Does Melatonin Make You Sleep Immediately?

Reviewed on 5/4/2022
Pregnant woman smiling as she lies on her bed to sleep
Melatonin will not make you fall asleep immediately. To use melatonin to help you sleep, take 1 to 3 milligrams two hours before bedtime.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland at night. It plays a role in the body’s sleep-wake cycle, preparing the body for sleep as it gets dark. 

  • Melatonin is marketed as a supplement to aid with sleep, jet lag, stress, and aging
  • Melatonin will not make you fall asleep immediately. To use melatonin for sleep, take 1 to 3 milligrams two hours before bedtime.
  • If melatonin supplements do not help after one or two weeks of use, discontinue use of the product and talk to your doctor.

What Is the Dose of Melatonin?

There is not a one-size-fits all dose of melatonin that is used for sleep. Dosing and response to the hormone can vary from one individual to another based on age, gender, the time the supplement is taken, a person’s sleep problems, and any underlying health issues.

  • Melatonin supplements can be purchased without a prescription, and common doses range from 0.1 to 10 milligrams, though between 0.5 to 5 milligrams is generally considered a safe and effective dose for healthy adults. 
  • Most children may take melatonin in small doses for short-term use. The dosage range for children is 0.05 milligrams per kilogram to 5 milligrams of melatonin. Consult your child’s pediatrician before giving them melatonin. 
  • Elderly people may be more sensitive to the effects of melatonin supplements and should take the lowest possible dose.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding people should consult their doctor before using melatonin, as there is not enough research into the safety of melatonin among this population. In addition, melatonin is thought to help regulate an unborn baby’s circadian rhythm, and an imbalance might impact a child’s sleeping patterns after they are born.

What Are Risks of Melatonin Use?

Melatonin supplements are marketed as “natural” sleep aids, though it does not mean they are harmless. 

  • There are some reports that suggest that long-term melatonin use may affect reproductive hormones.
  • Melatonin can interact with other medications, especially:
    • Blood thinners
    • Benzodiazepines
    • Anti-seizure drugs
    • Blood pressure medications
    • Diabetes medications
    • Immunosuppressants
    • Medication to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Melatonin supplements may raise blood-sugar levels and increase blood pressure levels in people taking certain medications for high blood pressure.
  • Some people who have diabetes may be more sensitive to the actions of melatonin, leading to impaired insulin secretion.
  • Melatonin may stimulate inflammation in people with certain autoimmune diseases. 
  • It is unknown if melatonin interacts with alcohol. Because the risks are not known, it is recommended to avoid alcohol if you take melatonin. 
  • There are inconsistent results in studies on whether melatonin affects hormonal birth control

Higher doses of melatonin are not necessarily better, and excess melatonin can cause health risks. Symptoms of taking excess melatonin may include:

Is Melatonin Safe to Use?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers melatonin to be a dietary supplement, which means melatonin supplements are not required to undergo the same rigorous research and testing as prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids. Melatonin supplements may contain a wide variety in the:

  • Ingredients
  • Dose
  • Preparation
  • Purity 

These differences may result in a significantly different impact on the body, even for the same dosage. In addition, dosages listed on supplement labels are often inaccurate and do not contain the labeled dose. Look for United States Pharmacopeial Convention Verified labels to find reliable preparations.

Reviewed on 5/4/2022
Image Source: iStock Images