WHAT IS MELATONIN?
Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland. That’s a pea-sized gland found just above the middle of your brain. It helps your body know when it’s time to sleep and wake up.
Normally, your body makes more melatonin at night. Levels usually start to go up in the evening once the sun sets. They drop in the morning when the sun goes up. The amount of light you get each day — plus your own body clock — set how much your body makes.
Work with, not against, melatonin’s sleep-inducing signals.
Melatonin levels rise about two hours before bedtime. Create optimal conditions for it to do its job by keeping the lights low before bed. Stop using your computer, smartphone or tablet—the blue and green light from these devices can neutralize melatonin’s effects. If you watch television, be sure you’re at least six feet away from the screen. Turn off bright overhead lights too. Meanwhile you can help program your body to produce melatonin for sleep at the right time of day by getting exposure to daylight during the morning and afternoon. Take a walk outside or sit beside a sunny window.
Consider melatonin sleep help for occasional insomnia.
Even sound sleepers have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep once in a while. You may want to try melatonin for sleep if you have difficulty for more than a night or two. Research shows that a supplement may help people with insomnia fall asleep slightly faster and may have bigger benefits for those with delayed sleep phase syndrome—falling asleep very late and waking up late the next day.
Use melatonin sleep supplements wisely and safely.
Less is more. Take 1 to 3 milligrams two hours before bedtime. To ease jet lag, try taking melatonin two hours before your bedtime at your destination, starting a few days before your trip.You can also adjust your sleep-wake schedule to be in sync with your new time zone by simply staying awake when you reach your destination—delaying sleep until your usual bedtime in the new time zone. Also, get outside for natural light exposure.
Know when to stop.
If melatonin for sleep isn’t helping after a week or two, stop using it. And if your sleep problems continue, talk with your health care provider. If melatonin does seem to help, it’s safe for most people to take nightly for one to two months. After that, stop and see how your sleep is. Be sure you’re also relaxing before bed, keeping the lights low and sleeping in a cool, dark, comfortable bedroom for optimal results.
Skip melatonin for sleep if …
Do not use melatonin if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have an autoimmune disorder, a seizure disorder or depression. Talk to your health care provider if you have diabetes or high blood pressure. Melatonin supplements may also raise blood-sugar levels and increase blood pressure levels in people taking some hypertension medications.