What is the Best Dose of Melatonin?

05/21/2021 | 10 min. read

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Melatonin is widely used in order to improve sleep quality, and may help people who have a hard time falling asleep or even staying in bed.

If you are considering using melatonin supplements to improve your quality of rest due to sleep disturbances, melatonin may be an effective way to help you get a good night’s rest.

But before you take melatonin supplements, there are a few things to help you get the most of it.

Melatonin is a hormone that gets produced by your brain in response to darkness, and it works to help with your sleep and circadian rhythm, which is basically your internal clock.

Because melatonin is produced when your body recognizes that your surroundings are dark, being exposed to lights at nighttime can interfere with your melatonin production and thus may also interfere with your ability to get a good night’s rest.

Melatonin supplements are not an automatic fix -- it is important to ensure your bedtime behaviors are conducive to melatonin production so that your supplements can properly do their job.

When Should You Take Melatonin?

When it comes to when you should actually take melatonin supplements, many people assume that it is appropriate to take them right before bedtime. But this may not actually be the most ideal scenario.

Timing is key in terms of the effectiveness of your melatonin supplements, and taking them too close to your desired time of sleep may leave you disappointed. Instead of taking your supplements right when you are hoping to fall asleep, the right time may actually vary depending on your preferred sleeping schedule.

Someone who tends to go to sleep after midnight but who wants to be asleep by around 11 p.m. may be best satisfied by taking melatonin at 6 p.m., and someone who goes to bed around 8 p.m. but rises early, at around 4a.m., may want to take their melatonin in the afternoon.

The reason why you may want to take your melatonin a few hours before you head to bed is because melatonin actually takes a little while to start working in your body.

How Fast Does Melatonin Work?

Melatonin can take several hours to start working, but it may work better if you keep your nighttime habits in check.

Quality sleep habits include:

  • Avoiding drinking coffee in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Working to develop a consistent cycle of sleeping and waking, which means going to bed around the same time each night. This helps regulate your body’s circadian rhythm
  • Turning on the lights or opening the curtains right when you wake up.
  • Sleeping in a cool, dark room with the curtains closed. Darkness promotes melatonin production in your body.
  • Avoiding exercising late at night or too close to bedtime.
  • Reserving your bed for bedtime only, This means you must avoid watching TV or doing other daily tasks that keep your brain active.

Establishing a good bedtime routine, and sticking to it, can help you fall asleep easier regardless of whether or not you are trying out melatonin supplements.

How Many Milligrams (mg) of Melatonin Can You Take?

The exact dose of melatonin needed will depend on your individual needs, but there are some general recommendations.

Because melatonin is sold over the counter with a range of options when it comes to dosages, typically ranging from 1mg per dose to 10mg per dose, it can be confusing to know exactly how much you should really be taking at a time.

According to research, the best approach is to opt for low doses, such as 0.5mg to 3mg. These are considered to be adequate amounts of melatonin for treatment of jet lag or for promotion of sleep.

Start low, then adjust your dosage as needed.

This may be the safest and most effective way to take advantage of melatonin, and you should always consult your doctor before changing your dose to ensure that you are staying on the right track.

When used at higher doses, melatonin may actually lead to some drowsiness or tiredness the following day.

This can also lead to reduced ability to concentrate, sudden chills, and higher prolactin levels, which is a hormone known for its role in initiating lactation and breast development.

How Much Melatonin Should I Take For Sleep?

Recommended starting doses of melatonin supplements for sleep range from around 0.5mg to about 5mg for adults, taken once daily. The maximum recommended dose is 10mg of melatonin, and taking higher doses than this may result in unwanted side effects.

That said, the proper dose depends on a few factors, including age, body weight, and sensitivity to melatonin.

The right dosage also depends on the type of severity of the sleeping disturbances you may be experiencing. Start with the lowest dose and increase each dose by 1mg if no effects are being felt at lower doses.

While melatonin may be effective to some extent for any kind of sleep disturbance, it may be especially effective for treating jet lag or certain circadian rhythm disorders.

Opting for melatonin as a short-term solution can be a great way of improving your sleep quality.

But when it comes to long-term sleeping problems your doctor may suggest re-evaluating your bedtime routines as opposed to continuing the use of melatonin as a long-term solution.

Always consult your doctor before trying new vitamins or supplements.

How Often Can You Take 10mg of Melatonin?

Because 10mg of melatonin is the highest recommended dose, you should speak with your doctor before you start taking melatonin at this dose.

If your doctor tells you it is safe for you to proceed with this dose, you should only be taking 10mg of melatonin once daily unless instructed otherwise. This helps ensure that you are not doing any harm to your health, but are still experiencing improved sleep.

Is it Safe to Take 20mg of Melatonin?

The highest recommended dose of melatonin is 10 mg, and most research only explores the effects of taking up to 12 mg of melatonin. However, more research is needed to confirm whether or not it is safe to take 20 mg of melatonin.

The risks associated with taking higher doses of melatonin, like 20mg of melatonin, are largely unknown. Taking too much melatonin may results in unwanted side effects such as:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Changes in hormones
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Dizziness
  • Paranoia
  • Stomach issues such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

A 20 mg dosage of melatonin should only be used when you are specifically instructed to do so by a healthcare professional. It should also be prescribed and supervised by a doctor.

Anytime that you are unsure about dosing or not noticing any improvements from your first dose, you should talk to your doctor to work out a game plan.

It is always best to play it safe and speak with your doctor than it is to start experimenting with dosing on your own. While melatonin may not pose an extreme risk to your health and safety, it could lead to some serious side effects and may throw off your hormones.

Can I Take a Second Dose of Melatonin If the First Dose Did Not Work?

When it comes to taking a second dose of melatonin, this may depend on how much melatonin you took the first time.

If your first dose of melatonin was in the low range, it may be safe to take 1mg as your second dose, but it is always best to consult your doctor before taking a second dose so that you can be sure you are staying safe.

If your first dose is not working consistently, you should talk to your doctor about either increasing your dose or split dosing instead.

Can I Take a Second Dose of Melatonin in the Middle of the Night? What is Split Dosing?

In terms of what time is best to take your melatonin, keep in mind that it generally takes an average of 1 to 2 hours to kick in.

Taking melatonin in the middle of the night may be beneficial as part of a split dosing schedule.

While it may sound unconventional, taking your melatonin in split doses may actually be the most effective way to reap its benefits. Studies have shown that just 0.3mg of melatonin may be effective at helping you fall asleep, but this leads to a problem when small amounts of melatonin is cleared out of your body within four hours.

When this happens, your body may need another small boost of melatonin in order to stay asleep for the rest of the night. This is why split dosing may come in handy, especially if you are not feeling any improvements after taking just one dose of melatonin consistently.

This Sleep Answer supplement solves this problem by coming in the form of a dual-release capsule that delivers your second dose of melatonin a few hours later.

Healthy Directions offers quality health and wellness solutions backed by health experts to ensure that you are getting the quality of sleep you deserve.

How Much Melatonin is Safe for Kids?

While melatonin may be safe for children in small doses, it may not always be necessary.

Melatonin can help children who are dealing with sleep disturbances that are getting in the way of their ability to get sufficient rest. If your child is experiencing persistent sleeping problems that are interfering with their everyday activities, you should consult your doctor about whether or not melatonin supplements may be a good idea.

Melatonin is largely regarded as most likely safe for children, but more research needs to be done to explore the effects of melatonin on a child’s body as well as whether any risks present themselves that are not relevant when melatonin is used by adults.

How Many mL of Melatonin Should You Give to a 1-Year-Old?

With any child under the age of 3 years old, it is important to consult your doctor before giving them melatonin or any other medications and supplements. When giving melatonin to any child, you should start with a very low dose, like 0.3 mg or 0.5 mg, to see how they respond.

You should aim to give them this dose around 30 to 60 minutes before their bedtime, and if your child does not seem to respond to this dose it is important to consult your pediatrician for professional guidance regarding next steps.

Most children who benefit from melatonin will not need more than 3 mg to 6 mg of melatonin, so you should try to avoid overdoing it.

In any case, your pediatrician will be able to give you the best advice regarding what dosage may be most appropriate for your little one’s needs, and they can also steer you in the right direction if melatonin is not the best idea.

Can a 3-Year-Old Overdose on Melatonin?

There is currently no research on whether taking melatonin on a daily basis is harmful, however, more research is needed to confirm the safety of consistent use of melatonin by children. It can, however, lead to some side effects in kids especially, including dizziness, headaches, mood changes, and morning grogginess, but these symptoms may resolve if you switch your child to a lower dose.

That said, there are some situations where your child may be better off steering clear of melatonin, because their sleep disturbances may resolve without the use of sleep aids.

These situations include:

  • Situational insomnia, which is being caused by an anxiety-inducing situation such as starting a new school year
  • Short-term insomnia, which is associated with illnesses such as an ear infection
  • Insomnia that is being caused by some underlying health condition like sleep apnea or restless legs
  • Any child that is younger than 3 and who has not been instructed by a health professional to take melatonin

When in doubt, consult your pediatrician before giving your child any amount of melatonin.

The Bottom Line

The highest recommended dose of melatonin for adults is 10 mg, and any dose higher than this should not be taken unless it has been prescribed by, and is being supervised by, a health professional.

A good rule of thumb is to always consult your doctor whenever you have concerns or uncertainties about proper usage of melatonin supplements.

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Healthy Directions Staff Editor