Melatonin Dosage: How Much Should You Take by Age and Weight?
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Most people will struggle with sleep at some point in their lives, and while a little missed sleep isn’t the end of the world, a lot can have more of an impact on our daily lives than expected. In fact, Sleepopolis found that more than 80 percent of people feel the amount and quality of sleep they get negatively impacts their daily lives.
This means a lot of people are looking for sleep remedies: From lavender to tart cherry juice, there are plenty of options on the market, but melatonin seems to reign supreme. However, it’s important to understand that melatonin is a hormone and should be used carefully — read on for everything you need to know about using melatonin for sleep.
*Restrictions and regulations on supplements may vary by location. If you ever have any questions or concerns about a product you’re using, contact your doctor.
Melatonin Dosage for Adults
There’s still a lot to learn about the ideal dosage amounts for melatonin, but typical amounts are between 1 mg and 5 mg, with doses below 1 mg potentially being just as effective as higher doses. You can opt for a fast-release or slow-release supplement option, which may affect how quickly you feel its effects, or how lingering those effects may be.
Additionally, we know natural melatonin levels decrease as we age, so the effects of the supplement have been studied on older demographics — the conclusion was to use “use of the lowest possible dose of immediate-release formulation melatonin to best mimic the normal physiological circadian rhythm of melatonin and to avoid prolonged, supra-physiological blood levels.”
Melatonin Dosage for Children
Melatonin in children is a hot topic — in an abundance of caution, many professionals will recommend not using the supplement on children whenever possible. However, there is research that shows melatonin is “an effective and tolerable drug in short-term treatment of sleep onset insomnia in children and adults.”
To put it simply, studies show that melatonin can be used safely in the short-term with children who struggle with sleep, though more research is needed to understand the long-term ramifications.
Melatonin has typically been used in children in doses at or below 3 mg daily for up to three months. If you plan on using melatonin with your children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends consulting with your pediatrician and starting with the lowest dose possible, to be administered at the time your pediatrician recommends.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone the brain reduces in response to darkness—when you feel sleepy at night, you have your body’s natural melatonin to thank. As the evening wears on, your melatonin levels increase, eventually peaking in the middle of the night and steadily decreasing until the morning, when your body stops producing the hormone.
If you’ve ever perused the supplements aisle of your grocery store, you might have noticed melatonin is sold in many different dosage increments, including 1 mg, 5 mg, 10 mg, and some that are even higher. Melatonin also comes in many different forms, like gummies, pills, liquids, sprays, and tablets—there are even melatonin bath soaks on the market. But before you decide how you want to take melatonin, there are a few important things you should know.
Though melatonin has become a popular sleep aid, it’s considered a dietary supplement in the United States, meaning it is not regulated as a drug by the FDA. According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, this means the FDA has no oversight on the “purity or accuracy of dosage.” Put simply, this means the 10 mg tablet you think you’re taking might have more or less melatonin per dose than you think.
How Does Melatonin Help You Sleep?
Your body naturally produces melatonin to help regulate your sleep. Typically, your body produces enough for your regular sleep needs, but taking an extra dose via supplement boosts your supply and can make it easier for you to fall asleep in situations where you need an extra push, like when you’re dealing with jet lag, sleeping in a new environment, or struggling with short-term insomnia.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s also research to support the use of melatonin for certain sleep disorders, including circadian rhythm sleep disorders and delayed sleep phase disorder. In both cases, it works by reducing the amount of time needed to fall asleep and helping to regulate the sleep/wake cycle.
The biggest draw to melatonin is its ability to help people fall asleep with more speed and ease than they experience on their own. The National Health Service in the United Kingdom indicates that melatonin can take up to one to two hours to kick in, so take it ahead of your desired bedtime to get the most out of it. The effects of melatonin can linger for four to five hours, so it’s recommended to avoid driving or using heavy machinery within that timeframe.
How Much Melatonin Is Too Much?
The most common dosage range of melatonin is between 1 mg and 5 mg, but the recommended dose for children is typically a lot lower- under 3 mg. Taking a larger dose of melatonin does not necessarily make it more effective, and taking too much can lead to serious negative side effects.
Can I take 10 mg of melatonin?
Generally, doctors recommend starting with the lowest dose of melatonin available and working your way up from there if you aren’t seeing the desired results. That being said, 10mg is considered the maximum dose of melatonin that can be taken safely.
Can I take 20 mg of melatonin?
Taking more than 10mg of melatonin is not recommended by healthcare professionals, and could lead to melatonin overdose, which comes with a host of potential negative side effects. These more serious side effects may include:
- Excessive sleepiness
- Trouble breathing
Melatonin Side Effects
Though the studied side effects of melatonin have been fairly innocuous so far, it’s worth noting that those who take the supplement make experience:
Less common but still noteworthy side effects include:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Mood swings
- Stomach cramps
- Increased risk of seizures
- Increased risks of falls
- Stomach cramps
- Short-term feelings of depression
- Vivid dreams and nightmares
When should I take melatonin?
Depending on if you’re taking fast-acting or slow release melatonin, it’s recommended to take the supplement 30 minutes to two hours before bed. Whichever product you choose should have guidelines on the label to help you determine the best time frame.
Is melatonin safe to take every night?
Melatonin is generally considered safe to take every night, but only for short-term use. Though melatonin doesn’t seem to be a supplement that users might become dependent on, more research is needed to determine potential long-term side effects.
Who shouldn’t take melatonin?
Melatonin isn’t regulated as a drug by the FDA, meaning there’s a chance you’re taking more or less than expected at any given time. Melatonin also requires a prescription in many other countries, though not in the United States. Overall, it’s a sleep aid worth considering for short-term sleep challenges so long as you consult with your doctor first.
Can you take melatonin with alcohol?
It’s not recommended to take alcohol and melatonin together, with potential side effects that include trouble breathing, passing out, dizziness and drowsiness. If you plan on using melatonin, do it without any alcohol in your system.
Can you overdose on melatonin?
It is possible to overdose on melatonin — melatonin poisoning in children is actually on the rise, with a significant increase seen at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. There aren’t any specific guidelines outlining how much melatonin can lead to an overdose, but adults should be sure to stick to the recommended dosage of the product they’re consuming. Additionally, keep melatonin out of reach of children and only use it in doses recommended by their pediatrician.
Last Word From Sleepopolis
Melatonin is a sleep aid that has long been proven effective. Since it isn’t regulated as a drug by the FDA, we’d always recommend consulting with your doctor before adding it to your short-term bedtime routine. The supplement requires a prescription in many other countries, so while it may be effective it’s worth an extra level of consideration when compared to some other sleep remedies.