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Role of Melatonin in Sleep

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Melatonin is a hormone produced by the body at night and is associated with the sleep-wake cycle. Read the following article to know more about it.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Pandian. P

Published At November 18, 2022
Reviewed AtMay 9, 2024

What Is the Role of Melatonin in Sleep?

Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body in response to darkness. The hormone is produced by the brain and helps to regulate the internal process of the sleep-wake cycle and promotes sleep. The hormone works along with the circadian rhythm in the body and guides one to sleep, wake and eat. Melatonin levels rise in the evening, are highest in the early morning, and are lowest in the morning. Darkness triggers the body to produce more melatonin and creates an optimal environment for sleep. Melatonin reduces nerve activity and affects the release of dopamine from the brain. People having trouble sleeping have low melatonin levels and can be advised melatonin supplements

Melatonin supplements can be used to treat insomnia or people having difficulty sleeping at night. Melatonin receptor agonists such as Ramelteon and Tasimelteon are Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for treating insomnia.

What Factors Can Affect Melatonin Production in the Body?

Several factors can affect the metabolism of melatonin -

  • Age.

  • Smoking tobacco.

  • Frequency of use.

  • Exposure to ultraviolet light.

  • Hormonal changes.

  • Other medications.

  • Caffeine intake.

  • Health status.

  • Other medications.

Who Can Take Melatonin Supplements?

Melatonin is usually used to treat sleep problems in adults above 55 for 1 to 4 weeks.

Melatonin can be taken by people having sleeping problems and insomnia. Taking melatonin supplements improves sleep in different conditions like jet lag.

It can also be taken for managing depression, chronic pain, and dementia.

Melatonin can be used to reduce sleep problems in people taking beta-blocker drugs and improves their quality of sleep. It can be given to reduce anxiety before surgery and relax the body. In people having jet lag, it regulates their body clock by allowing them to align themselves with the outside world. This helps to reduce their daytime sleepiness. Melatonin may be given to children who have trouble sleeping. Melatonin works best in people having delayed circadian rhythm.

Side Effects of Melatonin:

Side effects occurring with melatonin are usually mild like

  • Headaches.

  • Dizziness.

  • Drowsiness.

  • Nausea.

  • Wetting in children.

  • Irritability.

  • Dry mouth.

  • Low blood pressure.

  • Abdominal cramps.

  • Mild anxiety.

How to Cope With the Side Effects of Melatonin?

In order to reduce the side effects of Melatonin, it is best to observe the following:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially before sleep. Chronic dehydration reduces the presence of amino acids responsible for producing melatonin in the body.

  • Take medicine after food. Have small and frequent meals. This helps to relieve stomach aches or nausea often associated with the intake of melatonin.

  • Melatonin causes dizziness, hence avoid driving, and use of tools and machinery. When feeling dizzy, it is best to stop doing the work until one feels better

  • Pain in the arms and legs is a common side effect. Stop the medicine if it does not get better after a few days and talk with the doctor.

  • Dry mouth and itchy skin - Chew sugar-free gum and apply moisturizer more often.

When to Take Melatonin?

As Melatonin takes 20 to 40 minutes to work, It should be taken 30 minutes before sleep. Taking it too late may cause sluggishness or drowsiness. Melatonin works differently in people based on the diagnosis and history. It is best to see a sleep specialist for correct diagnosis and treatment.

Dosage of Melatonin:

A usual dose in adults is 1 to 5 mg. This may vary with the patient's age and reason for taking Melatonin. It is best to start with the lowest dose and gradually increase the dosage. This helps the body adjust to it without causing adverse effects.

Side Effects and Dosage of Melatonin

Is It Safe to Take Melatonin Supplements?

Melatonin is not habit-forming. It is safe for most people when given for short-term use. The only side effect of short-term use is headaches.

Other Sources of Melatonin Include:

  • Grapes.

  • Strawberries.

  • Tomatoes.

  • Peppers.

  • Mushrooms.

  • Tart cherries.

  • Nuts, like pistachios.

  • Fish.

  • Eggs.

  • Cereals and germinated legumes.

Is Melatonin Safe During Pregnancy and for Breastfeeding Women?

Melatonin is considered safe for short-term use. It is not the best choice to promote sleep during pregnancy. Pregnant women should talk to the doctor before taking melatonin supplements.

For How Long Can One Take Melatonin?

Melatonin helps to program the body for sleep at the right time. The supplement can be used for a month or two if it seems to help. If it does not help after some time, we should not use it. Care should be taken to create a relaxing, cool, and dark environment for the best results.

What Are the Drug Interactions of Melatonin?

Melatonin may interact with different medications including;

Drug Interactions:

  • Anticoagulants - Blood-thinning medications such as Aspirin and melatonin may increase the bleeding risk.

  • Contraceptive Drugs - These pills can increase the side effects of melatonin such as nausea, dizziness, and drowsiness.

  • Blood Pressure Drugs - Taking supplements can cause a sudden rise in blood pressure is seen in people on hypertensive drugs.

  • Immunosuppressants - Taking melatonin with immunosuppressants can stimulate immune function and may increase the risk of seizures.

  • Diabetes Medications - Melatonin use can affect the blood sugar levels in diabetics. Melatonin supplements should be administered cautiously in people who are diabetic.

  • Anticonvulsants - Antiepileptic drugs reduce the effectiveness of melatonin in the body and should be administered with caution in epileptic patients.

  • Alcohol - Melatonin is not safe to be taken with alcohol as it can interfere with its effectiveness and increases the risk of over-sedation. Alcohol consumption may exacerbate the symptoms such as drowsiness, dizziness, and dry mouth.

  • Other Sleep Aids - Taking other medications that cause sedation resulting in over-sedation, which can have adverse effects.

  • Allergy to Melatonin - People with a previous history of allergy should be cautious and take the doctor's advice, before taking Melatonin supplements.

  • Elderly - Melatonin causes drowsiness and stays active for a longer duration in older people.

Food Interaction:

Diet influences the synthesis of melatonin -

  • Health Supplements - Melatonin should be avoided with herbal products as it can increase the risk of bleeding, and low blood pressure.

  • Products Containing Caffeine - Avoid tea, coffee, energy drinks, and cola, as they can affect the synthesis of melatonin in the body.

Diseases Interaction:

  • Depression - Abnormal thinking and behavior changes are seen in people with depression and can cause suicidal behavior and ideation.

  • Liver disease - Dosage should be adjusted in people with liver disease. The low plasma clearance can hinder the metabolization of melatonin.


Melatonin plays an important role in the internal functions with the external environment. It helps to increase the total sleep time in individuals having sleep disorders. Additional benefits from supplements, if taken judiciously, have a promising effect. Melatonin works differently for everyone and it is best to see a sleep specialist get the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is Sleeping On Melatonin Good for Health?

Melatonin is generally safe to use for a short period. Unlike many sleep medications, melatonin is unlikely to become addictive, have a reduced response after repeated use, or cause a hangover effect. Headache is one of the most common melatonin side effects.


What Are the Side Effects of Melatonin?

Side effects of melatonin are usually mild and include
- Headaches.
- Dizziness.
- Drowsiness.
- Nausea.
- Wetting in children.
- Irritability.
- Dry mouth.
- Low blood pressure.
- Abdominal cramps.
- Mild anxiety.


How Long Does Melatonin Take To Effect?

Melatonin takes 20 to 40 minutes to take effect. Therefore, it should be taken 30 minutes before going to bed. Begin the bedtime routine as soon as the melatonin is taken. A relaxing, cool, and dark environment should be created for the best results.


How Long Does Melatonin Last in the Body?

Melatonin has a half-life of 20 to 50 minutes, which means that half of the initial dosage inside the body is eliminated after that time. Depending on the dose and formulation, OTC melatonin can stay in the body for 4-10 hours. Melatonin should not be taken before or after going to bed. This can cause a shift in their sleep-wake cycle, resulting in daytime sleepiness.


What Food Contains Melatonin?

In animal foods, eggs and fish have the highest melatonin content, whereas nuts have the highest melatonin content in plant foods. Bananas and tart cherries are also high in melatonin, and vitamin C. Melatonin is also found in certain mushrooms, cereals, and germinated legumes or seeds.


Is Melatonin Harmful in the Long Run?

Melatonin is generally safe to use for a short period. Because of a lack of high-quality studies, the health risks of long-term melatonin use remain unknown. However, based on the research, melatonin does not appear to cause any serious problems.


What Time Of The Day Does Melatonin Peak In The Body?

Melatonin has diurnal variations in humans. Hormone secretion rises quickly after the onset of darkness, reaches its peak at midnight, between 2 and 4 a.m., and then gradually declines during the second half of the night.


Do the Effects of Melatonin Wear off When You Wake Up?

Melatonin should not be taken before or after going to bed. This can cause a shift in their sleep-wake cycle, resulting in daytime sleepiness. Drowsiness is one of the most common melatonin side effects. Some people may feel sleepy or groggy in the morning after taking melatonin. Taking melatonin earlier in the evening or lowering the dose may aid in waking up feeling refreshed.


Which Fruit Has the Highest Melatonin?

Bananas are high in vitamin B6, which increases serotonin levels (the neurotransmitters that affect sleep quality), and potassium and magnesium, which help relax overworked muscles. Bananas contain serotonin and melatonin, which help to regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Tart cherries, like bananas, are high in melatonin and vitamin C.
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Dr. Pandian. P
Dr. Pandian. P

General Surgery


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