How Much Melatonin Should I Take?

Holli Lapes, RD, LD/N

Melatonin is a hormone that is primarily synthesized in the pineal gland and is released mostly at night.1 Many factors can disrupt the natural release of melatonin in the body. Also, melatonin production naturally declines with age, as is the case with other hormones.1,2

Melatonin can help people fall asleep but may also lead to a better quality of sleep.3 Additionally, melatonin has strong antioxidant properties and can protect cellular DNA and immune function.4

Melatonin is available as a dietary supplement in a liquid or capsule form, with doses varying anywhere from 300 mcg to 10 mg. With so many forms and dosages available, you may be wondering, which dose is right for me? Whether you are new to melatonin or just can’t seem to find a dose that works for you, we're here to help. Like other things in life, supplementation with melatonin could be a process of trial and error.

Some people who have tried melatonin report feeling groggy in the morning after use, which could be caused by an incorrect dose. Make sure when taking melatonin that you have at least 6 to 8 hours to spare for a good night’s sleep, since having to wake up sooner may be the reason for this side effect. Another side effect linked to taking too high a dose of melatonin; bad dreams.

Do You Have Difficulty Falling Asleep?

Anxiety, stress/elevated evening cortisol, and insomnia are among many reasons people have difficulty falling asleep. Shift workers and those with professions that require working hours outside of the norm can also struggle to fall asleep easily. Traveling and the time changes that accompany it may cause your sleep wake cycle to be interrupted as well.

Do you watch TV, use your computer, tablet or smart phone right before bed? The blue light that is emitted from these devices may be interfering with the body’s release of melatonin.5 Try to stay off these devices for at least one hour before bedtime.

Try this: fast-acting melatonin, taken orally as a liquid or pill. If you tend to be very sensitive to new supplements, start at the lowest dose of 300 mcg and titrate up as needed. If you are not particularly sensitive, try a dose of 1 to 3 mg and titrate up as needed.

Do You Have Difficulty Staying Asleep?

Try this: Timed-release melatonin - which works over a six-hour period to help you fall asleep and stay asleep until morning.

If you have trouble staying asleep, before you look to melatonin, you’ll want to ponder the question: Why? Some of the reasons that have already been discussed could play a role in both falling and staying asleep, but there are also a few separate reasons that people have trouble staying asleep, specifically.

Some reasons are gender-specific. For example, in men it could be frequent urination due to BPH or prostatitis. If this is the case, you’ll want to address the underlying cause. Frequent urination, incontinence, and urgency can occur in both men and women. In women, it could be due to changes in the bladder and hormone decline (estrogen, progesterone). Woman who are perimenopausal or postmenopausal will likely have inadequate progesterone levels. Progesterone is calming to the central nervous system and can promote normal sleeping patterns.

Again, seek to correct the underlying cause of the sleep disturbance and consider bioidentical hormone replacement.

No Sleeping Issues? Consider an Anti-Aging Dose of Melatonin

Although most people associate melatonin with sleep, there are a variety of health benefits from melatonin that go beyond sleep, such as brain protection . If the lower doses are well-tolerated, we suggest taking 10 mg for anti-aging benefits.

References:

  1. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2276624/ Accessed September 1st 2016
  2. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10841214 Accessed September 1st 2016
  3. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2082098/ Accessed September 1st 2016
  4. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10674014 Accessed September 1st 2016
  5. Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side Accessed September 1st 2016
  6. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16024758 Accessed September 1st 2016

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