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Most people take melatonin supplements on a short-term basis to relieve temporary sleep issues, such as those caused by jet lag. Melatonin can also help some people, such as shift workers or those with delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, reset their internal body clocks to get better sleep. While melatonin is primarily known as the sleep hormone, melatonin supplements can serve other functions beyond regulating sleep, including anxiety relief prior to surgery.
Because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers it a dietary supplement, there are no official guidelines for melatonin dosage in the United States. A safe melatonin dosage is generally determined based on age, body weight, and personal sensitivity.
Melatonin Dosage for Adults
There is no official recommended melatonin dosage for adults, but a range of 1 to 5 milligrams generally appears to be effective. Adults can take melatonin a few hours before bed.
Melatonin Dosage for Pregnant or Breastfeeding People
People who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid using melatonin without first consulting their doctor. There has not been sufficient research into the safety of melatonin among this population.
Melatonin Dosage for Older Adults
Melatonin levels naturally decline as a person ages , disrupting the sleep-wake cycles for many older adults. As a result, older adults may have an increased sensitivity to melatonin. Older adults with dementia should avoid melatonin.
In a meta-analysis of 16 studies, a wide range of melatonin dosages were administered to older adults aged 55 to 77 years old. In all of the studies, the melatonin levels remained higher among the older adults when compared to younger adults and stayed higher for a longer period of time, leading to increased daytime drowsiness. The more melatonin each person took, the more pronounced these effects.
As a result, researchers recommend older adults start with the lowest dose of melatonin possible. Lower doses may help older adults sleep better without disrupting their circadian rhythms and causing prolonged drowsiness.
Melatonin Dosage for Children
Further research is needed to fully understand the overall safety of melatonin for children. Parents should consult with their child’s doctor prior to administering melatonin.
The melatonin dosage for children should be determined by a pediatrician, who will evaluate the sleep issue the child is experiencing. Typical dosages for treating insomnia in children generally start at 1 to 2 milligrams . Melatonin should not be used in children under 5 years of age.
When children experience side effects from taking melatonin, they may include:
- Increased instances of bedwetting
Medical professionals may recommend melatonin for children with conditions that affect their sleep, such as insomnia, autism spectrum disorder, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. However, there have not been enough studies of melatonin in children for experts to determine an official recommended dosage or any potential long-term safety risks. Since melatonin is a hormone, taking supplemental melatonin may affect other aspects of hormone development in children, but further research is needed.
If your child is having sleep problems, discuss your concerns with their doctor and explore alternative solutions. Research indicates that for half of the cases where melatonin was used to treat pediatric insomnia, good sleep hygiene was just as effective at relieving the child’s sleep issues.
How Much Melatonin Should I Take?
It is best to start with the lowest recommended dosage of melatonin for your age. From there, you can gradually increase your dosage until you find a dose that helps you fall asleep without causing side effects. Generally, a safe starting dose for adults is between 1 and 5 milligrams of melatonin. Older adults may find doses lower than 1 milligram to be effective. Children should not take melatonin unless recommended by a doctor.
Over-the-counter melatonin may come in standard amounts like 1 milligram, 3 milligrams, or 5 milligrams. It is important to note that cutting or splitting tablets for a smaller starting dose can result in inconsistent dosing. Symptoms of melatonin overdose include changes in blood pressure, dizziness, headaches, nausea, and vivid dreams or nightmares.
To ensure safe usage, it is always a good idea to consult your doctor before taking any over-the-counter sleep aid, including melatonin. They know your personal medical history and can best advise you on the appropriate melatonin dosage for your needs. They will also know whether melatonin might interact with any other medications you may currently be taking.
Certain health conditions and medications may increase your risk of side effects when taking melatonin. If you take any of the following medications, be sure to talk to your doctor before taking melatonin:
- Birth control or oral contraceptives
- Blood thinners
- Immunosuppressants or corticosteroids
- Medications that lower blood pressure
Additionally, the following types of people may have an increased sensitivity to melatonin, and should avoid taking it before consulting their doctor:
- People with dementia
- People with depression
- People with epilepsy
- People who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Shift workers
The research into melatonin’s potential benefits and usage is still evolving, and its long-term effects are still unknown. For many people, melatonin offers mild improvements to sleep problems when used on a short-term basis. For others, it may cause side effects or not impact sleep at all.
If you find your sleep problems persist, it may be beneficial to talk to a doctor. They can recommend strategies for improving your sleep, such as better sleep hygiene, changes to diet and exercise, or cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. They can also evaluate other possible causes for your sleep problems.
Finding Reputable Sleep Supplements
The safety and efficacy of supplements is not closely monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Shoppers should take additional measures to make sure they are purchasing reputable products.
Frequently Asked Questions About Melatonin Dosage
The best time to take melatonin is a few hours before your bedtime. Your brain naturally increases melatonin production about one to two hours before you sleep, so taking melatonin at this time may help facilitate the process.
Melatonin can be effective in relieving jet lag for people who travel across two or more time zones. Adults may take a dose of 1 to 5 milligrams one hour before bed for up to four nights after arriving at their destination.
It is not considered safe to take melatonin with alcohol. Because alcohol can disrupt your sleep quality and your natural melatonin levels, avoid mixing melatonin with alcohol.
It is not recommended that you take melatonin with caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that disrupts your sleep-wake cycle and can affect your natural melatonin production.
While melatonin is generally considered safe, it is possible to take too much. There is no official recommended melatonin dosage, and people can have different sensitivities to melatonin, so finding an appropriate dose can be challenging. Moreover, because melatonin is not regulated in the U.S., the actual melatonin content of supplements can vary significantly. Studies have found that some melatonin products can have nearly five times as much melatonin as their label claims, or much less. Doses of 10 milligrams or higher can cause side effects like drowsiness and headache.
Medical Disclaimer: The content on this page should not be taken as medical advice or used as a recommendation for any specific treatment or medication. Always consult your doctor before taking a new medication or changing your current treatment.
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Listed news articles do not represent the opinion of Sleep Foundation and are provided for informational purposes only.
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