How Much Melatonin Should You Be Taking?
Medical Disclaimer: The following content should not be used as medical advice or as a recommendation for any specific supplement or medication. It is important to consult your healthcare provider prior to starting a new medication or altering your current dosage.
Melatonin is a hormone made by your body that is linked to your sleep-wake cycle. It regulates sleep timing and helps you feel sleepy. Regular melatonin cycles start shortly after sundown and peak in the middle of the night. People may also take melatonin as a supplement if they struggle with getting adequate sleep per night due to medical conditions, shift work, frequent travel, or other issues.
Commonly touted as a natural sleep aid, melatonin supplements are available without a prescription, though it is always a good idea to consult your doctor before trying them for the first time. We discuss recommended dosage, timing, and additional factors to consider before taking melatonin supplements.
Melatonin Dosage by Age
Melatonin is not classed as a drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so there are no official dosing recommendations. More research is needed to determine the optimal melatonin dose for different age groups and health conditions. However, initial studies have revealed some patterns.
For adults, melatonin doses between 0.3 milligrams and 12 milligrams have been used to treat a variety of sleep issues. Doses of melatonin between 1 milligram and 6 milligrams may be sufficient for improving sleep in older adults.
Both adults and older adults should try starting with the lowest possible amount of melatonin and slowly increasing as needed while being mindful of side effects. Most experts recommend limiting melatonin to short-term use.
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.
Children and Adolescents
Melatonin may be safe to use short-term for most children and adolescents, but you should always talk to your pediatrician before giving your child melatonin for the first time. Dosage may range from 1 milligram to 5 milligrams taken up to an hour before bedtime, depending on the age of the child or
teen. Children with certain health conditions may benefit from taking up to 10 milligrams of melatonin for sleep, under the guidance of a doctor.
Ultimately, more research needs to be done to ensure whether the benefits of melatonin for children outweigh the potential risks. There are concerns that melatonin might interfere with puberty. One research review found that while melatonin may help children fall asleep faster, it does not necessarily increase their total sleep time. The authors of this research review also point out that 50% of children experience better sleep with simple improvements in sleep habits.
Because melatonin supplements are not strictly regulated by the FDA, there may be variation between the label and the actual contents of melatonin supplements.
When Should You Take Melatonin?
Natural melatonin production in the body typically starts to increase 1 to 2 hours before bedtime. When taking melatonin to sleep better at night, most people find the best method is to take it within two hours of when they want to fall asleep. People who are taking melatonin for shift work or jet lag must calculate the best time of day to take these supplements in order to regulate their unique sleep-wake cycle.
Ensure that you will be able to sleep long enough for the melatonin to wear off when you wake up, and avoid driving or using heavy machinery within four to five hours of taking melatonin supplements.
Is it Safe to Take Melatonin with Alcohol?
Alcohol can disrupt your natural melatonin levels, so experts recommend against taking melatonin when drinking or when using other sleep medications.
There is limited evidence that melatonin might be helpful in recovering from alcohol use disorders due to the antioxidant effects of melatonin. However, more research needs to be done.
Can You Overdose on Melatonin?
Melatonin is generally considered safe for most people. However, it may result in unpleasant side effects especially at higher doses, when taken for longer periods of time, or when taken in combination with other drugs or medications. The most commonly reported side effects are mild and include:
Considerations When Taking Melatonin
It is a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting any new over-the-counter sleep aids. They can help you establish the correct dosage and timing based on various factors such as your weight, age, and other health conditions or medications you are currently taking. If you are not sure why you are having trouble sleeping, they may also be able to diagnose an underlying sleep disorder or health condition and work out a treatment plan. Improving sleep hygiene habits may also lead to better sleep.
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