Melatonin Isn’t a Sleeping Pill: 3 Reasons to Avoid Melatonin

Why melatonin is bad for you + better alternatives

“Melatonin is not a sleeping pill”

That’s what Dr. Michael Breus, “The Sleep Doctor,” tells patents who inquire about this popular supplement. Like me and many other practitioners who have researched this supplement, Dr. Breus believes melatonin is a bad answer to insomnia.

Dr. Breus, who was featured on the Dr. Oz show to discuss the problems with melatonin, explains,

This is the really important thing you should understand about melatonin: Melatonin is a sleep and body clock regulator – NOT a sleep initiator. Melatonin works with your biological clock by telling your brain when it is time to sleep. Melatonin does not increase your sleep drive or need for sleep. (Read more)

Why melatonin is bad for you?

“If it’s all natural, why is melatonin bad for you?” my mom asked, when I expressed my concern with this supplement after learning that she takes it on-and-off for her insomnia. “Boy, have I got a blog post for you!” I replied.

In short, melatonin is a hormone that correlates with sleep cycles and plays beneficial roles in numerous physiological functions. But melatonin supplements are neither a safe, natural nor effective solution to insomnia.

1. Melatonin supplements are hormone therapy

Are you taking melatonin? Then you are using hormone therapy. Hormone therapy is a very complicated topic ripe with detrimental health consequences when used carelessly. Often, hormone therapy is the “easy answer” to hormone imbalance and so the layperson, under the guidance of a practitioner or not, will reach for this answer. One common example of hormone therapy is progesterone cream. Melatonin is another.

The popularity of melatonin greatly worries me because hormone therapy should be approached with due caution, wisdom and knowledge. The practitioners whom I most respect use hormone therapy with the most extreme reservation, always preferring to use diet/lifestyle/supplement changes before using hormone therapy only when necessary as a last resort. Why? More often than not, including the case of melatonin, hormone therapy can do more harm than good. 

This is the analogy I use when explaining the potential consequences of hormone therapy:

Most of the hormones in the body are governed by negative feedback, which works like your household thermostat. Say you set your thermostat to 72 degrees and the room temperature is 69 degrees. The heater kicks in to warm the room up.  When the temperature reaches 72 degrees, the heat shuts off until the temperature drops again.

Administering hormones can actually shut off our body’s hormonal negative feedback loop. It’s like heating a room by a space heater and the furnace shuts off because it isn’t needed.

In this case, the “furnace shutting off” translates to the hypothalamus-pituitary connection becoming dysfunctional. When communication between the hypothalamus and pituitary – the master hormone-regulation center in the body – becomes compromised, it leads to many other hormone imbalances.

2. Melatonin is not a “sleep hormone”

While healthy levels of melatonin are key for optimal health, more melatonin doesn’t necessarily translate to better sleep. Why?

Insomnia is not caused by melatonin deficiency, and melatonin is not a sleep hormone. Actually, melatonin has very little to do with falling asleep. Melatonin is produced in the presence of darkness and it just happens to correlate with sleep cycles.

Emily from Butter Believer has done her research on melatonin and here’s what she found:

In spite of all the hype, very little scientific research has been done on melatonin supplements. And in fact, the limited evidence to support it as a sleep aid has indicated that it may only be useful in remedying jet lag and may help to induce sleep in the elderly—and again, these studies are often biased and paid for by the industry itself. They also were found to have used healthy sleepers as subjects, not people who have insomnia. And the results were very inconsistent.

There simple is no solid scientific evidence to support melatonin’s effectiveness for treating insomnia in young and middle-aged adults. NONE! And there have been several studies which actually concluded that melatonin definitively does not significantly improve total sleep time, nor reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. It has therefore been proven completely ineffective in treating insomnia. (Read more)

This makes sense, since melatonin is not a sleep hormone. It is a hormone with a wide range of physiological functions. Like I said, by playing a role in regulating our circadian rhythm, melatonin does tie into sleep patterns. But it does not induce sleep.

“But melatonin makes me sleepy!” many people say. Melatonin does induce a drowsy stupor because it is a stress hormone. This is misinterpreted as sleepiness. Remember, stress hormones are necessary and beneficial in the body in proper amounts (think cortisol), but excess stress hormones stress out the body .

3. More melatonin is not better

Why melatonin is bad for you + better alternativesToo little melatonin is bad for you. And too much melatonin is a bad for you. Popping a melatonin pill (or two) is the easiest way to overload your body with this hormone.

Research is now revealing that our production of melatonin not only governs our circadian rhythms, but plays a role in scavenging free radicals and supporting the immune system. We know that melatonin is crucial to health, but flooding your system with melatonin doesn’t automatically mean less free radicals and a better immune system. It’s all about melatonin balance.

Side effects of melatonin supplementation are relatively common and highly problematic. According to Dr. Breus, melatonin side effects include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Next-day grogginess
  • Hormone fluctuations
  • Vivid dreams and nightmares (Source)

Is jet leg an exception?

While I do not recommend ever taking melatonin to induce sleep, I think using a melatonin supplement for jet lag is a grey area. Jet lag is an extremely stressful situation from a physiological perspective, and should be minimized or avoided whenever possible. Taking a melatonin supplement the first night of your arrival in a new time zone might help your body shift its circadian rhythms. However, I would never personally take melatonin for jet lag due to the problematic aspects discussed here.

There are better ways to solve insomnia!

Many people try melatonin because they feel desperate for  a good nights sleep. Skip the melatonin and try these truly natural and effective solutions for insomnia:

  • Keep a strict sleep routine. Set a regular bedtime and wake-up time and stick to it, even on weekends. The time period between 10pm and 12pm is a key period for the body’s repair processes according to many naturopaths and Chinese medicine practitioners, so aim to be in bed before 10.
  • Get exposure to sunlight – natural or artificial – immediately upon waking. In the morning as soon as you get out of bed, open your drapes and soak in the sunlight for a few moments. This immediately drops your melatonin levels, which will balance your circadian rhythm. If you don’t have access to bright natural  light in the morning, something to consider is using a Wakeup Light, which I use and highly recommend. Here’s my experience with a wakeup light.
  • Minimize blue light exposure after sunset. Blue light is emitted from screens (your phone, tablet, laptop, TV, etc.) and tricks your body into thinking that it is daytime. The body interprets blue light as daylight, and constant exposure after sunset is physiologically stressful. Install F.lux, a free program that eliminates the blue light from your phone/computer after sunset. Also, use orange-tinted glasses (these ones) to filter out blue light if you watch TV before bed.
  • Balance your blood sugar. Balanced blood sugar is absolutely vital to falling asleep and staying asleep. It’s too complex to discuss in a few sentences, so please read my post 10 Ways to Balance Blood Sugar Naturally.
  • Invest in a better mattress. You will spend 1/3 of your life on your mattress, so a proper mattress is an extremely important investment in your whole health. Conventional mattresses are drenched in chemical flame retardants that are linked to serious health issues. Further, a mattress that properly supports your back alignment and re-distributes your weight can drastically improve sleep quality. I found IntelliBED, a unique mattress company whose products improve sleep quality and are also free of toxic flame retardants. After my research, I switched to IntelliBED and highly recommend it. You can learn more about toxic mattresses and IntelliBED in my post here.
  • Use a standing desk. Do you sit at a desk for much of the day? You probably haven’t heard this tip before, but transitioning to a standing desk can drastically improve your insomnia. This has been my experience, so I began recommending it to my friends and family members with insomnia and they reported fantastic results. You can purchase a standing desk or make your own very affordable version, just google, “DIY Standing Desk.”

How to balance melatonin naturally

As a followup to this post, I wrote 7 Ways to Balance Melatonin Naturally. These simple steps support your body’s production and regulation of melatonin, and also encourage overall wellbeing.

Have you used melatonin supplements? (Don’t forget to share this post using the buttons below with your friends and family members who use this supplement!)

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  1. Carolyn says

    You mention melatonin being used for jet lag…what about those (such as nurses) who have night jobs and use melatonin to help them switch back and forth from sleeping at night to sleeping in the day, etc? I have several nurse friends and quite a few say melatonin is one of the only ways they can get to sleep during the day.

    • says

      That’s a great question and I think that is another grey area where melatonin might remedy some of the physiological stress of night shifts. Like jet lag, night shifts are very stressful on the body. One thing that some nurses and frequent travelers do is wear their orange-tinted glasses at night, to help keep melatonin in balance. It may sound weird, but it does help.

    • peter says

      I use melatonin for 5 days ever 2 to 3 weeks. It’s the only way to get me sleeping thru the night on the shifts where I have to wake up at 3 am. I’m sleepy by 7 and sleeping by 730pm. If I don’t take it I will awake by 10 pm and won’t be able to fall back to sleep. It is he’ll working the 430 amam shift followed by the 830 pm shift then 1230pm.

      Do you think using melatonin on that 3am shift will be benificial

    • Stan says

      3 mg of melatonin is just fine. I have a deep, restful and refreshing sleep and after a cup of good coffee and some protein and carbs for breakfast I feel great.

    • says

      The research I’ve done on pharmaceutical sleeping pills has led me to believe that much of it is biased because is is industry-funded and even though that is the case, the research shows sleeping pills are vastly ineffective. It’s often the placebo effect. I don’t think sleeping pills or melatonin is a good answer. My philosophy about insomnia is that it’s not about taking a pills, it’s about addressing the underlying lifestyle and stress factors.

      • Ashley says

        I haven’t done the research but I have heard that when using sleeping pills you don’t fall into that deep restorative sleep.

  2. Ashley says

    I’ve had insomnia for the past 6 months due to extreme stress. I tried melatonin, Valerian root and a few other “natural” products, all to no avail. My ND recently recommended a cortisol blocker. I’ve been taking it about an hour before bed for the past week. I had a hard time falling/staying asleep for the first few nights but now it seems to be working REALLY well. Any thoughts on cortisol blockers?

    • says

      I’m writing a post about using essential oils for sleep and I think it will really help you! I’ll have it ready in the next couple of weeks. The oils I recommend will help balance your hormones (including cortisol) to improve sleep. Personally, I believe this is a much better option than cortisol blockers.

        • Theresa says

          You can also try withania somnifera (ashwagandha.) I take it when I’m getting stressed out, it blocks cortisol.. The other thing I use which makes a big difference is Natural Calm– a magnesium supplement.

          • Mark says

            Always been a successful sleeper (at last, something I’m good at) but lately I’ve had a terrible time getting to sleep. Have watched my clock tick over to 4 am many times. Have tried magnesium together with calcium (Tums) in a 1:2 ratio. Does not work on me, although I did not take for more than a few days. People keep telling me that melatonin is the way to go, but I’m not so sure. My job at a college is not stressful and we practice good sleep hygiene (except for the clock watching).

  3. Kristina says

    My husband and I recently bought a house and since we’ve moved in I have slept terribly. I have never had problems falling asleep or staying asleep before. The only big factors that I can think of that May contributing to my insomnia are out new house has no ac and it is a fixer upper so maybe increased stress levels?
    We already follow a pretty natural lifestyle and I have wool mattress. If you have any advice I would appreciate it :)

    • says

      This might sound a bit weird but it could be that your bed is on a spot where earth radiation paths cross. I can’t explain it into detail but from what I understand is that there are radiation lines all across our globe, a bit like magnetic fields, and when they cross the energy on such a spot can cause problems like insomnia, restlesness etc. We once had a lady over at our house that could spot these points with a divining rod. We then either had to move some furniture or place metal figures on these spots to guide the radiation towards other directions. We had asked her help because our daughter of then 18 months would wake up up to 20 times a night, screaming her lungs out. We moved her bed, but unfortunately it didn’t help. In the end the poor kid had a stomach ulcer which caused her insomnia. But the explanation about the radiation crossing points made sense. A good example of this is when people have a favorite spot in the house to sit, the energy is just right there. Oh, and she also explained that while these crossing points might cause people to feel uneasy, cats love to lie down on these spots 😉 I hope I didn’t sound like a complete lunatic and you will find out what causes your sleeping problems!

  4. says

    I used to take melatonin a lot- as recommended by my pediatrician when I was a teenager and struggled with insomnia. My boyfriend now is British, and dating him I have realized how normal it is for Americans to just pop a pill for… everything… and how that isn’t the case in the rest of the world. He avoids medications at almost all costs. He has to be in serious pain to take ibuprofen. And I am the one who struggles to respond to medication when I really need it. I think being overmedicated my whole life has led to drug resistances. Why are pills the first things doctors recommend when there is a problem in the states? The whole system needs a thorough overhaul. Great information! I’m throwing away my melatonin :)

    • Rachel B says

      It is encouraging that you can “correct” your system to a bit, though. After going off these for a few months, they became much more effective again. I try not to take medication very much, but I do have some really bad migraines and periods that I haven’t yet been able to fully improve with lifestyle changes, and when I literally cannot go to work because of pain… that’s a problem, and a couple of pills in that case are my compromise.

  5. Mina says

    would you please guide me to pick up some oils?there are just so many oils out there named as beauty oils and essential oils and its so confusing which one to choose from,so I just wanted to know If I wanted to stick to a mix of oils and go with it ,what would be the most powerful and nutrient dense to use please?

    • Michele says

      I would look into lavender or vitiver essential oil. And also balance and serenity essential blends. Pure oil brands are dōTERRA, Young Living and Spark Naturals, they have oils safe for ingestion. Spark Naturals is probably the most affordable and you can use a code and get a discount. The code is SUNFLOWERS

      • Maria says

        How do you use these oils? I know that a few drops of lavender added to the tub is a great relaxer but do you ingest these oils (i.e. lavender and vetiver?)

        • Lissa says

          In the case of Lavender and most oils, you can dilute it with a bit of pure oil like coconut oil and rub it into the bottom of your feet. With oils, you do have to experiment a bit. I find for myself that lavender doesn’t help while my friend passes out with it.

  6. Karen McGinnis says

    Great article!
    I have suffered from insomnia off and on my whole life. I tried melatonin too because it’s so accessible and apparently effective. I bought it in liquid form so I could control my doses. I used to take 2 drops as a last resort. While I feel it did help me sleep, if I woke in the middle of the night I felt drugged. My eyes could only open part way and ,my mind was fogged. 90% of the time I would have a headache the next day and it did give me crazy dreams! sometimes nightmares.
    So now, if I can’t sleep, I use the Bach Flower Remedy for sleep. After a few squirts of that on my tongue I’m guaranteed to be sleepy in 20 mins, it also shuts down my monkey mind.
    I also take magnesium after dinner and a zinc tablet right before bed. This all helps.
    And, (yes I have researched this a lot too) I have been making and taking an adrenal cocktail. Google it if you want more info. Quite often the reason we wake 4-5am and can’t get back to sleep is our cortisol levels from our over stressed adrenals. This cocktail has helped me tremendously.

    • Martin says

      Valerian root from the Valerian root plant is a real sleep and REM pill you get deep sleep that is achieved faster than we normally do thus you get a higher quality sleep and wake up feeling like you slept well!

  7. Dawn says

    I wanted to share your article, however, there is a spelling error in the first sentence. If you will correct, I will share with a bioidentical doctor who I see and who has recommended that I take melatonin on a number of occasions, which I also think is wrong…..not that I believe everything that Dr. Oz says….
    Thank you!

  8. Mary says

    I have been taking it for years and will continue to do so. It is the only thing that helps me sleep and I wake up feeling great. To me, this sounds like a bunch of BS!

    • D'yani says

      Lauren does a huge amount of research about things, and you can see the evidence of all the research from the rest of her site’s content. I doubt she’s just half-assing this article now. And it all makes sense to me. I also rely on melatonin every night, but now seeing it in this light makes me understand I may want to stop. I will lean on magnesium and maybe seek out some flower remedies for sleeping, instead.

    • Stacy says

      @Mary agreed! Melatonin changed my life! For years I used to stare at the ceiling unable to fall asleep for 60-90 minutes every night, even though I was tired. With melatonin I fall asleep easily every time. Whenever I skip it for some reason (even if I just forget) I remember soon enough when an hour has passed and I am still awake. You will never convince me this is a placebo effect!

    • lisa says

      agree about the bs i like the way this helps me fall into a good sleep I used to have the weird dreams at 3 mg mow i just use 1mg and I am liking the sleep effect very much! and no more weird dreams

  9. Jet says

    What would you suggest for us Alaskans who have non-stop sunlight for half of the year? I figure my melatonin level is probably very low during the summer. Would that be a good ‘excuse’ to use melatonin supplements?

  10. Berta Anderson says

    I stared taking melatonin about a month ago,I recently when off ice cool and my hot flashes was a lot better, but now they are coming back, so is that because of the melatonin.

  11. KE says

    Love this topic. My sleep quality is terrible: I wake up at least 3 times a night, and as often as every 90 minutes. I want to try the oils, magnolia, 5htp, anything else that might help. Looking fwd to more posts on this!!

    • says

      I was a diagnosed insomniac at age 14. My mom was killed in front of our eyes when I was 7 and it didn’t get much better from there. Never wanted to sleep. At age 46, after countless pills that were killing people in Hollywood and 5 supplements – I have finally found my HOLY GRAIL!!! So excited I am able to sleep PILL FREE, no more brain fog, and off all my other meds for anxiety, depression, IBS, restless legs…….. still having a hard time believing I don’t need an Rx to feel this good. Only been 3 weeks of medication free life, and it’s wonderful! Good luck~ if you want to come to the “natural side of health”, you can message me.

      • Stephen says

        What did you do, to get drug free. I have chronic pain, and am sick of the pills. I to take 9th of melatonin a night. Appreciate any suggestions.

      • Sara says

        Hi can you help me and tell me about “natural side of health ” to use for my bi polar disorder and anxiety and hard time to sleep , please please email me!

  12. Denise says

    I tried melatonin a few years ago. I have chronic insomnia and heard that it helped people sleep. Well it didn’t work for me. In fact it made me hyper so that night I got no sleep at all. I threw the bottle away. So I guess I’m the oddball cause I haven’t heard of anyone else who had this problem with it.

    • D'yani says

      That result may indicate other hormone levels may be in such a balance that melatonin doesn’t work properly anymore. Unfortunately, this is a very complicated area to understand! My husband says melatonin makes him have really horrible “waking nightmares” that he has troubles snapping back from, and he feels he doesn’t even actually rest when he takes it. So, a similar confusing reaction. But his brain chemicals are all frighteningly low, and skewed.

      • cis says

        When you say you “take melatonin”, what dosage and type? I would never take a high dosage (3mg or so) and would only consider the time-release version. I found that 300mg time-release worked well for me to reduce time to fall asleep, deepens sleep, and I hoped it has been improving regeneration of all body’s systems). So my suggestion is only use time-release versions and low dosages… after all, our bodies release melatonin over time, not just at midnight, say…. I am here because last night I read a thought-provoking article about melatonin-serotonin-oestrogen (estrogen for non-Europeans). The article is against the theory that serotonin improves mood disorders and says that melatonin and oestrogen are similar, so I wondered if melatonin could be causing the oestrogen-dominance and inexplicable weight gain I have been seeing lately! That would NOT be good… tried sleeping without melatonin last night (I was very tired) and did sleep “enough hours” but woke up about 10 times, for just a few seconds, I might add… but still annoying…

        • cis says

          I meant… I take 300mcg time-release melatonin and would not take any more (or the standard, non-time-release version) . PS: I did tell you I skipped my usual melatonin last night… feeling groggy today

  13. Raquel says

    I think this post sways from addressing melatonin as a cure for insomnia, and melatonin use in general – which are two separate issues.

    For those many, many people who suffer from moderate fatigue or difficulty falling asleep (who have not been clinically diagnosed to suffer from insomnia), melatonin supplements can be an excellent resource to help induce the natural hormone that is released as “night time” falls.

    As someone already mentioned, those who live north of the 49th parallel (Canada, Alaska, etc.) don’t have the luxury of having moderate/regular daytime & night time hours, which can affect the body’s natural hormone release function for the “sleepy hormone”. For example, where I live, the sun sets at 4:30pm in December and doesn’t rise until 8:30am!!

    Irregular nigh time hours. combined with moderate caffeine consumption, and smartphones, tablets, TV, etc. giving off artificial light and revving up the brain (rather than the natural calming, sleep inducing affect of the orange light of the sun at dusk), temperatures that are too high or too cold, etc. etc. etc. taking melatonin can be extremely beneficial to help your body produce a hormone that it should be naturally producing – withstanding all our modern day technologies and lifestyle choices., i.e. sometimes the body, in this fast-paced world, needs a little extra help to function as it should, cue: quality supplements.

    To quote a pharmaceutical grade supplement company, created by a large team of both scientists and physicians, “Melatonin is excellent for people who struggle with fatigue and falling asleep at night. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone synthesized in the brain that regulates normal sleep and wake cycles. Melatonin levels naturally start to rise in the evening and remain elevated for most of the night, signalling to our body that it is time to sleep. As melatonin levels rise, we become less alert and feel drowsy. [A good quality melatonin] supplement supports the natural increase of melatonin production at night. They are not sleeping pills. When taken at bedtime, oral [melatonin] supplements support the body’s natural circadian rhythms and have been clinically proven to help promote sleep, which restores the body after daily exposure to free radicals and general wear and tear.”

    • Raquel says

      And, as always, great post, it made me consider things I wouldn’t normally consider! I really enjoyed it, as well as the weekly newsletters I receive in my inbox!! Thanks Lauren Geersten for creating this fantastic website! It’s been on of my main go-to health resource as of late. :-)

    • Carolyn says

      What is being missed by some from the information is that as a hormone which is naturally occurring in the body in accordance to physiological conditions …time of day, light exposure etc… the body should respond and make melatonin, but if we give our body the thing that we are supposed to make we are essentially shutting off our own natural production pathway . We in the US find it easier to do this , treat a symptom, then find the root cause .
      I thought the information very informative, I have a sone who has his nights and days mixed up, now I believe d/t late night exposure to the computer. Thank-you

  14. Suz says

    Dr. Breus is a Ph.D and NOT a Medical Physician!! There are many double blind placebo controlled studies regarding the efficacy of melatonin. Use of melatonin often helps regulate sleep cycle so one stops needing it. As always, sleep hygiene is so important– turning off all electronics one to two hours before bed!!!

  15. Libby says

    I have stopped taking Melatonin after reading an article that pointed out exactly was Lauren mentioned about the hormones.
    As a bad sleeper myself (aged 60) I have also tried many different remedies and what works for me now is, collagen, Montmorency tart cherries and magnesium and the best advice I was given and it works, is no more food after dinner for example 6.30pm. Results – sleeping like a baby.

    • Donna says

      Those things work for me too. Along with the adrenal cocktail ( 1/2 cup OJ, 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar, & 1/2 tsp. sea salt.) right before bed.

  16. Haley says

    Everything I read always says to sleep in complete darkness to get a restful sleep, which makes total sense. But I have a bad habit of sleeping with the TV on. I’ll even go to weird extents to sleep with the TV on at friends or family’s house. Is this bad, or how bad is it? How can I get out of this habit? This has been going on a few years now.

    • Donna says

      Haley, maybe it’s noise you need. Have you tried a fan, or a white noise machine? That works for lots of folks.

  17. Robyn says

    I take it every night, I love it! I do all of the lifestyle changes you recommend, and am healthy. I used to be a really light sleeper, and would wake up so easily. I go to bed at 10pm, take my melatonin while I read, and about 15 minutes later I’m so relaxed I fall asleep into a deep restful sleep. The only “side effect” I have is vivid dreams, but quite frankly I like that, I used to have trouble remembering my dreams and now I do. I can’t see a drawback, I wake up refreshed, no problem in the morning. So, I guess why I’m saying all this is that I think some people need it, and it may not be good for everyone, but it’s been good for me. I think some people don’t produce enough melatonin, so supplementing is only bringing them into balance. I know it’s often recommended for autism, many parents swear by it, and many studies have proven it affective. My daughter was completely unaffected by it, but it’s always worked great for me. I’m sure I’ve seen a study about it helping to prevent/fight cancer recently. I’ve also read it’s good for GERD, I suffered with that before, I’m not sure whether it’s coincidence or all the other natural remedies I did to cure it, but I don’t have it anymore either.

    • beth says

      I too have always had trouble falling asleep, and take melatonin and in about 15 minutes i am tired and fall asleep. I never wake in the night, rarely dream, wake up fully rested, never tired in the day and see nothing negative about it. I’m 55 and have had no hot flashes, and went thru radiation therapy for throat cancer with few problems. It was recommended that I take melatonin to help my body make new cells. I never had to have a nap in my whole treatment period. 5 days a week for 7 weeks. The doctors and nurses at the cancer clinic could not believe how well my body took the treatment when the other people taking the same treatment had some pretty awful things happen because of the radiation. I never get colds or flus or any other illnesses. Just need help sleeping and this seems to make my life perfect!

  18. Rachel says

    I want to do more research, but meanwhile I’m not swallowing this article hook, line, and sinker. I know way too many people, including my own kids, who have been helped tremendously by melatonin. I have not seen any bad side effects at all with my kids, or anyone else I know that takes it. At this point we plan to continue using it as it has been such a huge blessing and help. Different things work for different people and its just not possible to apply everything to every body in the exact same way.

    • Debbie says

      I give my 8 year old son melatonin because his Dr suggested it, and it works, he had ADHD and cannot shut down at night. If he doesn’t take it he week be up all night wired be has not had any bad effects from it.

      • Stacey says

        Same with my 15 yr old daughter. She is adhd-inattentive, has been diagnosed with general anxiety disorder andbd I am suspecting more and more that she is on the autism spectrum with mild Aspergers. She has a terrible time getting to sleep because her mind just will not shut off. She takes a 10 mg time released melatonin pill and she gets to sleep easier and stays asleep all night. When she took the non-time released pull she would have issues with waking in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep because again, her mind would be racing. I take a 3 mg pill once in a great while if I see 11pm and I’m still wide awake. I know that I’ll be up forever if I don’t. But that happens only a handful of times each year. The melatonin has been a huge help for my daughter and she will continue to utilize it.

        • Claire Nash says

          same with my 2nd eldest son he has taken melatonin since he was 3yrs in increasing doses currently taking 10mg (15yrs old). Prescribed by gp at first as from baby he only evr sleept a mx of 4 hrs a night but this was carried on by C.A.M.H.S when he was diagnosed with ADHD co-morbid ODD. It has been a god send for myself as single parent i was pretty dead on my feet, my son also has only had bennefits from taking it although thhe last 2 mths he has needed it less think teenage hormones can be thanked for that. The point i wanted to raise is how can our bodies make melotonin like they should do when, our water sources, immunisations, toothpaste food are all full of fluride and calcium both of which form a calcium shell around the pineal gland (third eye), the pineal gland is ressponsible for making melatonin and seratonin in the body.

  19. R Merritt says

    I have dystonia and as a result sleep little. I’ve tried all of the above plus some.Nothing worked until my neuro recommended Melatonin because it works for his Parkinson’s patients. I don’t want a pill. I was skeptical, but I tried it. It helped. If this is bad, what are my other options?

  20. Elizabeth Agren says

    When I was working at a health food store parents were starting to come in to buy it for their kids, doctors are recommending high dosages, it was really scary. I warned people not to do it, but of course the doctor is always right, and it’s “natural”.

  21. Elizabeth Agren says

    The other option is long term healing, of the nervous system, of stress response, using herbs and lifestyle. Like healing anything in the body naturally it takes time, patience, and a long term commitment to to trying lifestyle changes.

  22. says

    I have a daughter that is six years old an has been blind for going on three years an has a very hard time gettin to sleep her body just keeps going so I have used melatonin an it works but I am also worried it might have sum thing to do with the reason she went blind from a bacterial infection in her brain that caused an abscess on her eye nerves that made her blind but it dose help her get tired so is it ok to use in her situation not being able to see any light it’s always dark what are your thoughts..

  23. says

    really great article Lauren. the only other thing that i would add is that externally supplementing with melatonin actually impacts the body’s internal self regulation and makes it produce less. Much better to trigger the pineal gland to release melatonin naturally. love that you are putting this out there

  24. Vanessa says

    Would the hormone therapy also apply to 5-htp? I have cycles of depression, but don’t want to take the prescription medication. I take the 5-htp as long as I feel depressed

  25. Ashlyn says

    Just wanted to thank you for this article and your links to useful products, especially the Flux app. It was pretty life-changing. Glad I am following this wonderful newsletter.

    • says

      Totally agree!! I am often up late working on my computer. I knew the light from electronics was bad but I didn’t know there was a way to filter it out. I even downloaded on for my phone. (If you’re Android, check out the Twilight app.)

  26. Katarina Wittich says

    Hi Lauren,
    Usually I love your posts but while I agree with you that the more we can work with insomnia or sleep issues without taking external substances the better, there are many statements in this article that just go against most of what I have ever read about Melatonin.

    For starters I would love to see some references about Melatonin being a stress hormone. I could find none other than the article that you linked to in your article, and that one has no studies or back up attached to it. How is it a stress hormone? What does that mean? Adrenaline and cortisol are hormones created when we are out of balance after long term stress, and they prevent sleep. But oxytocin is a hormone that women make when subjected to stress, but also when happy and cuddly, its the bonding hormone we make when nursing and certainly doesn’t impede sleep.

    My experience with melatonin is that it works sometimes, and sometimes not, but at a time when my hormones were desperately imbalanced from stress it was a lifesaver in terms of sleep, which then diminished my stress. Some forms work better and some are less effective. It seems to me that it is all personal. and each human being has to figure out what works for him or her.

    But the hard science that I have read, like the meta analysis that one reader posted, indicate that melatonin is helpful for many sleep disorders and that it does not diminish in efficacy over time, which would lean in the direction of indicating that the body does not become accustomed to it and therefore stop producing its own in any significant way. So I think it would be very helpful if you could post some links to articles that support scaring people away from melatonin. My osteopath gives it in large doses for cancer as there is increasing evidence that it is one of the most effective antioxidants that exist. I wouldn’t want someone who needs it to steer away without more solid evidence.

    And the person whose article you quoted seems to have an axe to grind of her own as she is selling a book of her theories on sleep. She also states in her notes that Dr. Mercola is not always right about things and has reversed his stance on grains because it was hurting his health not to eat them and that he now advocates eating grains. I have not seen anything like that on his website. He did change his stance on eliminating all carbohydrates, so he now says they are necessary in limited amounts , but he does not mean grains as far as I can tell. So I am suspicious of the science behind this and would like to know more of why you believe melatonin to be damaging, with some concrete proof.

    thanks so much,

  27. says

    Hi Lauren, Thank you for your site in general and all the useful information that you post. I would differ with you a bit on melatonin and hormones in general: there is indeed a place for their use when it is well-supervised and within physiological ranges.

    There might be good reason to put a “caution” tag on over the counter melatonin supplements that people can take habitually without attending to the lifestyle issues that are keeping them awake. But lifestyle attention doesn’t always cut it.

    Melatonin production declines with age, and low melatonin levels are a risk factor for breast cancer and other problems. I recommend low dose (0.3 mg) melatonin, taken with its precursors, for 1-3 months to re-establish a normal sleep cycle, along with all of your other recommendations and a few more!

    I continue that support if regular sleep isn’t established.

    Melatonin is also used in higher doses in naturopathic treatment protocols for cancer survivors and is correlated with prolonged remission, particularly in hormonally sensitive tumors.

    Caution yes, avoidance, no, in my opinion.

    • Jeanne Bisbano says

      This is an interesting discussion. More than three years ago, I was treated for invasive ductal breast cancer with estrogen receptors. On the recommendation of a naturopath, I take 21 mg. (the largest recommended dose) of melatonin. This is in the form of a prescribed capsule through a compounding pharmacy. It is prescribed because it is thought to help fight cancer. It also helps with the insomnia brought on by the taking of tamoxifen (which I now take) and aromatase inhibitors (which I took until a few months ago). The oncologist, the surgeon, the radiation oncologist, the gynecologist and, the primary care doctor all have no problem with my taking this supplement.

  28. Hanna says

    I have used melatonin for a while now. As a nurse I have different shifts and a 2 year old week doesn’t understand this. I don’t use it every night and even I do use melatonin I use very small dose 0.5-1 mg in a large glass of water. It is the only thing that leaves me feeling great the next day and turns my mind off at night. I also made an essential oil rub for my feet at night. I use lavender, clay sage and marjoram mixed with coconut oil. Plant therapy also sells essential oils at an affordable price and had actual aromatherapists to speak too. Therapeutic is a made up term in the essential oil world used by most companies. Please do not ingest oils even though all natural they can still do damage. You need to do your own research not just believe what people tell you. Especially a person who is trying to sell you a product and has no real education on the product they are selling.

  29. Sky says

    A Specialist at Doernbecher in Portland recommended I begin treating my daughter’s sleeping issues with melatonin when she was about 3 1/2 years old. She is now 7 and Still taking it because she NEEDS it! She was recently diagnosed with Severe ADHD and the message we have tried for IT haven’t worked yet. They have caused problems with her sleep so I am not about to take her off of the one thing that has given her (and me) the much needed assistance to fall asleep and STAY asleep Soundly.

    Prior to the use of melatonin she wasn’t able to go to sleep until sometimes 1 in the morning! She would sleep until as late as 1 in the afternoon as her clock never seemed right and she tossed and turned in her sleep to where she constantly fell out of her Toddler bed so I had to move her to Full size so that she had enough room. I would also sleep late as I had been up ALL night with her!

    Melatonin has made a HUGE difference in our life so I will continue it as long as it takes for her body to regulate itself!

    I’d welcome any comments or information that could help otherwise…always.

    Thank you and God Bless!

  30. Kim Weiland says

    My 8 year old has ADHD and a sensory processing disorder. He is on the go 24 hours a day like the energizer bunny. He use to fall asleep the second his head hit the pillow @ 8:15 sharp. We put him on ADHD medications and although they are out of his system by 5 pm he is still super wired and was up talking, playing with toys, and rolling around in bed till at least 9:30. Our neurologist recommended a low dose (1mg) of melatonin and after a lot of research and speaking to his pediatrician we tried it.
    It worked better than I thought. He was asleep by 8:30 and was not groggy in the morning. He did not complain of nightmares either.
    It worked great for us!!!!
    We have a lot of friends also in the same boat too with children on ADHD medications that have been been using Melatonin for years. They all have the same great results and were encouraging me to use it too. I am so glad I did! To each their own. You need to do what works for you.

  31. Patrick says

    I have used Melatonin for long time now and love it.

    It is not the quantity but the quality of sleep I derive from it – much more productive, restful and restorative sleep than when I do not take it.

    My wife used to never have problems sleeping but, as we got older, she started having problems too and now she takes Melatonin and loves it too.

  32. Tina Prins says

    I have been taking 3 mg of melatonin nightly for about a year since getting Lyme disease and two confections. sleep is hard to come by. The past four years, I also have had very low progesterone. As of February this year, I stopped progesterone supplementation because I had too many other meds for the Lyme and cos? In May, I had my progesterone checked and now it is really high but my DHEA and cortisol are in line. Could the melatonin have contributed to my progesterone going up?

  33. Kuuipo T. says

    Last year I was recommended to use Melatonin for my daughter and I. My friend had seen her own Natural Path Guide, said it was the best thing to use for help regulating sleep. Did research to find out if it was true, found no true good answers only that it wasn’t researched tho was .. all natural.
    We used small amounts of melatonin on and off for a few months, some times even daily. If I took to much OR to little I would be stuck awake all gittery. My daughter also would have a cranky attitude even after plenty of care, now I believe it was due to the hormonal change I subjected her to by the Melatonin.
    Thank you for writing this blog. It confirms my fear that I’ve had for the last few months.

  34. Tamie says

    Lauren, thank you so much for this wonderful article on Melatonin. I’m going through menopause and thought Melatonin would help with my sleep issues…I just threw the bottle out. This also explains why I gained 20 pounds in one year as another article said it causes weight gain. Do you think it’s okay if I continue to drink my night-time teas? Like chamomile? ~Tamie

  35. Tay says

    Boo this makes me disappointed I didn’t know much about melatonin and have had chronic insomnia for 6 or so years and I’m under the age of 30 so it seems odd to me. Seen tons of drs and have been out in every damn pill ever and nothing words. I use the young living essential oils, those don’t work, I have seen a neurological chiropractor that didn’t work, I’ve done acupuncture as well as eat healthy exercise and NOTHING works. I am waiting for a sleep clinic, it is an 18 month wait I have about 8 months to go lol but I really thought this was safe to take and it actually helped me sleep a few hours a night without feeling insane like everything else.:( I am glad to read about this but it sucks, thank you for the information and sorry for my massive boring story lol

  36. Markus says

    Hello Lauren,
    I came across this article during a search unrelated to the topic of sleep. It is apparent that research studies on melatonin supplements are inconclusive at best. As you said it is a grey area.

    For that reason I would advise against this kind of publication. I am sure that you are highly knowledgeable in your particular field and I have no wish to offend you personally or professionally.

    But with all due respect I feel it’s inappropriate for a nutritional therapist to present their percieved facts and opinions on a still undecided medical matter, even one talented such as yourself.

    In my opinion you simply shouldn’t present facts where you’re not qualified to do so, and the same goes for the psychologist your article refers to.

    I’d like to add that I share your sentiments that a healthy lifestyle cannot be substituted with supplements.

    I just wish that everyone would leave these medical issues to the actual medical professionals while they’re still undecided, rather than risk misleading those people who may confuse ideological opinions with facts.


    – wishing you good health and success in your endeavors.

    • Rebecca says

      Thank you!

      In addition to Markus’s statement, think is article is actually dangerous too and could lead to worse health issues. Losing sleep or getting poor can send your Adrenal hormones out of whack causes lots of horrible issues like severe anxiety, depression, and Thyroid issues. RX sleep aids are proven to produce a lower quality of sleep and they have endless side effects. I do use oils for many things, but there is no more research on their safety. There also have been cases of toxic overdoses causing death by essential oils.

      For many parents of children with serious health problems, special needs, or other disabilities, Melatonin is many time the ONLY thing allowed to be taken to help their child get sleep. Many RX sleep aids interact with other medications and they also have many side effects.

      Your article wrongfully could lead to parents feeling guilty helping their child sleep by getting them scared of something that’s not proven in ANY way to be dangerous. Sleep is the best medicine for so many problems and to have you possible influence even one parent to pick to have their child lose healing sleep because your making claims without evidence.

      Oils also do not subdue a seriously cognitively disabled child…..Trust me I have tired it!

      You also didn’t mention that melatonin is also a proven powerful antioxidant that is also prescribed by many NDs and MDs for various other health issues (including cancer)….up to 400mg at a time too. 1-3mg…even 10mg to help induce sleep is safest effective sleep method available.

  37. Deryck says

    I’ve never seemed to need much sleep. I’m just coming up to 62 & have got by on 4 or 5 hours each night for about 40 years.
    But for the past year or so, I have had problems with waking after 2 hours & then not being able to go back to sleep again. It seems that I go into the dream stage, then wake up, & that’s it ….. my brain is awake.
    I bought some Melatonin but haven’t taken it every night. They’re tiny capsules but say they are 3mg, so I’m a bit worried about taking such a large dose. On the couple of nights i have taken one, it seemed to help a little but, as I said, my problem is not initially falling asleep.
    The doctor has given me a week’s worth of Zopiclone.
    I’m not happy about taking pills (I have never had a headache so don’t even take Paracetamol. !)
    Do you have any other ideas about how I can stop waking up, or how to get back to sleep again after 2 hours? Should I just read & get up & do stuff until my body tells me to go back to bed & sleep again? I don’t really want to get into that pattern. Just wondered if anyone had any ideas. Thanks.

  38. Victor says

    Hey Lauren,

    I just got an email from a Dr. Sears, and he says that we should take melatonin (he prescribes up to 10mg per day to his patients) to lengthen our telomeres.

    Read below his email:

    • says

      Thanks for sharing, but I had to remove his newsletter email due to potential copyright problems with republishing a newsletter in a blog comment.

  39. Nicole says

    I use melatonin. My doctors (I have a team) allow me to. I have tried other treatments and yes sleep health is important. I’ve had SLE along with several other autoimmune disorders including 2 vicious blood disorders for 18 years. While this article touches on key points of why melatonin is bad, I feel it is somewhat ableist. A good number of people who subscribe to sleep aids are those with “painsomnia.” We are definitely at our wits end…I read this thinking that at the end a variety of treatments would be presented.

    I thank you for this article but I just want to point out that the marginalized group of chronic pain/chronic fatigue/invisible illness/painsomnia are all listening

  40. Janni says

    Had to say something after reading those comments about over-medicating.. Sure, you should think before taking any medication but honestly I can say for myself, sometimes you just have to live with the side-effects of meds.. Because in my case, if I didn’t use my antipsychotics and antidepressants, I probably would’ve ended up dead.. I just need those meds to balance my messed up head.. If I could, I would not use them. But I have tried to live without them and I ended up paranoid, burdened with severe anxiety and anxiety attacks (night time..) and not sleeping for 3 months straight.. So for me, I’d rather sleep, even slightly artificially, than be awake at night.. The only thing that helped me sleep when all of my symptoms were at their worst was proper sleeping pills and sedatives.. And no, it was not placebo.

  41. momofnonsleeper says

    My son was birn with breathing problems his lungs were under developed it caused other issues at the age of 4 we finally got an answer of why he doesn’t sleep. The sleep lab at Children’s Mercy Hospital ran tests and found out my sons brain does not produce meletonine at all. They told us the only way for him to sleep is to put him on 3mg of meletonine and has been on it for 6 years he sleeps threw the night now and wakes up refreshed. I have read many articles that go both ways about this and I have to say that I will trust the dr. That I am talking to face to face and who has done the tests and has the degree on his/her wallfor me to see before I will belive an article wrote by anyone with Dr’s name I dont even know are real. Yes some Dr’s are wrong and dont know what they are doing but we have to also use our judgement and my judgment is that for 4 years my baby did not sleep then thanks to meletonine he know sleeps and is healhier and mommy gets to sleep know.

  42. a Hartfirld says

    “Jet lag should be avoided”.

    How do you suggest that, exactly? Tell my boss I can’t go on that business trip that will put me in a time zone because my sleep schedule will be messed up? Please.

    There are some things in this article I agree with but I’m not buying everything you’re selling here. I was an overnight ER nurse and had to go back and forth between that schedule and a normal one on my weekends. I took melatonin occasionally and never had any problems. To each their own.

  43. Emma says

    I take Power to Sleep every night for about six months now…it really helps me to fall asleep…just read the ingredients…it has 2 mg of melatonin.
    My hormones are unbalanced now…wondering if taking this every night may be the reason?

  44. scott says

    Both my boys take( 2) 3 mg melatonin tablets on a nightly basis my boys are 11 and 7 is that good for my boys to be taking it on a nightly basis???

  45. Rinkey says

    From 1979 to 2003 I worked night shift, 11P-7A. I had children and spent an unhealthy lifestyle sleeping two shifts, 12P to 5P then a short nap from 7P-930P. Maybe, most times not getting night sleep. Went thru spell of the beer sleeping aid but never a good sleep. I tried two rx meds and one had me wandering around naked and peeing in house. Restoril was one of them. I started Melatonin 1 mg and did fine with no hangover.effect. I did read before I started that more than 1 mg should be avoided but I see up to 5 mg are on shelves now. I am not on night shift anymore and I do take the 2 mg melatonin a couple times a week and do have nightmares/dreams but feel refreshed the next day

  46. Hannah says

    i use to take melatonin after I had my son, it helped greatly. It didn’t knock me out like the other pills I was prescribed or suggested. I read an article though that taking it too much can cause problems so I’ve stopped taking them. But my insomniac friend was up for days and he said it worked great.
    I agree with some of the things said in this article, but disagree on some.

  47. says

    I did not see anything compelling in this post that will keep me from using naturally produced Melatonin. It actually sounded as if the information was simply talked in circles. I did, however, see quite a few spelling and syntax errors which leads me question the integrity of the content and the writer..

    My goodness…the very first sentence says, “that’s what Dr. Michael Breus, “The Sleep Doctor,” tells patents who inquire about this popular”…patents?? I think you mean patients.

  48. Joy Davis says

    I used melatonin for four years- 3 mgs before bed every night. I took it for migraines. It actually slashed the migraines by 70% but I now realize that it might have compromised my endocrine system dramatically as I went into meno at 39 and I am all the way through by 43.

    Have you heard of Melatonin use for Migraines.

    Joy Davis

  49. Kevin says

    I wonder if you even bothered to do a literature review before writing this blog? I spent a total of 15 minutes searching medline, pubmed, and the cochrane database of systematic reviews and found MULTIPLE articles espousing the safety and efficacy of melatonin for temporary relief of insomnia in elderly, adult, and pediatric populations. Your conclusions seem logical, but are simply not based on science., and you lose credibility immediately when you site Dr. Oz. As a source of information.
    One thing I do agree with on is the importance of sleep hygiene and treating the underlying issue behind the insomnia, especially for those with chronic issues, but for those with jet lag, shift workers, or short term insomnia melatonin is both safe and effective so please stop spreading this muck.

    • Ruta says

      I agree Kevin. My experience is positive on melatonin. I hesitated to take any pill, however, the first time I took melatonin was after many years of no quality and lack of quantity of sleep. I took 2 weeks straight. I think what it did for me was to “reset” my nervous system. It felt good to sleep through the night and remember nothing about it :) I still use it occasionally, but I try not to relay on it. I never had side effects.

  50. pamela tevolini says

    I have been suffering off and on with insomnia and normally will take a sleeping med, but I don’t take it on a consistent basis, as I worry about building up a tolerance and having to increase the dosage, and I don’t want to be dependent on it. The pill that I use gives me about 6 hours of sleep and I have no hangover in the morning.

    Last night I took Melatonin for the first time, 1 mg, I was told to take it 1-2 hours before bedtime. Within 10 minutes I was very drowsy so proceeded up to bed. I started having nausea and terrible stomach cramps. I felt very warm in bedIand started gettinga very stuffy nose. Then more than once I woke up from a nightmare screaming out loud. I had pain in the back of my head, neck and upper back. At 4 a.m. I had a full blown migraine. All day today I have felt headachy, and disoriented.

    I will never take Melatonin again. I started researching further before I got to this website and there are a number of websites that warn about taking it and the side effects. I don’t think Lauren is entirely wrong for making those statements, it’s not for everyone, just like taking other hormones is not for everyone.

  51. brent bernard says

    I believe your article is not accurate or is it helpful for those of us who have suffered with insomnia for years. My melatonin regimen along with a dose of magnesium has greatly improved my life with zero side effects for 10 years. As well as allowing me to function during the day better it has also given me much more ability to retain information during the day and feel better in general. I have deep sleep yes and dream vividly but that is what I understand is normal and healthy for most individuals.
    Your comments show no real scientific proof or studies of large samples that would cause me to change a thing that I have been doing for the last 10 years. My suggestion is to check your facts, cite real studies done by real doctors. The alternatives for severe insomnia are prescribed meds and the results of those are very destructive. Your anecdotal remedies do not help most severe or moderate insomnia sufferers such as myself.
    My suggestion for your subscribers is to try it for yourself and if it seems to help then continue on if you are experiencing any side effects that you do not like discontinue use.

  52. Theresa says

    Hi Lauren . I found your post very interesting and would like to know your thoughts on melatonin production in the pineal gland off the brain as I had mine removed due to a tumour and take melatonin medication every night to sleep as I can’t sleep at night at all without it . Where is your evidence to suggest then that I don’t need it as I don’t have a pineal gland to make melatonin. I feel I have no choice ! I sleep within 30 min of taking melatonin and wake up refreshed everyday . If there are other options I am jnterested in hearing about them too .

  53. Kayla says

    Thank you for the article. My 10 yr old son’s pediatrician and a neurologist that he has seen for very mild Tourette’s (intermittent tics) and ADHD have both doctors have okayed the use of small doses of melatonin (under 3mg) but have suggested he take it only for a short period of time before coming off it. There should be “breaks” from the melatonin, they said.
    He has been off and on for about a year now, maybe more. On the melatonin, he was falling asleep great but waking up in the middle of the night, talking in his sleep and walking into my room, where he would end up on my floor or in my bed. I took him off it completely a month ago, and though it takes him a little longer to fall asleep, and it sometimes required me to lay down with him to fall asleep, for the most part he has not waken at night, and he seems more rested in the morning. I feel as if the melatonin, even at small doses, was causing some distress in his sleep, and while it was definitely getting him to sleep, it was not a restful sleep. I think we are done with the melatonin. Very interesting article. I agree with you 100% on finding the heart of the issue instead of just popping a pill.

  54. Pat Buck says

    After not sleeping well or at the wrong times I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and while the use of a c-pap improved the quality of my sleep some of the sleep problems remained. After yet another sleep study it was suggested that I try melatonin but only 1mg or less and to take it 3-4 hours before I went to bed. ( I took one over the counter sleep pill and one or two prescribed sleep pills and will never take another one). The melatonin works well if I take it on time as told. A granddaughter had trouble staying asleep and if she takes it for a day or two then she doesn’t need it for a while. It must reset something in her brain. But it works. I really trust my sleep doc and will keep taking the melatonin. (I’m in my mid-seventies)

  55. says

    I would like to see your research and studies, because I feel that you are biased. I also just read that melatonin IS a sleep hormone, as it is produced to signal nighttime and to prepare for sleep.

  56. Jade says

    Hi, I have an 8 year old son with high functioning autism. His doctor recommend melatonin 1mg at night. Works great but after reading this I’m worried about continuing. It helps him. Without it it takes him an hour or more to fall asleep. His mind cannot turn off and he just lays there. Any suggestions for a safer alternative? Also for myself. Due to stress I cannot fall asleep or stay asleep. Thank you for any input.

  57. Jay says

    I am a RN And work 12 hour day/night rotation. I do not have too much trouble sleeping but I use the melatonin after night shifts as it is an antioxidant that my body does not produce when I am working nights. There are a multitude of health problems that come along with long term shift work and there are theories that this has to do with decreased melatonin production. What do you suggest as alternatives to melatonin supplementation in this instance?

  58. David O'Brien says

    Excellent article. I still read comments all over the place, melatonin regulates this and that, melatonin’s all about falling asleep. Melatonin is about seeing in the dark, and the emotional/psychological associations that come with that. If it’s getting dark, then your mind is getting out of hunting phase and into reward/unwind/imagine phase.

    Obviously if you don’t have a pineal gland you would have to take melatonin, otherwise your brain will start synthesising it in your eyes, and you’ll go blind.

    No surprise at all that melatonin supplements work well for those on changing shift work, or for jet lag, or for ADHD either really. Makes sense. Supplementation would only ever be useful for anyone needing to force their brain into melatonin mode unnaturally.

    Article is spot on, melatonin is not a sleeping aid in itself, not for standard insomnia, good for shifting/forcing onset of dark/light rhythms.

  59. Sara says

    I have Asperger’s Syndrome. I’ve tried all the “alternatives” but I still had terrible insomnia. My doctor suggested I take melatonin, because people on the autism spectrum usually produce too little melatonin and their brains don’t get the hint that it’s time to go to bed. The “harmful, ineffective” pill actually works. Call me crazy, but I’m more inclined to trust someone with a doctorate degree over someone who probably has no medical training.

  60. Sana says

    hi, does anyone here suffer from chronic fatigue? I have been having headaches n fatigue 24/7 for 3.5 months (6 months postpartum) though i can sleep very well cuz my sleeps all night but i have pressure headaches n severe fatigue all day,someone has suggested melatonin, would it help? Confused

  61. Kaylie says

    I’m concerned about this. I have been worried for a while that I am not a deep enough sleeper – I am a light sleeper and am usually conscious enough through the night to rearrange my hair and blankets, for instance, when I shift into a more comfortable position. I very rarely dream (yes, yes, “that I know of”) and was worried I might not be getting proper sleep cycles (I usually sleep for at least 7 – 8 hours per night and detest waking up, as well). I took melatonin for the past two nights and had dreams I can recall both times. I really enjoy dreaming and wanted to continue to use the supplement. Do you have any insight into what might be going on?

  62. Bianca says

    Hi there, i am a mother of a 2.5 year old who takes hours upon hours to get to sleep and have tried every trick in the book really. Recently i took my daughter to the doctor who prescribed melatonin 2ml per night, I bought i yesterday and she has had two 1.5ml doses. Last night she fell asleep in no time at all, and tonight she is extremely groggy and disorientated. Something just doesn’t seem normal, hence this post to ask is it safe for infants or has there been scientific evidence to conclude it is not?

  63. Jim says

    Wow, Mike Breus, Ph.D. has never published an actual research study regarding his findings or anything of the like. He’s just another guy who jumped through hoops for a little longer in order to receive a more prestigious title and a higher paycheck. He’s just another tv personality quack who makes claims and expects everyone to accept them because you can address him as “Doctor.” Oh, you say he was on Dr. Oz? Sure, appearing as an entertainer on a tv show sponsored by private companies really legitimizes his findings (sarcasm).

    I hope you know Ph.D. Means doctorate in philosophy. Not medicine. Not biology. Not nutrition.

    When you build your house on a foundation of sand, it sinks (It’s an analogy, by the way).

    • Jim says

      Other than this glaring problem in your science, wonderful website, really. I apologize for the harshness.


  64. says

    I would like to take issue with a few things you say. First, there is no negative feedback for melatonin as there is for say thyroid hormone. The only inhibitory influence on melatonin production is daylight and cortisol production. Secondly – a WORLD of difference when considering supplementing in the young, who should have nice healthy levels of melatonin, and in those over 50 whose levels declined with each decade and might have trouble sleeping that is aging them prematurely. Finally, melatonin has huge benefits when properly used, and well formulated. Returning cyclic sleep is huge and more valuable than thinking of it as a sleeping pill. It’s also a great immune booster, and safely used (helpfully used) in HIGH doses with oncology patients.
    BUT overall, I agree with you – that there have to be lifestyle modifications first and they will best support melatonin properly used. I clearly have to write a column about melatonin for my website!

  65. Kara says

    I have heard that older folks don’t produce melatonin. I’m 69 and take a little every night. (2-3mg). Is this a problem?

  66. Shane says

    With all due respect, this article is weak. You are clumping all hormones into a “negative feedback system” of which you have no knowledge. Melatonin is not known to be involved in any negative feedback systems that I am aware of. You give no examples of even hints of short or long-term side affects associated with melatonin use. I agree that it is best to try lifestyle modifications first, but the fact is that some people need additional aids for sleep. I agree that it is best to err on the side of caution when supplementing (especially hormones), but this article is a weak, unscientific opinion and should be regarded as such.

  67. chris says

    You keep saying “for insomnia” it is not promoted for insomnia but for occasional sleeplessness. Says so on the bottle. As soon as you used a Dr. Oz reference I discredited anything your article said due to the FACT Oz (not a doctor) has no truth to what he says. Real doctors and scientists have proven there is no data to support the garbage he spews on his show.

  68. Donna says

    What about using melatonin for the blind? My boy uses 1 mg and it has helped him fall asleep. He used to be up for hours until he could relax and sleep.

  69. says

    I don’t think you have a clear understanding of what insomnia is? Insomnia is a chemical imbalance in more than just melatonin and it doesn’t matter if you stick to a sleep schedule or use a sun lamp or get a new mattress. Insomnia isn’t just “I can’t sleep” it isn’t just not falling asleep by your bedtime. It’s literally the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep and it affects every aspect of your life. None of those suggestions you made would help someone with actual Insomnia. It would just be stressful on top of not having slept, and likely expensive

    • says

      i agree most people don’t really suffer from hardcore insomnia. having a night shift and jet lg is not insmonia!!!!

      and if i be honest this post is rubbish, it just slates the drug and i read for about 15 mins and there is nothing factual on here, its just lots of hot air. i am a scientist and a massive insomniac. i have been like this most of my life (25 adult years). . . its 5.45 am and i have not slept all night.

      really, this post is annoying, because there are lots of big flashing warning signs and not much reasons. i just got bored reading and started scanning after that an nothing much changes, this looks more like lobbying than helping.

  70. Mark says

    Okay, I’ve read the blog and all the posts under it. I’m picking up some melatonin tonight (in a small dose) and trying it out. I’ll let you know how it goes. I get the feeling it works differently for different people. We’ll see.

  71. Suzanne says

    Sorry, I just don’t agree with your blog. I have done a lot of research on melatonin and it is not dangerous as you infer. It helps me tremendously fall asleep. I was having trouble with my cortisol levels, and this is the only thing that has worked to make me sleepy at night. I do not believe anyone has been harmed by melatonin.

  72. David Weston says

    As I’m sure you know and as others have commented, one produces less melatonin as one ages. I’m 62 and since starting to take about 150-250 micrograms of melatonin right before bed, my sleep quality has improved tremendously.

  73. Nicole, MD says

    As doctors, we are trained and taught to give unbiased professional medical advice. However, I found this article to be very personally opinionated and not suitable for actual medical advisement or teaching on the use of melatonin.
    Also, this “research” was pulled from one also very opinionated source that premeired on Dr. Phil; this is not a credible show for true professional medical advisement.
    Please read the article below to get a broader perspective on the true effects of melatonin from an unbiased point of view.

    • Nicole, MD says

      My apologies: the author quoted that the doctor she was basing this article’s points upon was featured by Dr. Oz, who is even less credible than Dr. Phil.

    • Becky, Nurse Practitioner says

      I couldn’t agree more with Nicole. And on a side note, a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner only has to go through nine months of schooling and has very little depth of actual medical and scientific knowledge on practicing and prescribing medicine. Please seek medical advise and help from a medical professional.

  74. Marie says

    I have problems with taking melatonin in any form whether it be in foods or in a supplement. Several years ago I was having problems sleeping, so I took 3mg of melatonin and was up all night with the jitters and very restless. So I decided to take it in it’s natural sense (in foods) or in this case liquids. I tried some tart cherry juice, 1/2 cup half an hour before bed and it had the same effect. Up all night with jitters. Yesterday I had 1/2 of a raw Chioggia Guardsmark beet, which kept me awake and with a double dose of jitters. I discovered that they have melatonin in them as well. Any suggestion as to what’s up with that? Is it possible that my body produces to much melatonin already?

    • Nicole, MD says

      Melatonin has several different effects with different people. With the sound of those side effects, avoid taking it intentionally before bed. You may just be experiencing some adverse effects. My husband is the same way, taking melatonin makes him jittery. If you’re having trouble sleeping, and you prefer a homeopathic route of treatment, I suggest using lavender oil on your wrists and bottoms of the feet, or drinking peppermint or chamomile teas. If your sleeping trouble continues, I advise you to talk to your doctor about it. I have many patients who struggle with sleeping and everyone is different, melatonin does not work for everyone and there are many more options than what I’ve listed. I hope this helps, Marie.

  75. Mary says

    I’ve been taking up to 50 mg of melatonin a night. I’ve recently been having tightness in my chest but wonder if the two are related or if there’s something else happening

    • Nicole, MD says

      50 mg is quite a bit, but I understand the feeling that you need more in order to sleep. However, I do suggest that you cut down your intake to 10 mg or less. If you’re experiencing constant tightness in your chest, please go see your doctor as soon as possible. Your chest feeling tight could be an indicator of a bigger problem that needs to be checked out right away, and while you’re there you would be able discuss other options for sleep aid if you feel that melatonin is not helping.
      If you would like information on what I know to be good sleep aids and remedies that my patients have done well with, please let me know.
      I hope that you get to feeling better soon, Mary.

    • Nicole, MD says

      1-5 mg is the suggested dose. There have been cases of high amounts of melatonin causing a feeling of tightness in one’s chest.

  76. says

    It is good advice to try the list of methods for getting a good night’s sleep before popping any pills.

    Because melatonin is a hormone you might think that taking it would upset your body’s hormonal balance but the evidence so far is that it does not and it does seem to help achieve a more healthy sleep pattern. When mine arrives I will know! I am actually going to try it for its antioxidant properties which have also been verified by a mass of studies you can find using Google’s academic search. Even more useful is the fact that it protects your skin from sunburn in a cream I can only find in the US or Europe!! How amazing is that! Typical of the UK that nobody uses it in sunscreens. (Of course you can’t then go and toast in the sun for as long as you like. Normal precautions still apply.)

    I always search for harmful effects and negative views but I can’t find any based on scientific evidence – at least not for adults. And of course if you take other medicines you should check with your doctor.

  77. Fred C says

    Hi: here is MY problem. As you know the body breaks down protein to tryptophan to 5-htp to serotonin to melatonin. I have MANY gene mutations that effect this process!!!!! I was going to try tryptophan but heard that not processing this right can cause problems to get worst. So since melatonin is last and can pass BBB I was going to try as I have MAJOR sleep problems!!!! If you can what would you suggest in my case???
    note: I even have a CLOCK gene mutation and was kicked out of my ND’s office for knowing to much!!! Oh well. What a COMPLEX mess!!!!!

  78. John says

    This was an awesome article. I normally take blogs about nutrition and health with a grain of salt, but this read substantially and had many details I was slowly learning about coming into full.

    I took way too much Melatonin during these last couple of years, but I figured it out just this last week. It will take me a while to get my hormones back in balance naturally. But I at least learned and now I have more information to understand why I felt like crap and never really “slept”

  79. Sam says

    Have periodically taken Melatonin which has been very helpful in having a solid night’s sleep.

    I would suggest visitors read additional material on this topic to be well informed.

  80. Muamer Hodzic says

    I just thought I would drop you link to a meta analysis about melatonin and sleep:

    19 clinical, double blind placebo controlled studies were included with over 1600 patients. Melatonin was shown to shorten the time to fall asleep, improve the sleep quality, while the sleep length was just slightly enhanced.

    Melatonin is not a medication which will let you fall asleep like benzodiazepins, but these medications also do not provide real restful sleep. They even interfere with REM and deep sleep phases. So compared with the available medications Melatonin IS a real sleep aid. But yes it is also a hormone which does control the circadian rhythm and so has a profound effect on the health, yes it should be used with caution but the scientific trend says it will do more good then harm, when used properly, especially in older people.

  81. Jean says

    Gave my granddaughter a 5 mg,she is 8, she went to sleep as soon as her head hit the pillow,got up real good for school,any other time I would have to yell at her to get ready, Melatonin is a life saver

  82. says

    Hi Doctor,

    I am working in a call center in the Philippines and we usually work at night. There are transition schedules where we go back to the morning shift. I took a melatonin (OTC) last night so I can go back to the normal sleep routine and my head really hurts today (whole day). I felt so sleepy all day. Is this a common side effect? If yes, how soon will I be able to go back to the “SLEEPY AT NIGHT AND ENERGIZE IN THE MORNING?”

    Thank you very much

  83. Jenna says

    Would u consider 1.5mg of melatonin excessive for a child that is 6 years old? My daughter is a night owl so our doctor said 1-3mg is safe. We only give her 1mg a night and it works very well with helping her fall asleep. Without it she would be up until 11pm. We also don’t let her have sugar past 5pm.

  84. Kelli says

    Might I suggest you get the advice of you healthcare professional and not a blogger. My child with ADHD has taken Melatonin for many years as needed for sleep assistance at the advice of his DEVELOPMEMTAL PEDIATRICIAN at the world renowed Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia. I have taken melatonin on occasion for sleep issues. It works, it works well and there are no side effects. Stop believing everything you read on the internet and seek real medical advice.

  85. Rein Teder says

    I have taken this for 20 years and find it helps me to sleep SLIGHTLY better. Just enough to notice. I detect no grogginess– just feel a bit more well rested. I notice no withdrawal or profound difference if I stop taking it, which I typically do on vacations when there is simply less on my mind.

    So, my case, I detect a small positive effect, and no ill effects. I am certainly not going to stop because this person tells me to. The only other supplement I take is a multi-vitamin.

  86. Shannon says

    Any suggestions for people who have no trouble falling asleep (literally can/have slept for 14-16 hours straight) but do not get restful sleep? In a recent sleep study I came back to an almost waking state 100 times an hour. I was prescribed a sleeping pill- zopiclone which had no effect. On a whim I bought melatonin 5mg tabs dual action with a quick release layer and extended release core. It’s only been one night so I can’t say for sure if i’m only experiencing a placebo effect. Going to ask my MD at next appointment for suggestions, however has anyone heard of/or had this problem before? *Note I do not have sleep apnea, snore, or have a cardiac condition. I am however on a cocktail of anticonvulsants and antidepressants that I will likely never come off of. Constructive feedback welcome.

  87. Michael says

    I tried melatonin small dose 1mg , 2mg and it gives me terrible head aches in the morning ! no melatonin for me ! its all hype and lies . I stay away from supplements , the only herb I take is garlic and oregano oil in a capsule with meal nothing else . oregano oil killed my fungus on my big toe ! every night I soaked my foot on hot pail of hot water with BORAX powder —after 40 minutes I dried my foot and added oregano oil to the toe with fungus after 2month nail fell out ! I was sooo happy before I tried everything for 10 years and this worked ! amazing medicine oregano oil and Borax powder for toe fungus !

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