Need some sleep support? With the use of melatonin on the rise, there’s a good chance that you know at least one person who has tried melatonin. Or your distant social media acquaintance said that it works.
If you’re eager to get started, you may be wondering: how long does melatonin take to work?
Let’s review what melatonin is and look into the research on what you can expect from the potential benefits.
While many people have heard of melatonin as a dietary supplement, you may not realize that it’s actually a hormone.
Melatonin is made by a gland in your brain called the pineal gland. This gland makes melatonin in response to darkness, whereas light disrupts melatonin production. Melatonin is important for your circadian rhythm which is your body’s 24-hour internal clock. It also plays an important role in sleep.
In the body, melatonin is made from an amino acid called tryptophan. People used to think that eating foods high in tryptophan could cause drowsiness, but the science does not support this. Instead, those who are interested in boosting melatonin may opt for a dietary supplement.
Most melatonin supplements contain synthetic sources. They can be found in capsules, liquid drops, or tablets. You can find melatonin as a stand-alone product, or as a complex with other sleep-supporting ingredients.
Melatonin supplements have been primarily researched for their role in supporting sleep and circadian rhythm.
Natural melatonin production in the body should increase by the evening and then decrease in the early morning. But if melatonin production is disrupted due to age, travel, or other factors, that may impact sleep.
Melatonin supplements may help support a healthy sleep cycle, according to research. The evidence includes a meta analysis of the data which found that melatonin may help support sleep. A more recent meta analysis of randomized controlled trials found that melatonin supplements supported sleep quality.
While the mechanisms of melatonin are not yet fully understood, the connection between melatonin and sleep may go beyond circadian rhythm. Melatonin may lower core body temperature which can support sleep. It also has antioxidant properties which could support the brain and other areas of the body.
Melatonin may also be a traveler’s best friend. If you’ve ever taken a trip to another time zone, you know how easily your sleep can get thrown off. This is because your circadian rhythm (internal clock) is still based on the timezone you came from. The symptoms of this time zone mismatch, like sleepiness and brain fog, are often called jet lag.
Since melatonin can support the natural rhythm of the body, researchers have studied supplemental melatonin for jet lag support. A Cochrane review of the evidence states that melatonin supplements, “should be recommended to adult travelers flying across five or more time zones, particularly in an easterly direction, and especially if they have experienced jet lag on previous journeys.”
According to the Cleveland Clinic, melatonin supplements can take about 20-40 minutes to work for sleep support. Everyone is different, so some people may find that it takes longer or shorter to notice a benefit.
Melatonin can stay in your system for about 4-5 hours. But higher doses will stay in the body longer than lower doses. Taking a sustained release form of melatonin would potentially cause it to be present in the body for a longer period of time.
Before you supplement with melatonin, you should consider the dose.
Generally, a safe starting dose for adults is between 1-5 mg. It would be a good idea to start with a lower dose and increase slowly, as needed. Older adults may find doses lower than 1 mg to be effective.
Another consideration when starting melatonin is the source. An analysis of 31 different melatonin supplements found 71% of them did not meet the label claim for melatonin. Additionally, 26% were found to contain serotonin as a contaminant.
This is why it’s essential to choose a supplement brand that is committed to testing all of its products to make sure label claims are being met and that the products are free from contaminants.
If you’ve been taking melatonin and wondering how long it takes to work, you may just be using a poor quality product.
The Cleveland Clinic says that melatonin supplements should be taken about 30 minutes before bed. Melatonin should only be taken at night for sleep support.
Melatonin supplements are generally safe when used as directed in the short-term. There is not enough research to support long-term use of melatonin.
At higher doses, melatonin has been associated with dizziness, drowsiness, and headaches as potential side effects.
You may have heard that melatonin can cause nightmares, but there is no conclusive evidence showing that dreams differ while using melatonin.
If you are an adult looking to support a healthy sleep cycle or for jet lag support, melatonin may be right for you.
Children should not take melatonin unless recommended by a healthcare practitioner. There is also not enough research to confirm the safety of melatonin during pregnancy.
Melatonin can help support sleep, but if you are experiencing chronic sleep issues, you should talk to your healthcare provider about your options.
Looking for other ways to naturally improve your sleep quality?
Here are a few things to try:
Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally made in the body to regulate sleep and the circadian rhythm. Research suggests that taking a melatonin supplement may help support a healthy sleep cycle. It could also provide jet lag support. Melatonin may be beneficial within about 40 minutes of taking it. It’s best to take melatonin before bed and to incorporate other lifestyle changes into your routine to help support sleep quality.