Is Melatonin Safe? Let’s Talk About It.

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melatonin supplements

Whether triggered by overnight shift work, jet lag from travel, stress, or caffeinating ourselves through the newborn stage, sleep deprivation is fairly common. This has many people seeking out different sleep aids, like melatonin. Melatonin is naturally produced by your brain to help regulate the sleep-wake cycle, but it’s also a widely used supplement to improve sleep. Just because it’s popular, however, doesn’t mean there aren’t melatonin side effects to consider. 

Note: The content on Sleepopolis is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t be taken as medical advice, and it shouldn’t take the place of medical advice and supervision from a trained professional. If you feel you may be suffering from any sleep disorder or medical condition, please see your healthcare provider immediately. Additionally, 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.

Long Story Short

  • Melatonin is a hormone produced in your brain to regulate your sleep-wake cycle. It’s also a popular supplement taken to aid in sleep.
  • Melatonin is considered generally safe for adults when temporarily used in the prescribed dosage. It’s not often approved for children and isn’t well studied in this age group.
  • Potential melatonin side effects include nausea, headaches, disrupted sleep, daytime sleepiness, and irritability.
  • While melatonin is widely available, it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider before using it, especially if you have another health condition or take medications.

What Is Melatonin? 

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone produced in your brain, specifically by a small gland called the pineal gland. Often called the “sleep hormone,” melatonin plays a big role in regulating your sleep-wake cycle, AKA your circadian rhythm. (1)

The production of melatonin is influenced by the daily cycle of light and dark. Melatonin levels rise as the day comes to a close and you prepare for sleep. They decrease in the morning, signaling that it’s time to wake up and start your day. 

Melatonin supplements, which are accessible over-the-counter and online in the United States, have garnered attention as a natural sleep aid, but that’s not exactly true. Though melatonin is a natural hormone produced in your brain, the supplemental form you pick up at your local grocery store is manmade. 

What Is Melatonin Used For? 

Thanks to its popularity, most of us know people reach for melatonin when they’re looking to get a good night’s sleep. Melatonin is typically used to address sleep-related issues and regulate circadian rhythms. Its primary function is to help you fall asleep by signaling to your body that it’s time to rest. (1)

Melatonin supplements may be recommended for those experiencing insomnia, jet lag, or disruptions in their sleep patterns due to shift work. (1) (2) Additionally, people with certain circadian rhythm disorders, such as delayed sleep phase syndrome, may be recommended melatonin to help their sleep-wake cycles align with conventional day-night patterns. (3)

Beyond its role in sleep, some studies suggest that melatonin may have antioxidant properties and potential benefits for certain health conditions, although more research is needed. (1)

Is Melatonin Safe? 

“Melatonin is considered safe for short-term use, with some studies indicating one to three months and others indicating up to six months,” Dr. Carleara Weiss, PhD, MS, RN, and sleep scientist, tells Sleepopolis. However, for better or worse, its effects can vary between people. Plus, there’s a lack of research on the long-term use of melatonin. (4)

Chelsie Rohrscheib, a neuroscientist and the head sleep expert at Wesper, also notes that because melatonin is a dietary supplement, it’s not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the same way that pharmaceuticals are. Some studies have found that many melatonin supplements contain different ingredients and dosages than what is claimed on the bottle. 

This is why it’s important to look for supplements that bear a third-party mark from places like NSF International, Consumer Lab, or USP. This indicates the product has been independently tested for purity, safety claims, and quality.

Additional caution is recommended when it comes to children and melatonin, too. Pediatrician Veena Mathad, MD, tells Sleepopolis that she only recommends melatonin for children who have neurological conditions or autism. She says, “These children’s brains are structured differently than a regular child and [melatonin] can benefit their sleep.” (5)

Possible Melatonin Side Effects

Weiss says that like all sleep aids, melatonin has side effects and contraindications. Exercising caution when taking melatonin is the best way to get maximum benefits with minimum drawbacks. 

Some of the melatonin side effects adults may experience include: (4)

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Children may also experience increased nighttime bedwetting, coldness, and changes in mood or behavior. (5) Some speculate that melatonin use among kids may influence reproductive hormones in a way that affects puberty, but there currently isn’t evidence to confirm this. (6)

Melatonin may also interact with certain drugs, such as those taken for blood sugar or blood pressure control, as well as blood-thinning agents. (1) Always talk to your healthcare provider before starting melatonin, especially if you take medications. 

Melatonin Dosages

Melatonin dosages vary widely depending on the product, form, and brand. International studies have found that doses most often range from 1-10 mg for the majority of people, with 1-3 mg being most common among adults, children, and adolescents. Most people take less than 5 mg; however, if you’re looking to add melatonin to your child’s bedtime routine, it’s important to consult with their healthcare provider beforehand. (1) (7) (8) (9

Melatonin Overdose

While it’s very rare, there have been reports of melatonin-associated deaths among children. It’s important to practice caution when using melatonin just as you would any medication. (4) (10

While melatonin has sort of become a casual remedy for helping our kids sleep, the seriousness of overdose deserves our attention. In 2020, melatonin became the most frequent reason parents were calling national poison control centers about their kids. (10) This led to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine releasing a health advisory regarding melatonin use in children in 2022. (11)

Symptoms of a melatonin overdose may include dizziness, nausea, headache, and drowsiness. While melatonin itself is not known to be highly toxic, it’s best to use this supplement responsibly to avoid potential complications. (1)

If you have children, it’s important to keep melatonin out of reach and never allow them to take it without your supervision. If you suspect that you or your child has overdosed on melatonin, seek medical advice right away. (11)

Melatonin Alternatives

Some of the most common alternatives to melatonin include: 

  • Valerian root: An herbal supplement known for its natural sedative properties, valerian root appears to affect brain chemicals in a way that promotes relaxation and sleep. (12)
  • Chamomile: Often consumed as a tea, chamomile is an herb that contains antioxidants and compounds that may promote reduced anxiety and better sleep. (13)
  • Passionflower: The passionflower is believed to help with sleep by reducing anxiety and promoting calmness. (14)
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is believed to promote relaxation by supporting melatonin production, potentially improving sleep. (15)
  • Lavender: Lavender essential oil is believed to help with sleep by promoting relaxation and reducing stress and anxiety when inhaled or applied topically, making it a popular choice for sleep-inducing practices. (16)
  • Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb thought to help the body better respond to stressors. Some people believe it helps balance stress hormones and create a more conducive environment for restful sleep, though research is still evolving. (17)

Weiss notes that lavender, chamomile, and valerian root tend to have the most studies behind them regarding efficacy for improving sleep. “However, even for those herbs, the science is inconsistent. Most of the recommendations are based on peoples’ experiences and cultural influence,” says Weiss. (18)

Instead, you might try lifestyle habits to help promote better sleep, like:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a non-pharmacological approach that addresses the underlying causes of sleep disturbances through behavioral interventions and lifestyle changes. (19)
  • Sleep hygiene: Sleep hygiene involves adopting a set of healthy habits and practices, such as a consistent sleep schedule and a comfortable sleep environment (consider using a weighted blanket) to optimize the quality and duration of sleep. (20)
  • Limiting screen time before bed: Though many of us love to wind down with our phones or TVs, limiting screen time close to bedtime is key to a better night’s sleep. The blue light emitted from our beloved devices can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, which disrupts your natural sleep-wake cycle, potentially leading to trouble falling asleep. (21)
  • Relaxing nighttime routine: Consistency is key when trying to improve your sleep pattern. Create a nighttime routine that helps you relax, perhaps with things like reading, journaling, or stretching.

Is Melatonin Worth the Risk?

Using any supplement is a personal decision. As Weiss notes, melatonin is generally regarded as safe for short-term use among adults, particularly when taken at the recommended dose. That being said, it’s worth doing your due diligence — be sure to do your own research to find a brand you trust, and consult with your healthcare provider before adding it to your short-term routine. If melatonin doesn’t feel right for you, there are plenty of alternative methods for getting your sleep schedule back on track. 

How To Take Melatonin

If you decide to use melatonin, the first step is to choose which form you prefer — gummies, tablets, capsules, patches, and liquid sprays or droppers. The dosages will vary depending on which product you choose, so be sure to check the directions. 

A good rule of thumb is to start with a low dose and adjust depending on how you feel and what your healthcare provider suggests. Many people find it helpful to schedule melatonin use as part of their bedtime routine. 

Take it 30-60 minutes before you lie down for the night so it lines up with a rise in melatonin levels that occur naturally. And remember, melatonin isn’t a magic fix on its own — use it in conjunction with other sleep-supportive habits to set yourself up for success. 


Is it safe to take melatonin every night?

Melatonin is generally considered safe for adults for short-term use, but the safety of taking it for an extended period is unknown. Most guidelines suggest using melatonin for a few weeks to a few months at a time, especially for addressing issues like insomnia or jet lag.

Is it safe to take melatonin during pregnancy?

There’s a lack of solid research on the potential effects of melatonin on fetal development. Pregnant women should avoid self-prescribing melatonin and instead consult with their healthcare provider regarding methods to improve sleep. (22)

How much melatonin is safe to take?

The most common dosage range for adults is typically between 1 and 3 mg, though some may need a higher or lower amount. Because of the variability in melatonin supplements, start with the lowest dose directed and look for products that have been third-party tested for purity, safety claims, and quality. (7) (8) (9)

The Last Word From Sleepopolis 

Supplemental melatonin isn’t new, but it’s certainly enjoying its time in the spotlight. Many people find it to be perfect for kicking jet lag or surviving overnight shifts. Melatonin works by helping you sync up with your body’s natural clock, but unfortunately, it’s not always without side effects. Minimize your risk of having a bad experience with melatonin by using it as directed and looking for third-party tested products. Combine it with other sleep-promoting habits, like replacing late-night screen use with a book before bed. And before you pop those melatonin gummies, it’s probably smart to chat with your healthcare provider first.



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          Mathad, Veena. Personal Interview. January 2024. 

          Weiss, Carleara. Personal Interview. January 2024.

Lauren Panoff

Lauren Panoff

Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD is a Colorado-based health and nutrition writer who has been published with a number of trusted wellness platforms. She is a dietitian who specializes in plant-based living, as well as a mother of two humans and a dog.