Note: This article is for informational purposes only—it is not medical advice. Consult your doctor before taking any new supplements and be sure to ask about the proper dosage for your needs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent National Health Interview Survey, about 32 percent of U.S. adults don’t get enough sleep—and this data was collected before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, many news outlets and health publications nickname the sleep side effects of the pandemic and shutdowns (not the virus itself) “coronasomnia,” and the statistics are staggering.
The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reported that 40 percent of people from the general and healthcare populations experienced sleep problems during the pandemic. Research also found a 37 percent increase in clinical insomnia rates from before the COVID-19 pandemic to its peak.
How has the public dealt with this sleep deprivation phenomenon? Many have turned to melatonin, an easily accessible supplement, to try to improve their sleep. Insider reported that consumers spent an estimated $825,559,397 on melatonin supplements in 2020 in the U.S. alone.
In another article, we discuss the effectiveness of melatonin for sleep. This guide will explore another topic: how to use melatonin correctly. We’ll help you find the best melatonin supplements on the market and explain proper dosages.
Before you start shopping for specific products and comparing brands, you’ll want to decide what type of melatonin supplement you’re looking for.
First, you should know that you can buy either natural or synthetic melatonin, though the latter is far more common. Naturally-derived melatonin supplements source the hormone from the pineal glands of animals meaning they aren’t vegan, and they present some risk of passing diseases. Generally speaking, the melatonin you see sold in stores is synthetic and safe.
Next, you’ll want to decide which melatonin delivery method you prefer. You can find the following melatonin supplement forms online or at your local health or grocery store:
When shopping for any type of supplement, remember that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has different—less strict—regulations for dietary supplements than for foods and medications.
The FDA is only responsible for taking action against adulterated and misbranded supplements after they’ve already hit the market.
The lack of close oversight isn’t unique to melatonin supplements, but research does raise significant concerns over the contents of popular melatonin products available in North America.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine tested 31 melatonin supplements of various types sold at pharmacies and grocery stores in Guelph, Ontario. The study found that the actual melatonin content in 71 percent of the supplements did not fall within a 10 percent margin of the amount listed on the label. The report also stated:
“Our results demonstrate a high variability, ranging from −83% to +478% of the labeled concentration of melatonin content in melatonin supplements. In addition, the related indoleamine, serotonin, was also found in 8 of the 30 melatonin supplements tested.”
How can customers shop with confidence and avoid unwanted ingredients or inaccurate melatonin measurements? When browsing melatonin supplements, look for products approved by independent certifying bodies like ConsumerLab.com, NSF International, and U.S. Pharmacopeia. You can learn more about these third-party organizations here.
Also, be sure to read the entirety of the ingredients list so you know exactly what you’re buying. You may also want to stick to well-known brands with positive reviews and endorsements.
Before trying a melatonin supplement, you need to know how much to take and when to take it. But, before we dive into the specifics, we want to remind readers that you should always consult your doctor before starting any new supplements or medications. Also, note that this guide provides general information, not medical advice.
A lot of people have this question when experimenting with different sleep aids and supplements. While melatonin supplements are generally safe and non-addictive, you can take too much and experience unwanted side effects.
Potential symptoms of a melatonin overdose include daytime sleepiness and drowsiness, nausea, dizziness, headaches, irritability, and mood changes.
There is no definitive standard for how much melatonin a person should take, but according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), a 0.3 mg dose just about matches the body’s natural melatonin production. For adults, a typical supplement dose falls between 1 to 5 mg.
When you take melatonin orally, its concentration in your blood reaches its peak within 30 to 60 minutes.
For the best results, take the supplement 30 to 60 minutes before your target sleep time.
As with all supplements, how well and how much melatonin “works” for you will differ from how other people react to it. Finding the right product, dose, and timing may take a bit of trial and error, or the supplement may not affect your sleep latency or quality at all. When trying melatonin as a sleep aid, keep your expectations in check as there is no simple fix for difficulty sleeping.
Fortunately, melatonin is generally safe for adults to try, and it could make all the difference for you. Plus, you can always take the supplement while also making lifestyle changes to improve your sleep health.