Fact Sheet: Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that helps you fall asleep. It has been taken for years as a supplement to assist with sleep; however, some doctors suggest that we are sabotaging our sleep by overusing it.

Melatonin is a natural, non-addicting hormone supplement that assists with sleep. Millions of people in the United States take it in order to get a good night’s sleep after having difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep. However, beware! Melatonin may be harmful to your sleep if taken inappropriately.

Melatonin is naturally produced in your brain. It tells your body that it’s nighttime and it’s time to go to bed. Melatonin is a powerful hormone. Many may mistake its power for that of a sleeping pill and feel compelled to take more for better sleep. However, at the wrong dosage, melatonin may actually destroy your sleep cycle. Too much melatonin at one time may also cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, or irritability.

WATCH: Dr. Oz's Sleep Breakthroughs, Revealed

When should you take melatonin?

If you know you’re going to have a major shift in sleep schedule: Because of how melatonin works, it can be beneficial for those who know they will be up late for a few nights in a row and know they will have trouble getting back to their normal sleep schedule. It also works well for jetlag.

If you’re over 60 years old and are having trouble sleeping: Your body makes less melatonin as you age, so your body may need more assistance with melatonin to help you sleep better.

When shouldn’t you take melatonin?

If you can’t sleep because of issues like stress, depression or anxiety: Melatonin may not work in those cases because the problem doesn’t lie with the body’s ability to make its own melatonin. You may benefit from practicing Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) to calm your body and distract your brain.

LEARN MORE: 5 Steps to a Better Night's Rest

If you have already taken melatonin earlier that evening: Because it is so powerful, too much melatonin may actually disrupt your sleeping pattern, which may lead to your waking up in the middle of the night. Some people complain of a “melatonin hangover,” which may lead to them feeling even more groggy and unrested! This happens because any residual melatonin in your system in the morning will make your body think it’s still nighttime – and it will be even harder to wake up.

If you find yourself needing more than 1 mg at night to fall asleep: You may be taking too high of a dose, and you put yourself at risk of disrupting your sleep cycle. If 1 mg of melatonin isn’t enough, your body may be telling you to add other methods to help your sleep.

If you’ve been taking melatonin for longer than two weeks: This may be a sign that your body’s sleep issues come from another problem, like stress or depression, that must be addressed differently.

How should I take melatonin?

Take 0.3 -1 mg of melatonin 90 minutes before you go to sleep. This amount of time will allow your brain to recognize the melatonin you took and make you feel sleepy.

Before you go to bed, it may be helpful to keep the lights down and turn off a nearby television or computer, as light exposure actually inhibits your body from using its own natural melatonin.

Finally, if you are having sleep trouble, it also never hurts to start with changing your lifestyle in order to get better sleep before popping a powerful hormone supplement. Read Dr. Oz’s Get Back to Sleep Plan for helpful suggestions. You may also want to try Dr. Ozs 1-Hour Sleep Countdown to get a better night’s sleep.

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