Melatonin is an easy-to-obtain and inexpensive supplement you may take to help fall asleep and stay asleep. However, does it really work, and is its efficacy grounded in science? Learn the truth about melatonin and whether it’s right for you.
What is Melatonin?
You may have seen melatonin supplements at your local pharmacy and marketed as a safe and natural sleep aid. It’s indeed natural as it’s a hormone your body produces in response to darkness or low-light conditions. This sends a message to your brain that it’s time to sleep, making you drowsy, hence why it’s known as the sleep hormone.
Does Melatonin in Supplement Form Actually Work?
Some people believe melatonin supplements are merely placebos. A report published in John Hopkins Medicine, however, concludes taking melatonin occasionally may help with treating mild insomnia and sleeplessness. One meta-analysis also concluded that insomnia patients who took melatonin experienced shorter sleep onset latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) compared to a placebo group. Another study found that melatonin improved sleep quality in patients with existing health conditions, including but not limited to respiratory disease and metabolic disorders.
Who Shouldn’t Take Melatonin?
Even though melatonin is completely natural and generally safe, it may not be recommended for everyone. If you’re on medication, speak with your doctor to determine if melatonin may interact with the medications you’re prescribed.
Melatonin is also not recommended for those with autoimmune diseases. Melatonin increases immune system activity, as shown in studies. While this is normally a good thing, having an autoimmune disorder means your immune system may heighten its attack on healthy cells.
It’s best to take the smallest amount of melatonin that works for you. Melatonin supplements come in varying doses, from 1mg to 20mg per tablet. Start with 1mg – 5mg, while seniors may start with a lower dose. Slowly work your way up until you find a dosage that helps you sleep without causing any side effects.
Is It Okay to Take Melatonin Every Night?
Studies into the long-term effects of melatonin are limited. There’s no evidence suggesting undesired side effects associated with continued use over a long duration. There’s also no evidence suggesting continued use will impact your body’s natural melatonin production. However, it’s always best to take melatonin only when needed unless advised by your doctor.
If you do rely on the sleep aid daily, we also suggest temporarily discontinuing use or decreasing dosage to see if you can maintain a healthy sleep habit without it.
Side Effects of Melatonin
Since melatonin is completely natural, users are unlikely to become dependent. Nevertheless, some people do report mild side effects not long after supplementation. Some of the common effects associated with short-term use include:
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Daytime fatigue
At the moment, however, there is a lack of studies regarding side effects associated with long-term use lasting more than three months.
When to Take Melatonin
It’s generally recommended to take melatonin 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime. This coincides with the time when the brain naturally increases melatonin to prepare you for sleep mode. It’s best to take melatonin on an empty stomach. If you consume a snack prior to bedtime, wait at least 45 minutes before melatonin supplementation.
Read also: What is Insomnia?
Improve Your Nightly Sleep with Our CPAP Alternatives
All available studies and meta-analyses seem to indicate that melatonin is a safe and temporary solution for overcoming mild insomnia. However, if you have a more severe form of sleep disorder, such as chronic sleep apnea, then consider noninvasive sleep appliances.
At SleepWell, we offer oral appliances as an alternative to CPAP machines to help you get a better night’s sleep. With a quick at-home test, our Sleep Specialist can determine a compatible model for you!