Melatonin for Sleep: How the Aid Works

“The effects on our sleep depend on the time of day you take it,” said Dr. Martin, who is also the spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “If you took a sleeping pill in the middle of the day, you would feel sleepy. If you took melatonin in the middle of the day, it doesn’t really have that effect. “

Hypnotics like Ambien or Benadryl generally make people feel drowsy immediately, and the sedative effects of these drugs “far exceed what they get from melatonin,” said Dr. Alon Y. Avidan, professor of neurology and director of the Sleep Disorder Center at UCLA

In a 2013 analysis published in PLOS One that combined results from 19 studies of 1,683 men and women, people who took melatonin supplements fell asleep seven minutes faster and increased their total sleep time by eight minutes. That might not sound like much, but there were many individual differences, and the researchers found that melatonin also improved overall quality of sleep, including people’s ability to wake up refreshed.

However, there is no guarantee that melatonin will work for you.

Dr. Sabra Abbott, assistant professor of neurology in sleep medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said the most common complaint she hears from patients is “I tried melatonin and it didn’t work.” Many feel the next morning too hungover or light-headed.

Dr. Martin said that melatonin was no better than a placebo in many studies, but added, “One caveat that I always like to mention is that placebos work pretty well for insomnia.”

We make melatonin naturally in our brains, but only in picogram amounts, or a trillionth of a gram, which Dr. Described roses as “a touch of it at dusk”. Over-the-counter melatonin supplements are available in much higher milligram doses, or one-thousandth of a gram. That’s a big difference.

Many experts recommend starting with the smallest dose available – 0.5 milligrams to 1 milligram, 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime – and see how you perform from there. If this does not work, the dose can be increased gradually.

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