How long does it take for melatonin to work?  Dosage Instructions:

How long does it take for melatonin to work? Dosage Instructions:

How long does it take for melatonin to work?  Dosage Instructions:

  • It takes between 30 minutes and two hours for melatonin to work.
  • You should start with a low dose of melatonin (0.5 mg) and gradually taper it off as needed.
  • You should never take more than 10 mg, otherwise you may experience nausea and other side effects.

Taking melatonin supplements as a sleep aid has become increasingly common among American adults.

For best results, it’s important to know when to take melatonin so you don’t take it too early or too late. Taking it early can make you feel drowsy before you can grab the hay, and taking it late can cause you to fall asleep later than desired.

Here’s what you need to know about how to take melatonin and how long it takes for it to work.

How to take melatonin?

For people who have trouble falling asleep, sleep specialists usually recommend a melatonin dosage of between 0.5 and five milligrams two hours to 30 minutes before bedtime — but what works best varies from person to person.

You should take special precautions when buying melatonin because it’s categorized by the FDA as a dietary supplement, not a drug, says Dr. Rajkumar Dasgupta, a sleep medicine specialist at USC’s Keck Medicine.

This means it’s not that regulated, so you’ll need to:

  • Only take pharmaceutical grade melatonin. This will likely be on the label, but to be extra careful, ask your doctor or pharmacist what reputable brands they recommend.
  • Understand that not all melatonin supplements contain the dosage they say they contain. Since it may contain more than it says, start low on the dose to avoid side effects.

Here are some general guidelines for starting melatonin:

  • Start with a low dose (Dasgupta says you can start from as little as 0.5 milligrams)
  • Take it up to two hours before bedtime as this would mimic the time your brain naturally releases melatonin in a circadian rhythm.

Once you know how your body responds to melatonin, you can start adjusting your dose to suit your needs. For example, some people need to take melatonin closer to their preferred bedtime, up to 30 minutes before, if they find it works faster for them.

You can also increase your dose by tapering off in 0.5 milligram increments to one milligram, Dasgupta says. Just make sure you never take more than 10 milligrams of melatonin in a 24-hour period. Higher doses can lead to a greater risk of side effects such as:

  • Dizziness
  • headache
  • Nausea
  • The next day sleepiness

How long does it take for melatonin to work?

Everyone metabolizes melatonin differently, due to a variety of factors ranging from body size to other medications you may be taking that can interact with melatonin, Dasgupta says.

Theoretically, though, melatonin is absorbed quickly, says Dr. Brian Gotkin, a sleep specialist at Memorial Healthcare System. After taking the supplement, melatonin levels usually peak after about an hour and decrease from there.

Because of its short half-life, Gotkin says melatonin is better suited to help you fall asleep, but not necessarily to stay asleep.

Therefore, people who have trouble staying asleep should consider alternative treatments. If insomnia is the cause, Dasgupta says the ideal treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI-I). This is usually tried before prescribing sleeping pills.

Alternatively, an underlying health problem may be the reason you are unable to stay the night. Aside from insomnia, Dasgupta says some conditions that can cause you to wake up at night:

  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
  • Narcolepsy
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea

In addition, it should be noted that melatonin is not a sleeping pill and will not knock you out right away — especially if you don’t have good sleep hygiene. For example, Dasgupta says that if you’re consuming caffeine later in the day or looking at bright screens before bed, you may find that melatonin doesn’t help much.

Insider’s takeaway

Melatonin supplements affect everyone differently, and it may take some trial and error to figure out what dosage and timing work specifically for you.

Keep in mind that melatonin is not a panacea to help you fall asleep quickly. Healthy bedtime habits are still crucial, and for people with clinical insomnia, cognitive behavioral therapy and sleep hygiene changes remain the gold standard of treatment — not melatonin — Gotkin says.