You can buy synthetic melatonin supplements over the counter. They are generally considered to be safe and non-addictive. Dr Avidan says melatonin supplements can work for most people: “For all intents and purposes, it probably helps. “
However, he cautions, the success of melatonin depends on three things:
These products work best for two types of short-term sleep problems.
First, melatonin supplements are helpful when you have a circadian rhythm disorder such as jet lag or disturbed sleep patterns resulting from shift work. When used to treat these conditions, melatonin supplements signal the brain that it is dark and the body should start to relax.
In these cases, said Dr. Bhanu Kolla, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology and sleep medicine consultant at the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, it’s best to use low doses of melatonin supplements. See a doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
The second use of melatonin supplements is when you have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Overall, Dr Kolla said, melatonin supplements, if taken before bed, reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. In a study published in PLOS One, people who took melatonin supplements fell asleep seven minutes faster and increased overall sleep time by eight minutes. The researchers found that the overall quality of sleep was also improved.
For those who tackle sleep regulation issues, experts suggest taking 0.5 milligrams two to three hours before bed. For people with insomnia who need help falling asleep, you can take 5 milligrams 30 minutes before bed.
“We’re trying to recommend low doses,” said Dr. Rachel Marie E. Salas, associate professor of neurology and nursing at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Again, this is not a prescribed drug, so there is a lot of variability.”
Most people end up taking melatonin supplements without seeing a doctor, Dr. Kolla said. “If you have major health issues like liver failure, kidney failure, or are pregnant,” he said, it’s always best to consult your doctor before taking melatonin supplements.