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Is Melatonin a Natural Sleep Aid?

by Dale Cudmore | Updated: Oct 03, 2020

Most people would consider melatonin a natural sleep aid.

Melatonin is a hormone that plays a big role in your sleep-wake cycle by essentially controlling how sleepy you are.

However, melatonin supplements are created synthetically, so some people consider them not a “natural” sleep aid (1). They used to be derived from animal tissue, but that’s more expensive and dangerous (risk of contamination).

Is Melatonin Effective?

Melatonin is available over the counter in most countries.

Most studies have found that melatonin does have some effect, but it’s not as effective as insomnia treatment (2, 3, 4):

...the absolute benefit of melatonin compared to placebo is smaller than other pharmacological treatments for insomnia.

Most people that find it useful struggle with getting to sleep quickly, particularly after:

  • Shift work
  • Travel
  • Light exposure at night

While it may not be a cure for insomnia by itself, evidence does suggest that it’s among the most effective sleeping aids.

How Much Melatonin Should Be Taken In a Dose?

Melatonin is relatively safe, especially since you don’t need to take much to see an effect.

Most studies use a low dose between 0.3 mg and 1.0 mg per night and see significant results (5).

It takes 30-60 minutes before melatonin from a supplement is absorbed, so it is usually recommended to take it a bit before sleeping.

There are also time release melatonin supplements aimed at helping people who have trouble falling asleep once they wake up during the night.

References

  1. Melatonin: therapeutic and clinical utilization
  2. Meta-Analysis: Melatonin for the Treatment of Primary Sleep Disorders
  3. A review of sleep disorders and melatonin
  4. Evidence for the efficacy of melatonin in the treatment of primary adult sleep disorders
  5. Low dose melatonin improves sleep in healthy middle-aged subjects

Medical Disclaimer: The information on SnoozeUniversity.com is not intended to be a substitute for physician or other qualitified care. We simply aim to inform people struggling with sleep issues about the nature of their condition and/or prescribed treatment.


About the authorDale is the founder of Snooze University and a sleep researcher. I overcame my sleep issues and now I'd like to help you do the same by summarizing the latest sleep studies for you.