Americans aren’t sleeping well. In fact, according to studies, up to 30% of adults in the United States sleep less than 6 hours each night.
Poor sleep can deplete your energy, lower your productivity, and increase the risk of diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone produced in the body by the pineal gland, a tiny gland found deep in the brain. The pineal secretes melatonin in response to reduced light in the evening. It doesn’t make you sleep, but as melatonin levels rise it puts you into a state of quiet wakefulness that helps promote sleep. It simply lets your body know that it’s nighttime so you can relax and fall asleep easier.
The supplements you buy in the store contain a synthetic version of melatonin. Synthetic melatonin mimics the effects of our own melatonin. It can, if used properly, help certain problem sleepers get to bed at night.
Studies suggest that use of synthetic melatonin does not suppress the body’s natural production of the hormone. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says that melatonin may be used for some problems related to sleep timing, but it’s not a solution for a serious sleep issue like chronic insomnia.
Natural melatonin production can wane with age, leading to more sleep issues as you get older. A 2019 review that only included studies of adults at least 65 years old concluded that those participants benefited from using between 1 milligram and 6 milligrams of melatonin a night.
How to Take Melatonin
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.
For instance, start with 0.5 mg (500 micrograms) or 1 mg one hour before going to bed. If that does not seem to help you fall asleep, try increasing your dose to 3–5 mg. The goal is to find the lowest dose that’ll help you fall asleep.
Some people experience daytime sleepiness when using melatonin as a sleep aid. If you experience this, it could be that your dosage is too high.
If melatonin for sleep isn’t helping after a week or two, stop using it. And if your sleep problems continue, talk with your health care provider. If melatonin does seem to help, it’s safe for most people to take it for one to two months.
Do not use melatonin if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Melatonin for Children
It’s estimated that up to 25% of healthy children have trouble falling asleep. This number is higher — up to 75% — in children with neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Studies show that melatonin can shorten the time to fall asleep in children. While melatonin can be an effective short-term solution to address bedtime problems, children with neurodevelopmental disorders may benefit from longer-term use in some cases.
Melatonin should not be given to healthy, typically developing children under age 3, as difficulties falling and staying asleep in these children are almost always behavioral in nature.
Melatonin is also used as part of the treatment program for teens with a disorder called “delayed sleep phase” in which the natural fall asleep and wake times are much later than normal.
Dosage can vary by age with some recommendations, including 1 mg for infants, 2.5 to 3 mg for older children.
One of the best melatonin supplements for children is Melatonin Gummies for Kids 1 mg by Dr. Moritz. They are delicious, easy to chew and were made specifically for children.