How Does Melatonin Affect Sleep?

If you don’t get enough sleep, here’s why melatonin may be to blame.

If you never feel like you’re able to get enough sleep, you’re not alone. According to the American Sleep Association, between 50 and 70 million U.S. adults have some form of sleep disorder, such as difficulty falling asleep or the inability to stay asleep during the night. That’s more than 20% of the population – and some estimates put the number even higher.

Being unable to get a good night’s sleep is frustrating, and it’s not great for your health, either. Lack of sleep can lead to a number of physical and emotional issues, including an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease and high blood pressure, as well as distractedness, mood swings and depression.

Is Melatonin to Blame?

For some people, sleep disorders are caused by an insufficient amount of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in our bodies to help control our wake-sleep cycle. Melatonin levels typically start to rise in the evening, signaling to our bodies that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Unfortunately, production of melatonin can decrease as we age. Melatonin levels can also be affected by jet lag, working the night shift, being overweight or other factors.

Should You Take Melatonin Supplements?

One popular method for increasing the body’s melatonin level is to take an over-the-counter melatonin supplement. Melatonin supplements come in pill, liquid, chewable or lozenge form, in dosages ranging from 1 to 10 milligrams. Melatonin supplements are not generally advised for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or who have an autoimmune disease or seizure disorder. It is also suggested that they only be used on a short-term basis and at the lowest effective level (start with 1-3 mg but don’t take more than 10mg). If you’re interested in trying melatonin, you should check with your doctor even though melatonin is available without a prescription because it could interfere with other medications you’re taking.

Natural Sleep Remedies

Before you start relying on melatonin supplements, try these tips to sleep better:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Start winding down an hour before bedtime by disconnecting from all electronics.
  • Create a soothing bedtime routine that you follow every night.
  • Keep the temperature in your bedroom cool.
  • Consider a sound machine to help block out noise that might be keeping you awake.
  • Get outside during the day to expose your body to natural light.


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Date Last Reviewed: March 4, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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