Melatonin Isn’t Working for Me. What Do I Do?

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    You’ve tried melatonin and it’s not working for you? There may be a simple explanation as to why and what you can do about it.

    What is melatonin?

    Melatonin is a hormone that plays a critical role in regulating the body’s circadian rhythm, the natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Produced by the pineal gland in the brain, melatonin is secreted in response to darkness. At the onset of darkness each night, the melatonin level in the body increases, resulting in a relaxed, somewhat drowsy, sleepy state that often leads to restful sleep. In the morning, as the light begins to increase, the melatonin levels decrease in response, thereby signaling the body to become fully awake. Melatonin also has antioxidant properties and is believed to support immune function.

    Melatonin has been sold as an exogenous, synthetic supplement since the mid-1990s. Available in capsule form, as a liquid abstract, or a gummy, melatonin is generally considered safe in the short-term, though research into its long-term efficacy and safety is lacking.

    What is melatonin used for?

    The primary use of melatonin supplements is to support sleep. It is commonly used by those who are experiencing jet lag or doing shift work in an effort to adjust their sleep schedule to changing time zones or different schedules. Taking melatonin has been shown to decrease motor activity, induce fatigue, and lower body temperature, which is likely a major reason for its popularity as a bedtime supplement.

    How to supplement with melatonin safely

    It is always in your best interest to consult with your physician if you are interested in beginning any new supplement regimen, especially if you are pregnant, lactating, thinking about getting pregnant, taking any medications on a regular basis, or have any underlying health conditions. Once you have decided to supplement with melatonin, it is important to determine the appropriate type, brand, and dosage to get optimal results. Always look for a high-quality, premium product like Care/of’s Sleep Blend - The Snooze Button. Follow the recommended dosage and be consistent with the timing of taking it.

    Though considered safe, there are some potential side effects when taking melatonin. If you experience nausea, dizziness, daytime drowsiness, or headaches, contact your healthcare provider about possibly adjusting the dosage, or stopping altogether.

    Recommended dosage of melatonin

    Generally speaking, it is important to start off slowly to see how your body responds to the lower dose. The safe starting dose of melatonin for adults is considered to be between 0.5mg and 1mg, and the typical doses tends to be between 1mg and 6mg. Doses may vary according to the brand and product you have chosen, your age, general health, and the reason for supplementing. If you are experiencing side effects contact your physician to determine if the dosage should be reduced, or if you should stop taking melatonin altogether.

    Best time to take melatonin

    The best time to take melatonin may vary according to sleep schedule and one’s reason for taking it. Generally speaking, melatonin is recommended to be taken between 30 and 60 minutes before bedtime in order for it to be fully absorbed and its impact felt at bedtime. It should not be taken during the day or when driving, as it causes drowsiness.

    Why melatonin might not work for you

    There are a number of reasons why melatonin might not work for you. If the dosage is not correct, either too much or too little, it may not have its intended impact. Similarly, if melatonin is taken too early or too late, or if you spend post-supplementing time watching television, on your phone, checking social media, or doing pretty much anything other than embracing the relaxation and preparing for sleep, you may not attain the intended outcome, sleep. It is best if you take melatonin when you start feeling tired and are able to allow your body to be fully at rest. There may also be underlying health conditions or medications that interfere with the impact of melatonin.

    Poor sleep habits, irregular sleep schedules, late-night eating, caffeine, not following the suggested use, and lifestyle habits like late-night screen time may also cause melatonin supplementation not to work. It is not difficult to override the effects of melatonin, even worrying or an overactive mind can have an undesired effect.

    What to do if melatonin doesn't work for you?

    If melatonin doesn’t work for you, talk to your healthcare provider to adjust the dosage, or explore other options. It can be a simple fix like the addition of a magnesium supplement to your protocol, or some potential lifestyle changes. Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol at bedtime, incorporate exercise into your daily routine, and create a cool, dark, comfortable sleep environment. Avoiding electronics right before bedtime is always a good idea, and if you can’t do that, use blue light blocking glasses or filters, as blue light can disrupt melatonin production.

    There are also a number of herbal combinations that might help you. Proponents of ashwagandha contend that it supports relaxation of the mind, while valerian is believed to promote relief from tension, restlessness, and irritability, and ultimately promote relaxing, restful sleep.

    This study found that consumption of a low dose of Passiflora incarnata (passionflower), in the form of tea, yields short-term subjective sleep benefits for healthy adults with mild fluctuations in sleep quality.

    If your sleep issues are chronic or persistent, they should be discussed with your physician as there may be an underlying cause.

    Should you take more melatonin if it doesn't work?

    No. Taking more melatonin is not something you should do when it feels like melatonin is not working for you. It might actually backfire and you’ll find yourself in the same sleepless predicament you were trying to remedy with melatonin in the first place.

    It is suggested that you start slowly when supplementing with melatonin and see how your body responds. It is not a sleeping pill. It may take some time for you to find the perfect dosage and timing. In the meantime, focus on sleep habits, lifestyle choices, and speak with your physician about possible underlying causes for your sleep issues.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Our Editorial Staff
    Freelance Contributor
    The Care/of Editorial Team is made up of writers, experts, and health enthusiasts, all dedicated to giving you the information you need today. Our team is here to answer your biggest wellness questions, read the studies for you, and introduce you to your new favorite product, staying up to date on the latest research, trends, and science. Each article is written by one of our experts, reviewed both for editorial standards by an editor and medical standards by one of our naturopathic doctors, and updated regularly as new information becomes available.