Millions of people suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders each year but don’t want to take prescription medications. In fact, according to NPR, 60 million Americans experience sleep problems each year. This has led to a large market for over-the-counter sleep aids, including melatonin supplements.
Prescription medications for sleep disorders can be addictive and have a wide variety of side effects. While sleep aid melatonin is one of the most widely used supplements in the US, you don’t need to use it. This is because your body naturally produces melatonin, which is far more effective than any supplement.
The melatonin in your brain is produced by the pineal gland. This small gland is located in the center of your brain and controls your body’s sleep-wake cycle. The melatonin in supplements is synthetic and does not work as well as the natural melatonin in your brain.
To help you better understand melatonin and its effects, we will answer the following questions:
- What is melatonin?
- How does melatonin work?
- How does the body produce melatonin?
- Melatonin dosage
- How long do melatonin effects last?
- How long does it stay in your system?
- Side effects of melatonin
- Are melatonin supplements useful?
Without further ado, let’s get started.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in your brain. It helps to control your body’s sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm).
Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect your cells from damage.
Although melatonin is produced in your brain, you can also get it from supplements. The over-the-counter melatonin supplements can be synthetic or made from animal pineal glands. These supplements are packaged in pill form and come in a variety of doses.
We will talk more about the dosage later in this article.
How Does Melatonin Work?
Your body’s natural melatonin production is regulated by the hypothalamus. This small, almond-sized part of your brain controls many bodily functions, including melatonin production.
The hypothalamus gets its information about light levels from the retina in your eyes. When it senses that it is dark outside, the hypothalamus sends a signal to the pineal gland to start producing melatonin.
The pineal gland is a small, cone-shaped gland located in the center of your brain. It produces melatonin in response to signals from the hypothalamus.
Melatonin is released into your bloodstream and travels throughout your body. It attaches to receptors in different parts of your brain and helps to control your sleep-wake cycle.
How Body Produces Melatonin?
As mentioned, melatonin is produced by the pineal gland, which is controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the anterior part of the hypothalamus. The SCN is mainly responsible for setting your body’s circadian rhythm (body clock), which governs when you feel tired or awake.
During the day, the SCN is influenced by the amount of light absorbed by your eyes. As a result, when it’s light out, the SCN sends messages to the pineal gland to stop producing melatonin. This is why you may feel more awake during the day.
At night, when it’s dark out, the SCN sends messages to the pineal gland to start producing melatonin. This is why you may feel more tired at night and why melatonin is often referred to as the “sleep hormone.”
When your melatonin levels rise, your blood pressure and body temperature drop. The melatonin then loops back to the SCN, slowing down the neuronal firing rate and causing you to feel tired hence promoting sleep.
The dosage of melatonin that you need may vary depending on the reason you are taking it. Most people take between 0.5 and 5 mg per day, but some people may need up to 10 mg per day.
Always start with the lowest dose and increase it gradually if needed. Do not take more than 10 mg per day. Melatonin can be addictive and can have negative side effects if taken in high doses.
It’s also important to note that melatonin supplements can interact with other medications. If you are taking medication, be sure to speak to your doctor before taking a melatonin supplement.
Since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not closely regulate melatonin supplements, it’s important to purchase them from a reputable source. This will help ensure that you are getting a quality product and in the correct dosage.
Always follow the instructions on the supplement label. If you are unsure about how much melatonin to take, consult with a healthcare professional.
How Long Effects Last?
The effects of melatonin can vary depending on the person. Some people may feel sleepy after taking it, while others may not notice any changes.
The effects usually last for 3-8 hours, but they can vary depending on the person. If taken at low doses, the effects may only last for a few hours. If taken at high doses, the effects may last longer.
When melatonin is taken to reset the body clock, it should be taken for a few days in a row. If you are taking it to help you sleep, it may be taken up to 2 hours before bedtime.
It’s important to note that melatonin can have a cumulative effect, meaning that the more you take it, the longer the effects will last. We will talk about the side effects of melatonin shortly.
How Long It Stays in Your System?
The half-life of melatonin is about 20 – 40 minutes. This means that it takes about 20 – 40 minutes for half of the melatonin dose to be eliminated from your system.
This also means that it will take about 40 – 80 minutes for most of the melatonin to be eliminated from your system. It can take up to 24 hours for all of the melatonin to be eliminated.
How long melatonin stays in your system depends on a number of factors, including the following:
The Dose of Melatonin
The higher the dose of melatonin, the longer it will stay in your system.
The Type of Melatonin
The type of melatonin also affects how long it stays in your system.
The synthetic form of melatonin (melatonin sold as a supplement) stays in your system for a longer time than the natural form of melatonin.
The older you are, the longer melatonin will stay in your system. This is because the older you are, the slower your body will metabolize melatonin.
Caffeine consumption can speed up the elimination of melatonin from your system. Caffeine is believed to interfere with the effectiveness of melatonin by altering its production.
According to studies, the nicotine in tobacco can inhibit the effectiveness of melatonin in your body.
Your Body Size
The larger your body size, the longer melatonin will stay in your system. This is because the larger your body size, the more melatonin your body will metabolize.
The side effects of regular or extended-release melatonin can vary depending on the person. Some people may experience no side effects, while others may experience mild or moderate side effects.
Some of the most common side effects of taking too much melatonin include:
- Daytime sleepiness
Other less common side effects include:
- Memory problems
The side effects of melatonin can also depend on the dose taken. The higher the dose, the more likely you are to experience side effects.
It’s important to note that some people may be more sensitive to the side effects of melatonin than others. If you experience any side effects after taking melatonin, consult with your healthcare professional.
Are Melatonin Supplements Useful?
The answer to this question is not black and white. There are pros and cons to taking melatonin supplements.
Some of the pros of taking melatonin supplements include:
- They can help reset the body clock
- They can help improve sleep quality
- They can be helpful for people with jet lag
- They are available over the counter
Some of the cons of taking melatonin supplements include:
- They can cause side effects
- They may not be effective for everyone
- The long-term safety of melatonin supplements is unknown
If you are considering taking a melatonin dietary supplement, it’s important to speak with your healthcare professional to learn more about the pros and cons. They can help you decide if this is the right choice for you.
How Long Will I Sleep With Melatonin?
The amount of time you sleep after taking melatonin will vary depending on the person. Some people may fall asleep immediately, while others may take a little longer to fall asleep. In general, most people will sleep for about 7-8 hours.
Does Melatonin Make It Hard to Wake Up?
Some people may find that they have a harder time waking up after taking melatonin. This is because melatonin can cause drowsiness.
If you find that you are having trouble waking up, consult with your healthcare professional. They may be able to recommend a different dose or type of melatonin that doesn’t cause as much drowsiness.
Should I Take Melatonin if I Can’t Sleep?
If you are struggling to sleep, it’s important to consult with your healthcare professional. They can help you determine if melatonin is the right choice for you.
Melatonin is not recommended for everyone and may not be effective for everyone who struggles to sleep.
Can You OD on Melatonin?
It is possible to overdose on melatonin, but it is rare. Symptoms of an overdose include drowsiness, confusion, and excessive thirst. If you experience any of these symptoms after taking melatonin, consult with your healthcare professional.
Does Melatonin Work the First Night?
It’s not guaranteed that melatonin will work the first night you take it. Some people may find that it takes a few nights of taking melatonin pills before they start to see a difference in their sleep. If you don’t see a difference after taking melatonin for a few nights, consult with your healthcare professional.