Q: How much melatonin should I take to help me sleep?
A: Taking the sleep hormone melatonin is recommended to help induce sleep, but there is a good deal of confusion about how much to take. It is sold over the counter in a range of doses, from 1 mg to 10 mg and higher. The natural inclination is to take more melatonin if it is not effective in helping you sleep better, but this is not a good idea.
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The hormone serotonin (which regulates mood, appetite and memory) is produced during the day and this changes to melatonin when it gets dark outside. Peak levels of melatonin are produced before 3 a.m., when it sharply decreases before natural daylight returns. (Higher levels of melatonin have been measured in the fall and winter when the days are shorter, thus the reason you may be sleepier in the winter months.)
Research has found that taking melatonin in low doses is the most effective way to promote sleep if you are experiencing restlessness or insomnia. Recommended doses of melatonin are from 0.5 mg up to 3 mg, which are adequate to promote sleep or treat jet lag.
When melatonin is used at higher doses, it tends to increase daytime sleepiness. Other side effects of too much melatonin can include reduced focus and concentration, feeling chilled (reduced body temperatures) and higher prolactin levels. (The primary function of the prolactin hormone is to initiate lactation and enhance breast development.)
If you find yourself taking higher doses of melatonin, you can decrease the dose by cutting your tablet in half or in quarters. Research indicates there are no side effects if you reduce the dose of melatonin you are taking.
Take it an hour to an hour and a half before bedtime for a restful sleep when you need it.
— Behavioral Health Nurse Practitioner Ann Pressler, CNP