Having trouble catching those Z's? Don't worry, you're not alone!
Sometimes falling asleep is a struggle, staying asleep feels impossible, or we're thrown off by time zone changes. Luckily, our bodies make melatonin naturally to regulate our sleep cycle. But when we need an extra push, melatonin supplements can be a game-changer.
Here's the deal though — taking too much melatonin can be risky, and it doesn't necessarily guarantee better sleep. That's why nailing the right dosage is key.
In this guide, we'll discuss how melatonin affects the body, the maximum melatonin dosage, and how to use it safely and effectively. Soon enough, you'll be drifting off to sleep, waking up refreshed, and feeling ready to take on the world – Let’s dive right in!
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormone that is produced by a tiny gland in the brain called the pineal gland. The pineal gland plays a key role in regulating our body’s sleep cycle and maintaining our circadian rhythm. This is the reason we feel tired around the same time every night.
But did you also know that the amount of melatonin your brain produces differs with age?
Infants only produce a very minuscule amount of melatonin, but between ages 1 and 3 is when melatonin production is actually at its highest. From this point, our brains produce on average 10% less melatonin with every decade of life.
Though our bodies regulate the production of melatonin, there are factors that can offset its natural release timing.
Example: Staring at bright lights before going to sleep – like your phone or the TV – can delay the release of the natural melatonin in the brain, making it difficult to fall asleep.
Of course, there are also health conditions that can alter the release of melatonin in the brain. Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression have been linked to lower levels of melatonin.
Although taking a melatonin supplement doesn’t directly relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, they have been shown to better regulate the body’s circadian rhythm. In turn, having a good night’s rest helps to maintain cognitive function, making it easier to cope and manage emotions throughout the day.
A common misconception about melatonin is that it’s supposed to knock you out or force you to fall asleep. What melatonin really does is regulate your body’s sleep-wake cycle to put you in a calmer state that promotes better sleep overall.
Maximum Melatonin Dosage for Adults
If you walk down the aisle at your local drugstore, you’ll probably see varying dosages of melatonin supplements – so which one is right for you?
If you’ve never taken melatonin before, always start with taking the smallest dosage – often 1 or 2 mg. Some adults, especially those with no prior conditions or sleep problems, will reap the benefits from a smaller dosage just fine.
But, if you do not experience relief on this amount, you may increase it by 1 mg per night until you reach 5 mg.
For adults who have pre-existing sleep conditions or have gained a tolerance to melatonin, the recommended highest dose of melatonin for sleep is 5 to 10 mg.
Now, you may be wondering – why is there such a wide range of melatonin dosages?
Melatonin is considered to be a dietary supplement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so there are no official dosage guidelines. For this reason, the amount of melatonin you should take is highly individualized from person to person.
Maximum Melatonin Dosage for Older Adults
For older adults, the maximum melatonin dosage will also vary. This depends on factors like your sleep habits, tolerance to melatonin, and health conditions.
But, it is important to note that the maximum melatonin dosage for older adults lowers to between 3 and 6 mg. But, many older adults still do fine on 1 or 2 mg. As usual, it’s always best to consult with a physician before excessing 5 mg to avoid possible side effects.
Maximum Melatonin Dosage for Children
Since children produce more melatonin than adults do, the melatonin dosage for children is lower. The recommended maximum dosage for children is up to 5 mg. However, it is recommended to stick to 0.5 to 1 mg daily for children.
Before giving melatonin to your child, always consult with a pediatrician beforehand. This will ensure your child is taking the correct dosage and does not feel any negative side effects.
Some healthcare professionals will recommend melatonin for children who have trouble sleeping due to health conditions like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism spectrum disorder. Again, always consult with your child's pediatrician before treating these conditions on your own.
Other Uses for Melatonin
Besides melatonin regulating your sleep-wake cycle, it can also improve other health concerns. It's important to note that the dosage can vary based on the reason you're taking it. Here are some benefits people have seen from taking melatonin on a regular basis:
- Relieves migraines. Melatonin has been proven to alleviate migraines. This is partly due to people who get 6 hours or fewer of sleep being more prone to headaches in general. Specifically, melatonin can be particularly effective in relieving menstrual headaches.
- Improves deep REM sleep. Studies show that melatonin is beneficial in improving your deep sleep or REM sleep. This is especially effective for people with significantly decreased deep sleep levels.
- Minimizes jet lag. If you’re a traveller, especially moving in between different time zones, melatonin can help aid in reducing the side effects of jet lag.
- Reduces anxiety before surgery. A study conducted by Cochrane Anaesthesia Group had people take melatonin before going into surgery. Those who took the supplement reported a significant decrease in anxiety levels compared to those who didn't take it.
- Regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Sometimes your sleep schedule may not align with the body's normal circadian rhythm – like overnight workers. If this is you, taking melatonin before going to sleep can help normalize a new pattern of sleeping. Before doing this, always consult with your physician regarding recommended dosage and frequency.
- Alleviates symptoms of seasonal depression. Research links circadian rhythm with seasonal changes in light. So, low doses of melatonin have been shown to help relieve seasonal depression symptoms when taken daily during the darker days.
When You Should Take Melatonin
Melatonin can improve many sleep concerns – ranging from falling asleep to staying asleep to even regulating your quality of sleep. But how do you know when you should take melatonin?
Since melatonin isn’t strong enough to knock you out or force you to fall asleep, you have some flexibility in when you should take it. It’s also important to note that everyone reacts differently, so figuring out the exact time you should take it may require some trial and error.
People who are dealing with short-term sleep issues or haven’t built up a tolerance to melatonin should take it 1 to 2 hours before going to sleep.
But for people with a tolerance to melatonin or long-term sleep concerns, doctors recommend taking it 30 minutes to 1 hour before sleeping. This method should always be supported through the guidance of a healthcare professional.
Melatonin Side Effects
When taken in excess, melatonin can produce many unwanted or unpleasant side effects. This is why it’s recommended that people start at the lowest dose and work their way up until they find relief.
Some common side effects of taking too much melatonin include:
- Headache or migraine
- Excessively sleepy
- Stomach cramps
- Mood swings
Frequently Asked Questions About Melatonin
Is it safe to take melatonin every night?
Before taking melatonin regularly, you should always consult with your doctor beforehand. Once you get a doctor’s approval, it’s generally safe to take melatonin every night at the recommended dosage your doctor provides you.
Are there other forms of melatonin besides a supplement/pill?
Yes! If you don’t feel comfortable taking a supplement or pill, melatonin gummies are a great and tasty option. These melatonin gummies from Asystem are a delicious alternative to supplements. They’re just as effective as getting you the much-needed sleep you deserve!
Is 20 mg of melatonin too much?
Yes, 20 mg of melatonin is considered to be above the recommended maximum dosage of melatonin. For adults, the maximum dosage of melatonin is 10 mg, but many individuals find success taking between 1 and 5 mg. If you've taken 10 mg and are still not getting to sleep, you should speak with your primary doctor or a healthcare professional. There may be underlying conditions or issues causing the issue besides melatonin. And if not, they can help steer you in the right direction to getting a full night's rest.
When does a melatonin overdose happen?
Currently, there is no evidence to support that it’s possible to overdose on melatonin. However, symptoms of taking too much include lethargy, low blood pressure, and disorientation.
In a nutshell, now that you know the maximum melatonin dosage, you can ensure you don't exceed it and potentially have negative side effects. Your age and health condition(s) are 2 crucial factors when finding the appropriate dose for you. And if you still have questions, reach out to a healthcare professional who can provide you with expert advice tailored to your needs.
With these insights and tips, you'll soon be on your way to high-quality sleep that leaves you feeling refreshed and revitalized!
Read more tips about all things health and wellness on the Love Health blog here!