What To Look For
The FDA doesn’t monitor how companies make food supplements or their quality. So the dose you buy may not be what the label says.
A 2017 study analyzed 31 melatonin supplements. The levels of melatonin ranged from 83% lower to 478% higher than what the product labels said. Also, in some cases different bottles of the same product varied drastically.
That’s why it’s a good idea to buy a brand that has been certified by Consumer Lab or the US Pharmacopeial Convention.
Factors Affecting How Long Melatonin Lasts
But how long does melatonin last in your system? Melatonin typically stays in your system for around four to eight hours, but this range largely depends on external factors, including:
- Age: Your metabolism slows as you age, meaning the rate at which your body can metabolize the melatonin also slows. The older you are, the longer it may take for melatonin to wear off.
- Caffeine: Research has shown that caffeine can modify melatonin production to counteract the effectiveness of the supplement.
- Light exposure: Exposure to bright light, especially the blue light emitted from technology, can send signals to your brain that its daytime, making it harder for the melatonin to take effect.
- Body size: Factors like your height and weight impact how you absorb melatonin and how it affects you.
- Tobacco use: In animal studies, nicotine has been shown to inhibit melatonins effectiveness in the body.
- Other medications: Additional medications like blood thinners, immunosuppressants, and stimulants may counteract the effectiveness of melatonin.
What Is Melatonin And Why Would I Take It
Melatonin is a hormone that our body makes when it gets dark, to let our brain know its time to sleep. When its light, our body makes less melatonin, which helps us to wake up. So, our internal body clock is partly controlled by the levels of melatonin in our body.
Because melatonin helps with our patterns of sleeping and waking, man-made melatonin supplements can help people who are having trouble sleeping in the short term.
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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:
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My Child Is Already On Melatonin Do I Need To Freak Out
I dont think so, as there is little concrete evidence of significant harm. However, if you started melatonin on your own I beg you to discuss it with your childs physician to see if it is really necessary. If your child has been using it long-term and sleeping well, you can consider slowly reducing the dose and seeing if it is still really necessary. Try to use it as needed as opposed to nightly. Also, I would take a hard look at sleep hygiene and ensure that you are ensuring good bedtime processes such as a high quality bedtime routine and avoidance of screen time for at least an hour prior to bedtime. I would try to reduce the dose, and potentially only use it as needed as opposed to nightly.
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What The Experts Do
Lower the Light to Prep for Sleep
Johns Hopkins sleep expert Luis F. Buenaver, Ph.D., C.B.S.M., keeps the lights low in the evening to help his mind and body prepare forsleep. But if he has to work in the evening or answer emails, he usesfilters to screen out the blue and green wavelengths of light emitted byhis smartphone and computer. Your brain associates this light withdaytime, and it can interfere with melatonins sleep-promoting effects. Afilter can help. Many types of blue-light filters are available online andin stores.
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Warnings For Some Serious Health Conditions:
How To Use Melatonin For Jet Lag
Jet lag is an air travel problem that causes difficulty in sleeping, fatigue, trouble concentrating, constipation, and other symptoms. Jet lag is much more likely if you cross over several time zones, and can worsen the more time zones you cross.
Effective starting doses for jet lag range from 0.3 to 0.5 mg. Smaller doses may work for some while others may need a higher dose. It may be more difficult to fly east, when time is lost, rather than to fly west, when you gain it back. High doses, such as 20 mg pills are available for purchase on the Internet, but such high doses are not normally recommended or needed, and may greatly increase side effects.
- Eastbound: If you are traveling east, say from the US to Europe, take supplemental melatonin for sleep after dark, 30 minutes before bedtime in the new time zone or if you are on the plane. Then take it for the next 4 nights in the new time zone, after dark, 30 minutes before bedtime. If you are still feeling drowsy the day after using this medication, try a lower dose.
- Westbound: If you are heading west, for example, from the US to Australia, a dose is not needed for your first travel night, but you then may take it for the next 4 nights in the new time zone, after dark, 30 minutes before bedtime. Melatonin may not always be needed for westbound travel.
Given enough time , jet lag will usually resolve on its own, but this is not always optimal when traveling.
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Children With Adhd And/or Autism Spectrum Disorders
Children with ADHD and/or autism spectrum disorder are known to have challenges falling asleep. Studies with melatonin have been done in these populations of children. Dr. Chen explains,
More trials of melatonin for sleep difficulties have been done in children with ADHD or ASD than studies for typically developing children. Evidence from these trials suggests that melatonin is safe and does shorten the length of time it takes to fall asleep. However, the effects are not generally overwhelming and not every child who takes melatonin shows sleep improvement. The studies mostly evaluate short-term use only.
Most worries about long-term use and safety are speculative but without clarity from research its always best to get kids off melatonin when you can.
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.
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Is It Safe To Take Melatonin Every Night
Unfortunately, theres no straight answer here, which youre probably hoping for. There isnt any evidence proving conclusively that long-term use of melatonin is safe. Though the supplement is generally not associated with dependency, habituation, or hangover symptoms, Dr. Kohli says she doesnt suggest taking melatonin every night because of the lack of long-term clinical trials evaluating the safety of chronic use.
At the same time, there isnt any evidence proving nightly melatonin use isnt safe. Dr. Bollu points out that melatonin is a natural hormone that fluctuates in our bodies on a daily basis anyway, meaning it may be safer than taking a prescription drug.
However, thats a double-edged sword: Because melatonin supplements arent medications, they arent regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration . Theres no guarantee about the quality of the product youre purchasing or the quantity of ingredients claimed on the label, unlike prescription drugs. A pharmacist or nutritionist may be able to help you find a product produced by a reputable manufacturer.
How Much Melatonin Should Senior Citizens Take To Sleep
A lot of change happens to our body as we age. Decreased melatonin production is one of them, which explains why older people quite often have problems with falling and staying asleep. One of the most commonly recommended solutions is taking supplements containing Melatonin. But are they safe? And if so, what dosage is optimal for older people? Lets find answers together
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The Right Dose Is Key To Helping You Sleep Better
Melatonin can sometimes be the answer for the millions of people who have trouble falling and staying asleep. The strong hormone is produced naturally in your brain and sends a message to your body that it is time to hit the hay at night. You can also take it as a supplement its available at the nearest drugstore over-the-counter.
People are usually misguided to believe that taking higher doses of melatonin would lead to better sleep. But the opposite is true:
Too much can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, or irritability. All of which can interfere with your sleep. So talk with your doctor for recommendations for dosage:
Generally, melatonin should be taken 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. It starts to work in about 30 minutes. Melatonin can stay about 5 hours in your body, although it depends on factors such as your age and overall health status. Take this into consideration before taking more than you required.
Consider Melatonin Sleep Help For Occasional Insomnia
Even sound sleepers have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep once in a while, Buenaver says. You may want to try melatonin for sleep if you have difficulty for more than a night or two. Research shows that a supplement may help people with insomnia fall asleep slightly faster and may have bigger benefits for those with delayed sleep phase syndromefalling asleep very late and waking up late the next day.
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What Is The Dose Of Melatonin For Children
Here is how we use melatonin in our clinic. In our clinic we follow the dosing recommendations in the Bruni article. We use a maximum dose of 3 mg for children less than 88 lbs 40kg. and 5 mg for children more than 88 lbs /40 kg. Often kids come to my clinic on higher doses if 10 mg doesnt work, sometimes lower doses or a different preparation work better! Also remember, not everyone responds to melatonin. Recognize that melatonin, unlike other medications, is a hormone, and that lower doses are sometimes more effective than higher ones, especially if the benefit of it reduces with time.
For assistance with sleep onset, usually dosing 30-60 minutes before the desired bedtime is best. I usually start at 1 mg and increase by 1 mg every 3-5 days to the maximum dose . Some children will actually do better with an earlier dose for example, around dinnertime. So you may want to vary this a bit. If one mg works, you might want to see if you can get away with less.
For shifting sleep schedules later , the dosing is different. You definitely want to work with a sleep doctor for this. That being said, we usually start with 0.25-0.5 mg four hours before bedtime and titrate up by 0.5 mg until you get a benefit.
Heres the critical part. Melatonin is not a substitute for good sleep hygiene practices and should only be used in concert with a high quality bedtime, limitation on light exposure, and an appropriate sleep schedule.
Before Taking This Medicine
Do not use melatonin if you are allergic to it.
Before using this medication, talk to your healthcare provider. You may not be able to use this medication if you have certain medical conditions, such as:
- a bleeding or blood clotting disorder such as hemophilia
- taking a blood thinner like warfarin
- high or low blood pressure
- epilepsy or other seizure disorder
- if you are using any medicine to prevent organ transplant rejection
- an autoimmune condition
- using other sedatives or tranquilizers
It is not known whether this medication will harm an unborn baby. Do not use this product without medical advice if you are pregnant.
High doses of this medicine may affect ovulation, making it difficult for you to get pregnant.
It is not known whether melatonin passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not use this product without medical advice if you are breast-feeding a baby.
Do not give any herbal/health supplement to a child without medical advice.
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Why Do Some People Need Extra Help Getting To Sleep
Imagine youre traveling across the country, spanning a time zone or two along the way. It could wreak havoc on your sleep . Or what if you occasionally work the night shift, throwing your sleep/wake cycle completely off balance? Some people struggle with sleep issues related to Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder . This is a night owl type of disorder in which a persons sleep schedule is shifted later, often by a number of hours, making it hard to get a full nights sleep. 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 some sleep hygiene tips for better sleep might also help.
How Much Melatonin Should You Take As An Adult
Quick Health Scoop
- Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced in the body.
- Melatonin helps regulate your circadian rhythmyour 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 and specific sleep issue.
If youve ever struggled to fall asleepor stay asleepyou might have considered taking a sleep aid product. While traditional over-the-counter or prescription sleeping pills have been around for decades, theyre actually considered medications that can have serious long-term side effects if overused or abused, including memory problems and mental and behavioral disorders.1 These medications can also be addictive to a point where you may become dependent on them to sleep, with a potential worsening of sleep issues when these pills are discontinued. Thats why many people turn to melatonin, a 100% drug-free sleep supplement. But you may wonder, what, exactly, is melatonin? And when and how much melatonin should you take?
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Immune Support And Neuroprotection
As a result of its antioxidant properties, melatonin is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and immune support molecule.
It regulates cytokine production in our immune systems, helping our bodies fight infections, while suppressing the production of inflammatory cytokines and reducing oxidative stress.
Research has also indicated that melatonin can have a neuroprotective effect in neurodegenerative disorders that involve oxidative damage to the brain, like dementia, Alzheimers, Parkinsons, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and traumatic brain and spinal cord injury.5
What Is A Safe Melatonin Dose
According to Michael Grandner, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona, melatonin is very safe if taken in normal doses, which is anything between 0.5 mg and 5 mg.
A 0.5 mg dose may be all thats needed for sleep-cycle regulation, and should be taken three to five hours before bed, he says. For people who want to take melatonin just before bed, a 5 mg dose is appropriate. Some people report headaches or stomach problems at higher doses, but those side-effects are uncommon, he says.
Still, there are other concerns. Melatonin has an incredible safety record, no doubt about it, says Dr. Mark Moyad, the Jenkins/Pomkempner director of preventive and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan. But its a hormone, and you dont want to mess around with hormones until you know what theyre doing.
People with existing medical problems should discuss melatonin with their doctor before using it. While some research has found that melatonin may help treat hyperglycemia in people with diabetes, for example, other studies have shown that, in diabetes patients who carry certain genetic traits, melatonin may interfere with glucose regulation. Its these sorts of contradictory findings that give experts pause when it comes to issuing melatonin a full-throated endorsement.
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Make Sure You Are Getting What The Label Says
Before you buy melatonin, its important to make sure you are getting it from a reputable place. The F.D.A. does not regulate supplements, Dr. Kolla said. So youre trusting the manufacturer in terms of the dosing.
A 2017 study in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that the melatonin content of dietary supplements often varies widely from what is listed on the label. The study found that even within the same batch of product, variability of the melatonin varied by as much as 465 percent.
Without governmental oversight, there really isnt a way to ensure the levels of melatonin advertised on the package are accurate. Therefore, Dr. Kolla recommends looking for a GLP or GMP label on the product. Both labels refer to federal regulations designed to affirm a product has the quality and purity that appear on its label. He says this provides some assurance that you are getting close to what the label says youre getting.
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