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How to Use Melatonin Correctly

How to Use Melatonin Correctly

Using melatonin correctly can help sleep and mood problems, but this can be tricky, and if misused can cause insomnia and even depression. Here are some of the common mistakes people make, and guidelines to use it the right way.

Mistake #1: It is a sleep hormone

Most people think melatonin is a natural sleeping pill. This couldn’t be more wrong; on its own, it won’t induce sleep, and is usually only effective in short-term applications. It’s more correct to think of it as a ‘darkness’ signaler, that is, it tells the brain that it needs to prepare for a night time or winter cycle. If taken in the evening or when it’s dark, it can speed up sleep preparation, and it can tell the body clock to shift its sleep cycle to an earlier time.

Mistake #2: I can take it at any time.

If melatonin is used during daytime brightness, it can cause adverse effects. If the body clock is receiving conflicting daytime light signals and dark signals from melatonin, it can malfunction and not work properly when it is time to go to sleep later.

Mistake #3: Melatonin is a natural supplement, so it can’t do any harm.

The wrong amounts at the wrong time of day can cause serious health risks. Daytime use has been shown to cause depression. This makes sense, especially when you consider that melatonin causes us to pull back, withdraw, become disoriented and irritable – the classic hibernation response. It’s best to avoid using it during the day.

Mistake #4: I need it to help me sleep

In most cases, your sleep problem isn’t from a lack of melatonin, and increasing it can mask underlying problems that are the real cause of insomnia. If you need it to help you fall or stay asleep, you are more likely suffering from a circadian rhythm sleep disorder. Circadian rhythm sleep disorders mean that your body is producing melatonin and other sleep hormones at the wrong time of day, so when you need to sleep, you don’t have enough of it in your system. Simply adding melatonin doesn’t fix the sleep problem and can contribute to depressive mood disorders. The most effective treatment for circadian rhythm sleep disorders is light therapy, because bright light is the zeitgeber or signaler the body clock uses to reset itself each day.

Mistake #5: I need to keep taking it.

Sleep experts don’t recommend taking melatonin for more than two weeks at a time. It is effective as a signal augmenter (reinforcing external cues), or as a tool to help shift sleep and circadian rhythms. Long term use of melatonin indicates a more serious underlying sleep disorder that should be investigated by a sleep professional.

Mistake #6: The dosage amount isn’t important.

The problem with melatonin is that it was discovered long before scientists really understood what it does and how much you need. For example, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, we thought it was a sleep hormone. Now we know it is much more complicated. In addition, tablet sizes average 3-5 mg. New evidence shows that adult males only need 150 micrograms, and the average female needs only 100 micrograms (a microgram is 1/100 th of a milligram). So the average melatonin supplement is 20 – 50 times more than we need! If you are using regular tablets, you can cut the pill into fourths, otherwise, try to find the smallest pill size available. If you are taking time-released melatonin, do not break the pill, as this will ruin the time-release.

Mistake #7: I don’t take melatonin, so I don’t have to worry.

Actually, this could be one of the costliest mistakes people make. Melatonin is an essential nighttime hormone. When in the body at the right time, it does wonderful things, such as help the heart and vital organs rest at night. Melatonin also acts as a powerful antioxidant; while it shuts the body down, it cleans the toxins and free radicals from cells.

But we often do things that keep melatonin from being produced, and that can be deadly. When we stay up late at night or work night shifts, we keep our body from producing it. This increases the risk of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Studies show women night-shift workers have a 500% higher risk of breast cancer and male night shift workers have a 50% increased risk of colo-rectal and bone cancer. While not realizing it, many people increase this risk with inconsistent sleep/wake schedules – late night studying or partying or shift work schedules.

How should I take melatonin?

The first thing to know about melatonin is that its half life is very short, and is only active in your system for about 20 minutes. This is why it is important to use different types for different reasons:

Induce sleep or shift sleep to an earlier schedule (1hr+)

  • If you take more than an hour to fall asleep, or you need to shift your sleep more than an hour, consider taking time-released melatonin. It is also important to use a high-quality, standardized melatonin supplement. Try to find the lowest dose available and do not cut the pill . Since the tablets are coated to provide slow release, cutting them will ruin their long-term potency.
  • When to take: Depending on the severity of the sleep problem, take time-released melatonin 1 to 3 hours prior to the time you usually fall asleep. Since the time release only lasts for 3 – 4 hours, any need to shift sleep schedules more than 3 hours may require taking another pill in 3 or 4 hours.
  • Cautions: Melatonin should not be taken if eyes are exposed to bright sunlight, and it should be avoided if operating any vehicle. If attempting sleep shifts of more than 1 hour, light therapy should also be used. Do not use it for more than two weeks at a time.

Induce sleep (less than 1hr)

  • If it takes an hour or less to fall asleep, then standard melatonin in the lowest mg size is a good option.
  • When to take: One to two hours before desired sleep time.
  • Cautions: See above

Nighttime awakenings and early morning insomnia

For nighttime awakenings that last less than one hour, consider taking sublingual melatonin (a pill that dissolves under the tongue). Sublingual melatonin is released immediately into the blood stream, and isn’t metabolized through the digestive system.

  • For frequent or awakenings that last more than one hour, consider taking 1 sublingual and a time-released tablet. Take the time release tablet first and then place the sublingual tablet under your tongue.
  • Cautions: If you need to get up in the morning within 2-3 hours, take regular instead of the time release. Time release melatonin may last into the waking hours, causing confusion and mood problems. Do not take it if you awaken less than one hour before you need to get up.

Considering Light Therapy

As mentioned above, the need to use melatonin indicates a circadian rhythm disorder because sufficient melatonin is not in your system when you need to sleep. On its own, it doesn’t regulate circadian rhythms, because your body’s control center relies on bright light to reset its daily sleep/wake rhythms. It can aid in shifting rhythms, but most of the effort in regulating circadian rhythms involves suppressing daytime melatonin. The problem isn’t that your body needs more melatonin – it produces enough, but when your body clock malfunctions, it produces melatonin at the wrong time of day, and specialized light keeps it out of your system at the wrong time of day, so your body will produce it at the right time.


  • G W Lambert, et al. Effect of sunlight and season on serotonin turnover in the brain. The Lancet. Vol 360. December 7, 2002
  • Carskadon MA, Association between puberty and delayed phase preference. Sleep. 1993 Apr;16(3):258-62.
  • J Rabe-Jablonska et al., Diurnal profile of melatonin secretion in the acute phase of major depression and in remission. Med Sci Monit. 2001 Sep-Oct;7(5):946-52.

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Comments (125)

    • For anyone reading this with Bipolar: The answer is Circadin is probably not safe. Bipolar disorder is believed to be linked to the circadian rhythm and messing with that will likely aggravate the disorder. Avoid light therapy and melatonin as well.

    • I have bipolar disorder. I take 3 mg melatonin every night. I also practice mindfulness meditation and good sleep hygiene — sleeping and waking at the same time every day, using a sleep mask to block out any light, a white noise machine, and no blue light (computer, phone, etc) within two hours of my scheduled bedtime.

      It took months and months of daily practice, but I made progress every day until I was able to sleep 8 hours a night. All of the above WORKS BETTER than any medication I’ve taken for sleep or to manage bipolar disorder. That includes: Ambien, Lunesta, Restoril, Klonopin, Ativan, Xanax, Seroquel and Geodon, to name just a few of the two dozen medications I’ve taken.

      Sure, it takes longer and requires a heck of a lot more discipline than drugs, but there are no side effects. There is nothing better than getting a good nights sleep every night. I say this as someone who’s suffered sleep problems my entire life prior to doing everything I describe in the first paragraph of my reply.

      When psychiatrists learn that this is how I manage sleep they get a little nervous, as if you can’t possibly manage without their precious drugs. You can buy into their pharma dogma, as I once did, or you can try: taking the smallest dose of melatonin that will work for you, practicing mindfulness several times a day and especially at bedtime, and practicing good sleep hygiene. Good luck!

    • Ever since I had back surgery, year 2006, I have trouble sleeping. I go to bed same time every night, one hour later I’m wide awake. Go back to bed sleep two hours, then wake up. My deepest dream is the last two hours of sleep. Wake up have breakfast, then back to sleep for one hour. Told the Doctor, his answered, “You’re bored.”
      I live by this poem,
      If over the counter sleep were sold hour by hour for silver and gold,
      how many people would wail and weep because they could not aford to sleep.
      Author Unknown
      There is one helo to a good nights sleep, sunshine get as much as possible.

  1. I have sleep problems due to my body not shutting down my legs are the worst I constantly have to keep them moving better know as RLS I have not been diagnosed with it but they won’t relax so I’ll take 5 pills of 3 mg melatonin by Natrol it shuts everything but my legs until it takes effect but if I wake up during the night my legs are too what is safe and effective for this problem ?

    • Welcome to my world. I’m a 51 year old wife and mother of 2. I inherited Restless Leg Syndrom from my father who suffered with it for many years. I have had it for about 15 years. But even worse is the fact that sometimes it is restless legs AND ARMS! Yup, you read that right. That is insane isn’t it? Along with that I have delicate (so I was told by my Dr.) vein walls. If I am on my feet for too long on the cement floors at my work my blood pools in the bottom of my legs and my feet and the veins swell, burn and throb and sometimes shows an indication of vericose veins.

      For Restless legs/arms I have had good results with a couple of recommendations online that I have found. Magnesium. I take it along with my calcium ( in the same pill) just before bed and it does an excellent job of preventing it. I take vitamins and suppliments anyways, so I just leave the calcium and magnesium for bedtime and the rest in the morning. Another, if that fails ( which it rarely does) is Ibuprofen. It also does an excellent job. There are prescription drugs for the condition but I probably will never resort to that. Too expensive with too many side affects. Hope this helps you. Brenda

      • You should be wearing compression stockings at least while at work. And shoes with great support and cushion. Try having someone massage your legs in an upward motion before and after work. All this will be of assistance.

      • Lorraine Andrews - Reply

        I suffer RLS its horrible. I tried everything. Ran freezin cold water in the bath, didn’t work. Warm water, didn’t work. I took the belt from my nightgown and wrapped tightly round my leg. It drove bless nuts. Then somebody suggested to lie down put pillows under my legs so there raised higher up. Honestly it worked. It’s something to do with the blood flow.

      • I also take around 15mg a night of Melatonin i mix it with my other sleeping med which is restoril and a half mg of Xanax i used to have huge sleeping issue’s could not fall asleep then could not stay asleep mixing and matching my pills i found this combination works great i did not know that the body makes such small amounts of melatonin i am now thinking after reading this 15mg is to much although it is what my doctor has me at so i guess i will talk with her

    • Hi Replying to your emquiry about RESTLESS LEG SYNDROME ( RLS).

      I too suffered for years. USUALLY associated with iron and magnesium deficiency and Also put tissue salt mag phos under tongue. Use natural progesterone cream on area that is pulling.This cured my problem.

    • Priscilla Ross-Fox - Reply

      The very first thing you should do is talk to your doctor. Please. While I don’t have this my husband does but I would never suggest a remedy although I worked in a pharmacy for 25 years.

    • You need to tell your doctor. There is no cure for RLS but some meds like gabapentin help. RLS is the worst… I hope you get some rest.

    • well whatever you end up doing i would at least stop taking up to 15mg of melatonin, or your gonna have more problems later then just your RLS, like hormone problems

    • If it’s happening at night, it’s not RLS, it’s called periodic limb movement disorder. Common causes are iron deficiencies and neurogical disorders. Magnesium and potassium can also cause restlessness.

    • Ever since I had back surgery, year 2006, I have trouble sleeping. I go to bed same time every night, one hour later I’m wide awake. Go back to bed sleep two hours, then wake up. My deepest dream is the last two hours of sleep. Wake up have breakfast, then back to sleep for one hour. Told the Doctor, his answered, “You’re bored.”
      I live by this poem,
      If over the counter sleep were sold hour by hour for silver and gold,
      how many people would wail and weep because they could not aford to sleep.
      Author Unknown
      There is one helo to a good nights sleep, sunshine get as much as possible.

    • My suggestion again: WEAR compression stockings and if you are female they are now available in flashy colors and designs. Elevate your legs a couple times each day…above your heart. Have someone massage or rub your legs well before bedtime. A hot shower at bedtime has helped some as well. That dosage of Melatonin is way over the top. Please cut back towards recommended dosage of a maximum of 3-6 mg./daily.
      Best Wishes.

  2. Why not try some natural remedies at first? There are a lot of things that could help you sleep and not result to taking up any drugs. A good one is lavender oil and camomile tea. Some breathing exercise in the morning and yoga is also a big factor that can help aid in sleeping disorder.

  3. Hi There,

    Regarding the point you made about ‘most’ people not needing Melatonin to sleep… I’m sure you are right but could I point out that it’s been shown (peer-reviewed studies) that some autistic people DO NEED it to sleep! This is because, and this may sound odd but it’s true, people up to 80% of people on the spectrum produce WAY too much Melatonin naturally. No one is entirely sure WHY this is the case but it certainly appears to be the case. Now, one might ask, why on earth would you give extra Melatnonin to someone who is already producing WAY too much… well, again, there are many theories but one of the commonest is that since so many of those who are diagnosed as being on the spectrum produce SO much more Melatonin than they need (the amount varies but it is considerably more than ‘normal’ or neuro-typical people produce) then perhaps the body becomes so overloaded with Melatonin that it simply has no idea how to use ANY of it and so kind of ‘gives it a miss’ (not very scientific but I can’t think of another, simple way to put it) and therefore taking Melatonin (varying amounts but often up to 6 mg is needed) at night (in particular in children on the spectrum who have the most pronounced and researched sleep problems) will very often improve the chances of going to sleep.

    Normally, for those on the spectrum (I am one!), the doctor will prescribe a multi-format Melatonin which is half immediate-release (mine for example has 2.5 mg immediate release) and half slow-release (mine has 2.5 mg which is slow release also, making a total of 5 mg) and this is because it doesn’t last efficaciously in the system for too long and so, commonly, a few hours after going to sleep (anything between 2 hours – 4 hours after falling asleep) the person will wake up again. Therefore, at that point, the slow-release kicks in and one can drop back to sleep again.

    Quite hard to explain it all in one post without droning on but it is important to note that those on the spectrum may well NEED Melatonin prescribed in order to sleep both effectively and functionally.

    Hope that’s informational and not preaching! 🙂

    • You’ve made a very good point here about melatonin with ASD. I’d especially like to note that you mentioned that “some” people with ASD need it. ASD is often very expressed very differently neurologically in different people so some people with ASD might not need it.

      I would like to add that their are two processes that control sleep and only one is influenced by melatonin (the C process). The other, the S process is influenced by sleep pressure. I’m very curious about if increasing the S process would compensate for the uncooperative C process. In other words, going longer without sleep or shorter sleep periods.

    • I have autism and use Melatoninto help me sleep. I take 4 2mg tablets about an hour or so before I go to bed (so around 9-10pm) and they help me fall a sleep. They are amazing. I have the long release ones as I tried the quick released new and they caused me to stay up throughout the night.

      I’ve never had a proper nights sleep and never feel tired until 4-5am in the morning but with Melatonin, I go to bed like a normal person and feel very happy and refreshed during the day.

      I had one bad experience with Melatonin and that was when I fell asleep at 6pm and woke up at 1am, I stupidly took some Melatonin thinking it would help me get back to bed but Instead, I stayed up until 6am until suddenly I got a wave of tiredness and just laid down on my bed. I was bombarded by very very vivid dreams and would say I felt quite high. It was like I had took an overdose of anxiety medication and I felt like I was floating and that my mind was just clouded.

      Apart from that one incident that was my fault, I have had no bad affects from using Melatonin and I have been using them for just over 6 months now.

  4. Just to add that the synthetic form of Melatonin, as given in prescriptions, is ‘seen’ by the body in a very slightly different way and that is why, we think, that people on the autism spectrum who produce too much natural Melatonin, often find the synthetic Melatonin is ‘recognized’ and ‘utilized’ OK, while their own, naturally-produced Melatonin, is not. If that makes sense!

    • Thank you for the information, Elena! I have ASD and *severe* sleep issues, and was concerned when I read that I shouldn’t be taking it for more than a couple weeks, as I’ve been taking it nightly for like 6 months! Your response makes a lot of sense (and wasn’t preachy at all!) and I appreciate the info. I had never heard about this, and it is very interesting. 🙂

    • Hi Elena. Thank you for the information I was just looking this up to see if it would be helpful for my five year old daughter. She has ASD and wakes up from 1-3 times in a night. Do you think five is too young? She was only diagnosed last year so we haven’t been with her doctor for that long.

    • How much and what kind do you take? And how old are you? I am 53 and looking for something to help with bouts of insomnia. My husband said it makes him have strange dreams…Thank you kindly, Gail

    • Agreed. I take 10mg each night and have done so for years with no ill effects. I get a good night’s sleep. It’s a God send. For those of us with chemical imbalances and our bodies don’t produce enough, sometimes you have to supplement. If you are over 40 like me, or have fibromyalgia like me, you just need more.

      • Sorry to be off topic, but you mentioned fybromyalgia and I am suffering with it heavily and no Dr has figured out how to treat it. What helps you live with it? Medication? And if so which ones? Thank you and again everyone sorry for the slight of topic. I’m really learning a lot and taking notes for the melatonin which is big for me right now too.

  5. Rob,

    Specifically, how much melatonin do you and your wife take and how long befor speel? Do you take any break from it or take it constantly over many weks?


  6. I buy bottles of 3 mg melatonin and I can clearly tell the difference between taking one, two, three or six for that matter. My rhythm is probably off, buy there isn’t much I can do about it because of work schedules.

    l will take 2 or 3 five mg melatonin’s about an hour before o get off work. Them take a couple more when I get home. Sometimes I will wake up 3 or 4 hours latter and take 2 or 3 more so I can get seven or eight hours of sleep. So far so good, no adverse effects as far as I can tell.

    • I would recommend, based on the above article, that you NOT take the pills at work, since all they should be doing is causing you to be drowsy during your last work hour of the day or on the drive home. I don’t know what hours you work, but if you are like me and get off during daylight hours in the summer, then that is probably what is causing you to wake in the middle of the night. I would recommend that you cut back to only 1-2 capsules about an hour before bed and see how that works for you. Sounds to me like your clock needs a reset, and all the melatonin you are taking has got it all thrown off.

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  8. I disagree with the comments about treating it like a sleeping pill. I suffered insomnia for over a year and tried everything. Nothing worked – including light therapy. Then I saw a Naturopath who recommended 5mg of Melatonin daily. She also suggested I get the “Now” brand of Melatonin because many other brands don’t seem to work and to get the vegetable gelatine capsules not tablets. From the first night I took it I have slept like a baby. I used to fall asleep at 4am. Now I can fall asleep at 10pm. I feel drowsy within 30 minutes of taking it and when I wake up I feel relaxed and I now always sleep deeply. My naturopath (like one of the posters here) has been taking one capsule every night for years with no side effects either. I think it’s remarkable. Also now when I don’t take melatonin I can still fall asleep easily. So something in my body seems to have realigned itself. And what’s more, it only costs $12 for a 12 month supply.

  9. As we age, our body’s ability to produce melatonin is reduced. This may contribute to the change in sleep patterns as we age. Melatonin has also be shown to improve recovery from stroke and has been used in very large doses with septic premature babies. My husband and I take 40 mg nightly along with magnesium (which also aids in preparing the body for sleep) and have no side effects.

  10. I have no problem going to sleep, but I wake up about three hours later and that is it. I can’t go back to sleep. This is every other day. On the other days, I sleep and am tired all day. If I take melatonin before a ‘sleepy’ day, I sleep heavily and have a hard time getting out of bed. What dosage should I take? When should I take it? Thank you Layna

  11. I think melatonin dosage is a very individual response. For some reason, the time-release melatonin makes me sick. The regular melatonin is great (I use a brand with stomach enzymes added). I have been reading the info about taking a lower dose, but I am elderly and ill; for me, nothing lower than 3 mg. or so seems to work– 3 mg. taken at various intervals throughout the night, that is. Since it only lasts for 20 min, and it takes me awhile to get things done before bed, I usually have to take it more than once. That is, if I take it too soon before bed, I am too zonked; but if I take it and then remember something I forgot to do, then I am awake and can’t get back to sleep. Also, it doesn’t last for me more than 4. 50 hrs., which is why I have to keep taking it. I am very light sleeper. I don’t know if this is “healthy” or not, but my doctor doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. Again, the time-release stuff made me sick.

    I also have DPSD (delayed phase sleep disorder), but haven’t been able to find a doctor who can treat me. If I do light therapy, it makes my migraines much, much worse. I’m sure all these things have a connection, but I don’t think that the experts have it quite figured it out, yet, for everyone.

    On the other hand, I try to turn my lights out at a decent hour. I suspect that late night brightness messes up my cycle. But if I turn them out too early, it doesn’t really work, either. It’s a perpetual guessing game. 🙁

    I am 65, btw. I suspect that some older people may require more– not less– of this drug.

    • I forgot to specify that I take 3 mg. TOTAL during the night, not 3mg. each time I wake up. I break one 1 mg. tab sub-lingual in half, each time. You may add this to my original post, if you like. Thanks.

    • exposure to bright light at night can disrupt getting to sleep and melatonin cycle. One sleep expert said it’s specifically blue light that disrupts sleep at night. He recommended an app that filters the blue light out of your computer and phone before bed. Or, you can wear sunglasses that filter out the blue from everything. Might be worth a try for an hour or two before bed.

      • In reference to the blue LEDs on computers, and others, I put a piece of electrical tape or it, it works ( I despise those blue lights), I hope that little info helps.

    • This comment is rather late but you really need to be taking magnesium! That is if you aren’t already and you didn’t mention it in your post. It is the missing link for your migraines and sleep. It will help your brain to calm down for sleep and will also help with your migraines but you may need to take it long term. Studies have shown people who suffer with migraine often have a magnesium deficiency but even at high doses (over 800mg daily) it can take 4 or more months for the body to build up its magnesium levels to have an effect on the migraines. I suggest Life Extension Magnesium Citrate from iHerb – it is very affordable and the best absorbed form of magnesium. You can open the caps and put them in 2 water bottles and sip over the day and evening to prevent any loose stools. Start on 2 caps a day and try to build up slowly to 5 caps a day over a few weeks if you tolerate it without loose stools. You also really want to be taking a good quality multi to get all the B vitamins too – the best is Thorne Research Basic Nutrients #III without Copper and Iron or if you can’t afford it, Life Extension Two Per Day Capsules – both from iHerb. And an extra addition that really helps with sleep is a little extra zinc ie Solgar Zinc Citrate at 1 per day, also from iHerb and very affordable. Hope this helps.

  12. To gail – My husband and I use 1 mg two-part release melatonin from NOW company. I got it on Amazon. It has helped us both with deep sleep. I do get some balance problems from it when awaking in the middle of the night and getting up to use the bathroom. This is gone in the morning. I am researching finding a much smaller dose that is two part release. This type has a burst of melatonin at the beginning and then some later for those who wake up in the middle of the night and cannot sleep.

  13. hi all, i live in the uk and have not slept properly for years and it seems to be getting worse, there is no waking at 4am and trying to get back off to sleep as im awake at 2-3-4-usually. i work in the afternoons, exercise, inc taking the dog walks. its driving me mad.

  14. I disagree with your dosage evaluation. In my laboratory we measure 1000 micro-grams/milligram which means in line 5 of mistake #6 where you say “(a microgram is 1/100 th of a milligram)” it might be more accurate to say 10 micrograms are 1/100 if a milligram. I’m not sure how to check your credentials and your credibility since you hide your real identity behind a pen name, but I would assume that you are a doctor, or some kind of health professional, and not a journalist who reads research with no knowledge of the underlying science, but this this type of order of magnitude error, can cost professionals dearly. I have checked your references (as I always do when reading supposed “facts” on the internet, or articles written by journalists to try to gain some notoriety) and I saw no references to melatonin dosage, as a matter of fact the study cited in “Effect of sunlight and season on serotonin turnover in the brain” used subjects who were not taking any medication. I also saw no mention of melatonin use in the Carskadon article “Association between puberty and delayed phase preference”, so I’m wondering about your source material for the mcg dosages you suggest.
    Somewhat disappointing when I was expecting to be reading something from the “world leader in the sleep field by providing quality information, support and resources to sleep disorder patients, their family, friends and healthcare professionals”.

    • Huzzah Herbert, Well done!

      I was going to ask/comment:

      Why anyone should trust information given by an author who gives a limited list of references (the scope of this article (dosage and timing recommendations for the diverse populace) requires more than 3 barely applicable references), but doesn’t cite where the references are used within the text of the article (citing the name and date in parenthesis each time an author uses an idea or fact taken from references is standard practice in all intellectually honest communications)?

      Why would anyone trust scientific information presented by someone who is unfamiliar with the metric system?

      Why would anyone trust dosing information presented by an author who cares so little about the ultimate consequences of the misinformation being spread that the author can’t be bothered to adjust an error ( almost a year and a half after publishing?

      But you beat me to it!

      I’m reiterating your point because it’s been two months since your comment and giving an incorrect conversion factor on an article about dosing is highly irresponsible, even if it was just a typing error.

    • This unsigned article is dated 2013! The Carskadon reference is twenty years old and the field of chronobiology has made gigantic strides since 1993. Ms. Carskadon is one of the experts in the field today. The other two references are from the turn of the century, also too old.

      In the comments here (so far as I’ve read) people are using waaay too large doses of melatonin. At least the article does warn about that. Among my contacts, a dose of o.3 mg (300 mcg) is considered normal.

      The warnings about avoiding long-term use are overdone in the article. The article mentions circadian rhythm sleep disorders a number of times but is unclear on which advice might be meant for insomniacs and which for sufferers of circadian rhythm disorders (CRDs). Probably the advice on short term use is intended for the former while people with CRDs are certainly going to need it for much longer, often for life (in combination with morning light exposure and evening light restriction). So confusion reigns.

      This article needs up-to-date sources and a rewrite for clarity.

  15. I´ve been taken melatonin daily for the last 6 years. I´been a nightworker since 1999. I am rarely sick. Maybe every 3-4 years.
    I take the melatonin 1 hour before sleep.
    On my working days i sleep from 14:00 to 20:30. On my free days I sleep from 0:00-6:30.

    I leave in Denmark Europe. And in the winter the sets at 15:30 o´clock

    Do I have a wrong cycle? Hope for some advices



  16. I used to take 30mg of Melatonin every night to be able to sleep. I’ve been through all kinds of meds to try to fix my insomnia problems, prescription, non prescription drugs like melatonin and tylenol PM (both of which I need high doses) and natural, most of which don’t work at all. I can’t sleep at all (not even for 1 minute) if I don’t take something…. Right now, I’m able to sleep with about 15 to 20mg of melatonin most nights, but the lower dosages suggested in the article has never worked for me.

  17. Hi, im a 15 year old female. I recently had a severe concussion and my doctor recommended melatonin to help me sleep. I used it for a while and my doctor told me I don’t need to use it anymore, but now I can’t fall asleep without it. Are there any suggestions on how to… Well get it “fixed”

    • Many doctors will make a judgement based on the average case, which is not very scientific since science is based on actual observations, not based on statistics. There is a lot of pseudoscience masquerading as science that is based only on statistics which when followed, is merely a self perpetuating belief. Anyway, try to find a doctor who looks at you rather than sees you as a statistic. Taking any hormone regularly could cause your body to produce less of that hormone. This might be the case for you or it may be due to your head injury. Only a good doctor can find out, as it will require blood tests and other actual observations (as opposed to guessing the most likely scenario based on statistics). It’s not that doctors are lazy; rather, they are pressured by insurance companies and HMO’s to use the least amount of resources so as to incur the least expense. But you are worth it. Never let anyone put money as being more important than your health. The major problem with guessing based on statistics is that the guess becomes a future statistic and thus it is a self perpetuating statistic, which is about as scientific as a rumor. Every individual is responsible for their own health even if someone else is also responsible for it, so you are setting a great example by seeking the answers yourself rather than blindly accepting the doctor as having the last word. Still, doctors have earned their reputation and remain the best place to find specific answers to your personal health questions. If one doctor couldn’t help you, then seek a second opinion… or a third, fourth, etc. A Diagnostician is a physician specializing in medical diagnostics.

  18. Hi my dr has given me 2 mg to take to help me sleep as I was addicted to other drugs like codine ( mersendole) and then she gave me Valium to get off the other, now this
    I have not started it yet
    I am a shift worker
    I’m wondering if any others have taken it for these reasons and were you successful

  19. Hi I have just been given melatonin for my 19month old to take we have been to the sleep places for help 3 times but hasn’t helped we have used all the natural stuff from over the counter again didn’t help. My son is very very full on on the go all day long. He goes to sleep with out any worry at all but wakes thru the night and will stay awake for anywhere upto 5 hours just wonts to play and run around. Do you think this will help him stay asleep. Many thanks

  20. When someone knows somebody snores like crazy and you have been with this person over night and can’t sleep all night. Would it be okay just to take one tablet just for this particular time in order to sleep? Knowing that this person snores from past history, I’ve taken ear plugs and music along still can hear snoring. Nothing works!!!Would it be okay just for one night to take it?

  21. Pingback: Melatonin for Sleep Issues | resplendentjane

  22. Hello,
    (INFO) I am 20 year old male, 6 feet in height, and around 195lb. I have maintained irregular sleeping patterns for about the past 5 years. This would result in days with only 3-4 hours of sleep followed by one day a week with approximately 15 hrs. I started tracking my sleeping habits and noticed at even though I feel tired between 11pm-12pm, my body could only sleep for 3-4 hours around this time. Thus making me start my day 4 am in the morning with very little sleep. This is possibly because a previous job of mine required a shift from 5pm-5am and used to do my school work in the middle of the night as well. I am afraid that my body has now considered bedtime for work-time or study time. I stay active throughout my day by going to the gym daily and I watch my diet.

    To get to the point. How much melatonin should I take to establish a good bedtime and how much should my dose be? Could I just try a certain amount and up the dose if no effect takes place in a few days? Will I ever sleep again? :c

  23. I work night shift and have been taking melatoin to so that I can fall asleep after I get home from my shift. I drive home facing the sun as it is rising. I know the article recommended avoiding taking it right after bright light exposure, but I have to sleep and am not staying awake after I take it. Should I just skip the melatoin even if it takes an hour or 2 to fall asleep (sleeping in is not an option, I would just get less sleep). Or is it fine to take it right when I get home?

  24. The article states, “…a microgram is 1/100 th of a milligram…” This is incorrect. A microgram is 1/1000 of a milligram (milli = one thousandth, micro = 1 millionth).

  25. Where are these sleep specialists or sleep clinics in Australia? Ive been to the doctor and got a referral, rang up and got told that they only ”do children ” ive had this sleep disorder since i was a child and it didn’t exist. Now it has been discovered to be a real disorder or syndrome and i cant get help because im too old

  26. I have spent 5 years surviving on 5 hours broken sleep with a newly diagnosed ASD 5 yr old. Melatonin has finally given us our first normal nights sleep and is making amazing changes on behaviour. I would always recommend people only take medication under medical advisement, specially for children.
    I think we will find in coming years this hormone is responsible for a lot more than just sleeping patterns and rythyms.

  27. I started taking melatonin when i lived with kalkman house, lu house and now living in the group home depend what dr peter wrote for lily to read. I take two gummies and it euguels 5 mg. If i lived by myself i probably take 10 mg but not now. Melatonin puts me to sleep. Ambien put me to sleep when it was 10 mg but when they lowered it down to 5 mg i dont sleep. So im taking melatonin instead. If i keep working at mcdonalds i can keep buy melatonin from the store. I hope insomnia will go away. If my naesea went away then insomnia will go away too. I hate insomnia.

  28. I have a severe sleeping problem sine I hit menopause. I’m 53. I went two years of sleeping two hours awake two sleeping two awake two. I was just exhausted. Finally I went to doctor. He recommended sleeping pills. Finally I slept. Now he’s telling me I can’t stay on the pills forever. He recommended melatonin. For the first time last night I tried it. It’s a 5mg time release pill. Well I didn’t get any sleep. Just 3 hours. Awake 2 hours etc. How do I take melatonin successfully. I’ve read so many sites and can’t figure it out

  29. I am 80yrs old I Bought Natrol Melatonin Liquid
    It has a dropper inside marked .25 then.50ml then75ml. Then1.0
    I am not clear on how to take it to sleep .It says take 4ml 20 minuets befor sleep . what does that mean how much it that?
    I want to sleep but do not want to over dose or take to much.I am writing on my IPAd but will ck on my computer.Thank you so much for your time in answering me.

    Betty L.Belsky

  30. I suffer from RPS (restless penis syndrome). The ONLY way I have found to cure it is a good wet sloppy sex encounter with my woman. When she wears sexy lingerie, my RPS is in full force. I tried suing Fredrick’s of Hollywood for my condition, but I felt this is GREAT to have. This condition often causes insomnia or sleep apnea. About an hour after some good foreplay and sweaty sex, I often find myself very exhausted and tired. My woman normally is sleeping within 20 minutes after because she is worn out.
    Melatonin helps on those nights when my RPS isn’t in full force.

  31. I had stress attacck 2 months ago that developed to panick and anxitey…now it is bettr but have sleeping problem…some nihgts 1 ro 2 hour sleep some nihgt 3 to 4 hours…wlaking very much and also couple hours before sleep to get tired,,,I am using melatonen 1 mg jest before sleep (quick disolve) and I noticed a bit better doctor told me melatonen will not help me…but I am taking it…is is 1 mg low or should I take more ..I am afraid will get used to it then will not be able to stop taking it…I am 54 to 55 years old

  32. I’m not sure I will get a response this was awhile ago… I work in a hospital on all the shifts in which vary greatly. . I’ve had shifts of 0600-1830 then next day 1800-0600 sometimes a week on 3rd or 1st just all over the board. I’ve been taking otc sleeping meds 9 hours before my 2 hour wake up time for years it’s work but I’m not sure if it’s a good thing. I also get SAD in the winter I’ve been told about melontonin and helping this sleep and sad i havnt really tred it. I had the pharmacy prescribe what he thinks which is 10MG ext release.. I’m not sure any ideas on what I should do besides switch my job..

  33. I have an autistic brother that takes a sleeping medication prescribed to him from his doctor, but once it stopped working, the doctor told us that he needed melatonin too. We started with a low dosage, but had to keep increasing it to have him sleep better. We tried a time released pill, but it proved too much for him and he was way too tired the next day. It takes a while for him to sleep with or without the medication. Then again he does watch TV until he feels tired and he plays with toys too, but I’m just wondering what to do.

  34. Good Article. I take melatonin to help me stay asleep. I can not certain whether it helps a lot; in my case other lifestyle issues are probably more important. But, I also have LPR or something in the GERD spectrum (this is a complicated area as far as research is concerned–hard to get good pure diagnostic groups to study). But in a review by Lyn Patrick, research indicates that Melatonin can be helpful for people with reflux problems (broadly define). So I am ordering more. Although I am asymptomatic when using PPIs, my dentist sees continued acidic erosion of tooth enamel (the “O” in the SOAP note) and Omeprazole is a drug that chronic users need to research due to the large number of epidemiological (correlated) complicates experienced by users.

  35. ‘So the average melatonin supplement is 20 – 50 times more than we need ‘

    I thought only about 15% of orally ingested melatonin gets absorbed and only about 20% OF THAT make it past the liver into the circulations. The levels actually peak at 40 minutes (NOT 20!) and taper off gradually for 2 hours, HOWEVER, most of melatonin gets converted to 6-hydroxymelatonin which is thought to have the same profile of effects and which is WAY MORE DURABLE, staying high for 6 hours and only returning to base-line after 24 hours.
    The amount that is found in the bloodstream is also highly variable, depending on the genetic variation is the individual as to liver enzymes that process melatonin. As to the safety of it, the only side effect (even 100mg oral doses) that i have seen properly reported is ‘sleepiness’. I might be wrong but i havent seen anything about depression or the sort (send me some links pls?)

  36. Is Melatonin used for depression? I am using Restavite and have been for a couple of years. I am thinking of trying Melatonin. What is the difference from obtaining Melatonin on prescription from the doctors and over the shelf from a chemist or health shop.

    Thank you


  37. “In addition, tablet sizes average 3-5 mg. New evidence shows that adult males only need 150 micrograms, and the average female needs only 100 micrograms (a microgram is 1/100 th of a milligram). So the average melatonin supplement is 20 – 50 times more than we need!”

    1 microgram = 1/100th of a mg = 0.01 mg.
    A woman needs 100 microgram = 1 mg.
    A man needs 150 microgram = 1.5 mg.
    An average tablet is 3 to 5 mg.

    An average supplement gives us 2 to 5 times more than we need. Not 20 to 50 times.

    So, unless you mean to tell me that an average dosage equals 10 pills (which would be utterly ridiculous), please, for the love of science, do your math before writing another article like this. We don’t need more faulty medical information on the internet!

    By the way, I don’t know where you people get your pills, but mine only hold 0.1mg, which is well below the average that an adult male or female needs. I would need to empty the entire bottle of 500 pills in one go before I get to the ’50 times more than we need’.

  38. REM sleep order wasn’t brought up. It’s somewhat effective for mine. I started with 3mg and now take 5mg nightly. This is with recommendation of sleep specialist doc. The alternative was dopamine like drug which I rejected. Have been taking for approx. 5 years
    With no noticeable side effects.
    I have been known to wake up jumping on my bed, falling out of my bed, and experiencing scary nightmares. Melatonin has eased these problems but not completely taken them away. Still better than not taking.

  39. I take melatonin for rem sleep disorder, ie, acting out in my dreams. Even fell out of bed once. At first, took 3mg a night. Weakened, the “acting out” but didn’t emliminate it. Now I’m taking 5mg a night, don’t have rem sleep problems. Afraid to lower dose or skip nightly use. What’s the harm in taking it every day? Would a smaller dose. using time release be better?

  40. I have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. My daughter is 2 so you’d think that’s normal but she sleeps from 8-12hrs a night! I’ll put her down at 9, my husband works at 10pm and I lay in bed tossing and turning until about 5am. Now I have to work again starting at 6am. I was thinking would 1mg be good and help me sleep but not over sleep? Light therapy probably won’t do me any good due to me having seizures.

  41. Melatonin is fantastic for travelers, but I’m also curious about the effectiveness of other supplements, like Valerian root. Any word on the effectiveness of natural alternatives like this?

  42. Babies are supposed to nap during the day. Should this be in a dark or light room? And how about occasional daytime naps for adults in a dark room?
    Thanks 🙂

  43. hi , very interesting posts. i would like to learn something about the light therapy. can someone get back to me.? also i think i may be dosing wrong with the melatonin. also wrong timing thank you very much.

  44. I have used several sleep meds (RX), and none have worked for me for any length of time. Recently I decided to try melatonin. It was suggested that I take the melatonin an hour before I was going to go to bed. Then, most recently, it was recommended to me that when I awaken during the night I might try another tablet. I am using a 5mg that dissolves. I’m still tossing and turning, and it’s very upsetting to me. Any thoughts on the second pill? Along with the melatonin, my doctor prescribed Ativan, and I am taking two of the .05 mg at night. I fall asleep for a little while, but then awaken tossing and turning as I said. I might fall back asleep for a little bit, but it’s not a restful night.

  45. Hi, change of topic. I use melatonin to counteract RBD, remsleep behavior disorder. An example of rbd is kicking at someone in your dreams, then waking to find you have kicked the wall or something. 3mg per night reduces the severity of RBD, but 5mg seems to eliminate it. Does anyone know of negative side effects to taking 5mg per night?

  46. I’m using melatonin 3mg-6mg July 2016, so 5 months from now. As the prescription in the BOTTLE PACKAGE says,”Have a 1 week break after 2 month of taking this”. 🙂 It’s from PURITANS pride. I don’t feel any side effect, but it helps me a lot still until now.

  47. This article really saved me! A month ago I was rear ended in a car accident. I have a concussion and whiplash. Massive amounts of quality sleep are necessary for brain healing. -and healing in general – My doctor (who is amazing) gave me 100 mg trazodone and 1-10 mg melatonin (I was taking 10) to help. Also tylenol and advil for pain. I would fall asleep and sleep (with bathroom wakeups, I am a middle-aged man!) about 4-5 hours max. Then wake up from mild neck/back/head pain. I would take tylenol/advil again and sometimes fall back asleep for 45 milutes to an hour. Sleep was light sleep, not deep or REM (I use a ResMed S+ sleep monitor and I highly recommend it).

    After reading your article. I. switched. Kept pain med regimen the same, trazodone the same, but: I took 5 mg Natrol time release melatonin at bed time. Fell asleep. Woke ups4 am as usual, with pain, took pain meds again but also 5 mg. Sublingual melatonin. Took about 40 minutes but I fell asleep again foranother 2-1/2 hours for 7 hours sleep for first time in a month! Also, the monitor showr for the first time I got the recom@ended amount o# deep sleep and 90% of recommended REM.

    Thank you for this article! I shared it with my doctor!

  48. When reading about the dosage, it said that it was ok to cut the pill into firths but a little bit further down in the text it said not to cut the pills. I´m confused, what´s the right info?

  49. These were some fantastic tips on how to use melatonin. I didn’t realize how easy it is to take melatonin the wrong way. I have a sister that needs melatonin to sleep but maybe there is a more underlying problem. This was very informational and helpful thank you!

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