How to Take Melatonin

Three Methods:Understanding MelatoninTaking Melatonin for SleepTaking Melatonin for Other Reasons

Melatonin is a natural hormone that controls your body's inner clock. It works by activating certain chemical receptors in the brain that encourage sleep. Melatonin production is controlled by light. On a typical day, your melatonin level rises when it is dark and you approach your usual sleeping time. Research shows that melatonin can help regulate sleep in a variety of sleep disorders, as well as help with other functions due to its regulation of other hormones in your body.[1] Once you understand how melatonin works, you can follow a few simple steps to use it correctly to help with your sleeping patterns, jet lag, and other issues.

Method 1
Understanding Melatonin

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    Know how melatonin works. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by your pineal gland located in your brain. It acts like a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, to activate certain pathways in your brain. Its role in establishing a sleep cycle has been recognized; however, recent research indicates it may be involved in other body functions as well.
    • In the USA, melatonin is available over-the-counter as a dietary supplement and is therefore not regulated by the FDA. In most countries it is a prescription medication or it is unavailable.
    • Other sleeping aids generally present several problems such as building tolerance, which means they eventually becomes less effective and you have to increase the dose. In this regard, melatonin presents a better alternative because it is a natural hormone for which you don't build up a tolerance.[2]
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    Learn when to take melatonin. Melatonin can been used for circadian rhythm sleep disorders such as delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, which results in the inability to fall asleep before 2:00 am or later. It can also be used to help with sleep problems related to working night shifts, general insomnia, and jet lag.[3]
    • Generally, melatonin is safe to take in an appropriate amount, often 1 mg or less, to help with these issues. However, if your sleep problems are severe or persist, talk to your doctor first.
    • If you are on any other medications, you should also talk to your doctor before taking melatonin, as they may interact.[4]
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    Recognize the side effects. There are some common side effects for melatonin. You may experience daytime sleepiness, headaches, or dizziness. There are also some less common side effects that you may experience. These include abdominal discomfort, mild anxiety, irritability, confusion and short-lasting feelings of depression.[5]
    • If you experience any persistent side effects, talk to your doctor.
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    Take different forms. Melatonin comes in many forms. It comes in regular tablets or capsules. These can be time-release tablets, which slowly absorb into your body over a long period of time. These formulations may help with staying asleep during the night. You can also get sublingual, or quick dissolve, tablets, which dissolve under your tongue and go directly into your system instead of getting absorbed by your GI tract.[6] This means the melatonin will act faster than regular tablets or capsules.
    • You can also get melatonin in liquid form. Similar to sublingual, the liquid form may be absorbed directly and will act faster than regular tablets or capsules.
    • Some pharmacies may also carry melatonin in other forms such as gummies, soft gels, or creams.[7]
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    Contact your doctor. When taking melatonin, you should contact your doctor if your insomnia persists or is affecting your daily activities. In addition, if you are on medications for diabetes, blood thinners, medications that suppress the immune system, blood pressure medications, medications to control seizures, or birth control pills, you should contact your doctor before taking melatonin.[8]

Method 2
Taking Melatonin for Sleep

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    Evaluate your sleep hygiene. Your insomnia may be a result of your habits. Before trying any supplements, make sure you have good habits that facilitate sleep. This is called sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene includes going to bed and getting up the same time each day, avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bed, and turning off all the lights. You should also avoid stimulation before sleeping.
    • Activities that should be avoided are any that will overexcite you before bed, such as exercise, watching TV, or computer work.
    • You should also associate your bed with sleep. It is best if you don't read or do other work in bed so your body does not get used to doing anything but sleep in your bed.[9]
    • Try not to use electronics such as your phone or a tablet before bed. The blue light emitted by these devices can make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
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    Take melatonin at the correct time. The time of day that you take melatonin is very important. If you take it because you have trouble staying asleep, you can take a controlled release formulation before going to bed. However, if you take it because you have trouble falling asleep, it is recommended to take it up to three hours before you go to bed; timing is individual and may require some experimentation.
    • If you wake up in the middle of the night, don't take melatonin to go back to sleep. Doing so will throw off your internal body clock. Melatonin should only be taken before your normal sleep time.
    • A sublingual form, which will go directly into your bloodstream, has a quicker onset. If you are taking a sublingual, quick release, or liquid form, you may take it closer to bedtime, about 30 minutes before you plan to go to sleep.
    • It is generally safe to take melatonin for up to three months, or possibly longer if recommended by your healthcare provider.[10][11]
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    Find the right dosage. Once you know when to take your melatonin, you need to know how much to take. Generally available in 0.3 to 5 mg doses, a small dose to aid in falling asleep may work better than a larger one; it will reduce or eliminate any undesirable side effects; and liquid or sublingual forms may be preferable. To ensure sleeping through the whole night, try taking a time-released dose of 0.3 to 5 mg.[12]
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    Avoid certain behaviors. Once you have taken the melatonin, you should avoid certain behaviors so it can work the most efficient way possible. In order to make sure the melatonin is effective, you should avoid caffeine-rich foods and liquids at night.[13] These substances include coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate.
    • You should also keep lighting very low once you have taken the melatonin. Any light reduces the production of melatonin, so it will inhibit your attempt to sleep.[14]

Method 3
Taking Melatonin for Other Reasons

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    Get over jet lag. When you travel, you can take melatonin to help with jet lag, which is daytime fatigue that occurs when changing time zones. The first night you arrive at your destination, you can take 0.5 to 5 mg of melatonin. Taking it can help you sleep and reset your sleeping patterns to match the new time zone you traveled to. Continue taking for two to five nights.
    • Lower doses, such as 0.5 to 3 mg, are recommended to avoid the sedating side effects that can sometimes be caused at higher doses.[15]
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    Help with other disorders. Studies have suggested that melatonin may help symptoms in numerous other disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, depression, fibromyalgia, migraines and other headaches, tardive dyskinesia (TD), epilepsy, menopause, and cancer.[16]
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    Take the correct dose. If you are using melatonin for reasons other than insomnia or jet lag, talk to your doctor first. You doctor will be able to guide you in regards to its effectiveness for you condition, the best dose, and the correct time to take it.
    • Take the amount prescribed by your doctor. Different doses have been shown to be effective for different disorders. You should also take it for as long as your doctor recommends it.[17]


  • Avoid activities such as driving or operating heavy machinery for four to five hours after taking melatonin.[18]
  • Do not use multiple sleep aids or medications at once.
  • Remember that melatonin is, as per the FDA, not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease.
  • You should not drink alcohol and then take melatonin. It is likely to be less effective if taken with alcohol.[19]

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