Melatonin is an over-the-counter supplement that some people turn to for help sleeping. Though doctors differ on whether they recommend its usage, many agree that taking a melatonin supplement before bed can, in fact, help you sleep more soundly. Our biggest question, though, is exactly how much you should be taking at one time, and whether it's possible take too much. It's important to know how many milligrams of melatonin are in each supplement dosage so you're hyperaware of how much you're ingesting at one time. Not all melatonin supplements are created equal, so we spoke with a board-certified neurologist to get recommendations on just how much melatonin is safe to take.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is actually a hormone that your body naturally produces to regulate your sleep cycle, and is responsible for telling your body when it's time to sleep and when to wake up. If your natural melatonin level is off balance, it can lead to sleeplessness, and a melatonin supplement may help you get your sleep cycles back on track.
How Much Melatonin Should You Take?
Neurologist Dr. Alcibiades Rodriguez, an assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, actually warns against casual usage of a melatonin supplement. He recommends it for regulating circadian rhythms rather than for insomnia, which means that melatonin can help with keeping your sleep-wake cycle on track. "For sleep in older adults, I may start with 5-10 mg at bedtime," he told POPSUGAR. "In higher doses, it probably will not help."
Dr. Rodriguez, who specializes in sleep medicine, added that it's important to take note of exactly what's in the melatonin supplement you're taking, as some brands may have other ingredients added to them. His advise is to choose a supplement that only contains melatonin.
Is It Possible to Take Too Much Melatonin?
Yes, you can take too much melatonin if you're not careful. If you take too much at once, Dr. Rodriguez told POPSUGAR it can lead to headaches and even cause nightmares. If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms frequently on days you've taken a melatonin supplement, it could be the cause. In this instance, scale back on the dosage of melatonin you're taking and speak with your doctor.
Are There Alternatives to Melatonin?
Anxiety can be both a cause of insomnia and a result of it, and Dr. Rodriguez recommends natural remedies like chamomile for this issue. Melatonin supplements are not designed to help with insomnia, so if you have prolonged problems with sleeping, then it's time to speak with your doctor about making a plan of action. It's possible that something else is going on with your body that your doctor can help you with.