some kids, such as children with immune disorders or those taking immunosuppressants, should not take melatonin at all. While melatonin is generally well-tolerated in adults, further studies are needed to confirm its safety and efficacy in children.

Anatomical and physiological differences give rise to differences in the bodily absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of drugs in children compared with adults. Many medicines, including melatonin, have only been tested for safety and efficacy in adults.

Can You Overdose on Melatonin?

There are no known cases of acute melatonin overdose, and melatonin supplements are not reported to be a potential cause of death. No studies have shown that supplemental melatonin induces serious adverse effects, and the short-term use of melatonin supplements appears to be safe for most people. It should be noted that most research has only tested melatonin levels up to 12mg, so the risks of taking melatonin at much higher doses are largely unknown. When it's used at higher doses, melatonin may cause side effects. Common side effects include:

Less common side effects include abnormally low blood pressure, abdominal pain, confusion or disorientation, depression, irritability, nightmares, reduced alertness, and reduced body temperature.

Melatonin is contraindicated in people with certain conditions, including:

  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Bleeding or blood clotting disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Epilepsy or other seizure disorders
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Pregnancy  and breast-feeding

It's may also be contraindicated for people taking certain medications, including:

  • Blood thinners like warfarin
  • Sedatives or tranquilizers

If you have any of these conditions but are struggling with sleep, speak to your physician about your options.

Can I Take Melatonin Every Night?

Melatonin is generally safe for short-term use, but further research is required to assess the long-term safety of melatonin use. In the United States, melatonin is considered a dietary supplement, which are regulated less strictly by the Food and Drug Administration than prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. Federal law doesn't require dietary supplements to be proven safe to FDA's standards before they are sold.

Furthermore, some melatonin supplements may not contain what is listed on the product label. Researchers tested 31 commercial supplements and found that most products contained far more or far less melatonin than what was listed on the label. Some supplements contained serotonin, a hormone that wasn't recognized on the product label.

Although melatonin is generally regarded as well-tolerated, it may not be ideal for long-term use, unless specifically instructed by your doctor. Supplemental melatonin shifts the phase of the human circadian clock, and thus warrants caution. The principle of treatment of sleep disorders is first to find the cause of the sleep disturbance, and then treat the conditions causing the distress.

Treatment options for primary sleep disorders, or sleep disorders that aren't caused by another medical or psychological condition, often include behavioral therapies. Sleep hygiene, sleep restriction, stimulus control, relaxation training, and cognitive therapy are examples of such therapies.

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