Whenever you mention an insomnia problem, you will find people that religiously use melatonin for sleep. It’s their “go-to” drug.
Most often it’s used to combat jet lag, but it’s also used day to day for general insomnia, or to help shift workers get to sleep.
But does it work?
And if it does, how much should you take?
Does Melatonin Work For Sleep?
Back in the 1980′s and 1990′s, melatonin was touted to be a miracle hormone – a synthesized chemical, naturally produced in our brains, that could cure almost everything: cancer, delirium, fertility, migraine headaches were all on the list.
There was so much hype that researchers couldn’t actually study all the claims being made. After the media attention settled down, actual serious research started again. What they found was mostly ambiguous:
- For every study that said melatonin worked for jet lag, there was another that said it didn’t.
- For studies that analyzed general insomnia, same thing. Some did, some didn’t.
- There were three specific areas where melatonin has generally been considered part of standard therapy – Non-24-Hour-Sleep-Wake-Syndrome, Delayed-Sleep-Phase-Syndrome (DSPS), and Shift Workers. If you fall into any of these categories, you know it – read more about them here.
- There is a general thought that, when it comes to circadian rhythm disorders (where your body clock and the actual clock are out of sync – like in jet lag), melatonin might work. Everyone is different, so what works for one, may not work for another.
- To experiment with this yourself, combine melatonin at night with strong daylight first thing in the morning. The extra boost of melatonin when it’s dark, plus an extra emphasis on strong sunlight in the morning, could be enough to reset your body clock.
So It Might Work – At What Dose?
Melatonin tends to be available in doses that are very high compared to the amounts found in our bloodstream.
Researchers have shown that for melatonin to have an effect, a dose of 0.3 to 0.5mg is enough to raise our blood plasma levels therapeutically.
The dose you likely buy is ten or twenty times that amount (1mg, 3mg, and 5mg are common). So do what you can to cut the dose down closer to that therapeutic level.
Aim for 0.5 mg if possible.
What About Timing?
Researchers found that timing the dose of melatonin about a half hour before bedtime worked if the subject was not already manufacturing it in their bodies (melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in your brain, and it’s triggered by darkness and time-of-day).
So the final conclusion is to experiment with yourself. About 0.5mg, half an hour before bed.
Melatonin has been found safe for short period use (mostly because it’s never really been tested over years and years), so there’s no risk in trying.
If it works for you, great!