Melatonin - What is the correct dosage?
Melatonin is one of the most popular natural supplements you may come across. In the U.S. alone, millions of people use melatonin to help them fall asleep and get a good night’s rest. Naturally occurring in your body, melatonin is relatively safe, and unlike prescription sleep aids, it’s non-addictive.
However, there is a downside to melatonin that rarely gets enough attention. When used safely and only on the advice of your healthcare practitioner, melatonin is a great, natural way to keep your body healthy by ensuring regular, healthy sleep. Exceeding the recommended dose or taking it at the wrong time, however, can cause problems.
What Is Melatonin & How Does It Work?
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in our brain. It helps regulate our circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock). More specifically, it’s the brain’s way of signalling the rest of the body that it’s time to go to bed.
It’s a pretty clever little hormone—it knows when it’s dark outside. Darkness causes your body to produce more melatonin, which then provides that sleep signal and helps you fall asleep. Light, on the other hand, decreases melatonin production and signals your body that it’s time to wake up and get going.
It’s believed that some people who struggle when falling or staying asleep may not be producing enough natural melatonin. therefore, melatonin supplements are often extremely helpful in simply regulating that natural sleep-wake cycle by providing supplemental melatonin… but only at the appropriate time of day and in the correct dosage.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Too many people make the mistake of thinking that if a little melatonin helps, a lot will certainly work better. Unfortunately, that’s not only wrong, but it’s also a dangerous line of thinking.
Taking too much melatonin can actually decimate your sleep cycle. It can also cause side effects like headaches, nausea, dizziness and irritability—all impediments to getting a good night’s sleep. Overdoing it or taking a second dose can even cause you to wake up in the middle of the night and then struggle with getting back to sleep. As with any supplement, follow the recommended dosage listed on the package or instructed to you by your healthcare practitioner.
When Should You Take Melatonin?
Timing is issue when it comes to melatonin. Remember, your body should naturally produce more melatonin when it starts to get dark outside, so if you take supplemental melatonin too early in the evening before the sun starts setting down (or before you’re actually ready to fall asleep for the night), you’re skewing that natural cycle your body is already trying to maintain. Don’t fight that natural flow.
Melatonin can be very beneficial at times when you know your regular sleep schedule is going to get disrupted. For example, if you’re flying across several time zones (jetlag) or having a big week at work that will require lots of successive late nights, melatonin supplements can help you get back into your natural rhythm.
There’s another timing issue to be aware of, too. As you age, your body naturally produces less and less melatonin. If you’re over 60 and struggle with falling or staying asleep, this may be part of the problem.
In general, start with 0.3 -1 mg of melatonin about 20-60 minutes before you plan to actually fall asleep. This amount of time will allow your brain to recognize the supplemental melatonin, trigger that sleep signal and help you fall asleep.
Is Melatonin Safe for Kids?
It’s a proven fact that kids who sleep well do better academically and are less likely to be overweight, get injured playing sports or get sick. In fact, some believe that a good portion of kids who have trouble focusing simply have poor sleep habits and aren’t rested enough to focus as they should in the classroom.
When sleep is that important, is it safe to give your child melatonin to help them get the rest they need? Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough research on melatonin use in kids to be safe for sure. It is a hormone, so it must be used carefully, but many parents find that very low dose of liquid melatonin used on a limited basis can greatly help their child fall asleep.
Parents may use liquid melatonin to help their child fall asleep on vacation after a long day or two of travel or when naps just don’t seem to fit into a busy schedule. In this case, the melatonin is used as a shift worker would use it to readjust their sleep-wake cycle after being off rhythm for a bit. In both cases, the use is on a very short-term, limited basis. It is recommend discussing with your paediatrician before using melatonin on children.
The best thing to do with kids is to do what you’re taught as new parents: establish a good night time routine, dim the lights in the house about half an hour before putting the little one to bed, put the screens away, etc.
The Best Type of Melatonin Supplementation
The best way to restore one’s melatonin levels back to normal is with melatonin-rich foods and a circadian-friendly lifestyle.
Two Ways to Supplement with Melatonin
The two major delivery systems for melatonin supplementation are time release and immediate release.
Immediate Release Melatonin: With this type of supplement, the full dose of melatonin is absorbed into the bloodstream all at once. This delivery system has been well-documented with decades of research behind it. Liquid Melatonin is designed to help find the exact and best dose for every individual – starting with the smallest dose possible. This supplement uses the immediate release delivery system. You can take 1 drop which equals .1 milligrams, or up to 30 drops which is the equivalent of 3 milligrams.
Time Release or Control Release Melatonin: This delivery system has been a more recent development, and there are less studies behind it. A time release melatonin supplement mimics the body’s natural release of melatonin throughout the night. When taking a higher dose of melatonin, over 3 milligrams, consider a time release supplement, as taking more than 4 milligrams all at once in an immediate release form can be too much and can leave you without the support needed for sleep, detox, and immunity.
Your Melatonin Needs May Shift
Your melatonin needs may also shift seasonally. The body produces more melatonin in the winter, when the nights are long, and less in the summer, when nights are short. You may find that you need a lower dose of melatonin in the summer, but come winter, you may find your need for melatonin support goes up and you may need to take it at an earlier time in the evening.
I’ve found that the longer you take melatonin, the less you need, which also suggests that it does not create a dependency.
It’s best to take either melatonin products right when entering bed, with the lights out. Watching TV, reading, checking email or having a snack can negatively affect melatonin absorption and interrupt the process.
A Note on Sleep: More often than not, the cause of most common sleep issues is not a deficiency of melatonin.
Melatonin Dosage Fact Sheet
Trouble Falling Asleep: 0.3 to 5 mg of melatonin daily for up to 9 months
Disrupted Sleep-Wake Cycle: 2 to 12 mg taken at bedtime for up to 4 weeks
Extended Difficulty Sleeping: 2 to 3 mg of melatonin before bedtime for up to 29 weeks has been used in most research—higher doses of up to 12 mg daily have also been used for shorter durations (up to 4 weeks)
Supporting Blood Pressure Levels: 2 to 3 mg of a controlled-release melatonin for up to 4 weeks
Jet Lag: 0.5 to 8 mg at bedtime is commonly taken on the arrival day at the destination, continuing for 2 to 5 days
Note: Many have tried melatonin and stopped, because they deemed it unsuccessful. In most cases, the reason for the lack of benefit was that the dosage was way too high or too low. Typically, we are overdosed with melatonin. Melatonin is often sold at very high dosages – some are even up to 20 milligrams – which could put a horse to sleep! Beware of taking too much melatonin, as it may actually keep you up at night. Taking too much melatonin can trigger a detox, which can stimulate the body at night and disturb sleep. Many who have tried melatonin and weren’t happy with the results may have simply been taking the wrong dose.