Not sleeping is a living hell. We all know how it goes, you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. The more time that goes by the more stressed out you get about not sleeping. And you are going to feel like you got hit by a truck the next day. Many people turn to melatonin for help falling asleep, and it does really work. But how much you take, and when, can really make a difference in how it works for you. How long until melatonin kicks in? Read on to find out!
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is melatonin and when does it naturally kick in?
- How does melatonin work in the body?
- So, how long until melatonin kicks in?
- How much melatonin should I take?
- Are there any side effects of melatonin?
- In summary
What is melatonin and when does it naturally kick in?
Melatonin is a hormone that’s secreted from the pineal gland deep inside your brain. Its main function is to regulate your circadian rhythm or your daily biological clock. It’s also known as the “darkness hormone” as it’s secreted by your brain in response to darkness. In fact, exposure to light during the nighttime can block melatonin production. Melatonin is not a sedative, so it doesn’t knock you out like a sleep drug. It’s just a signal from your brain to the rest of your body that it’s time to sleep.
There are a number of randomized controlled trials in different groups of people that have shown that melatonin does really work. These studies have been conducted in shift workers, individuals suffering from jet lag, and those with mild sleep difficulties. Meta-analyses of these trials have confirmed that, overall, the science is supportive for melatonin to have a meaningful effect.
How does melatonin work in the body?
Melatonin interacts with the (drum roll…) “melatonin receptor.” This is like a lock and key that is found in many organs of the body, including the brain, eye, liver, kidney and skin, among others. Turning the key essentially preps the body for sleep when the time is right. Melatonin levels have been shown to naturally start increasing just after darkness and typically peak between 2 and 4 am.
In addition, melatonin is a potent antioxidant, and some suspect that it may play a role in immune system function and inflammation. However, this line of research is not as far along and more studies are needed.
So, how long until melatonin kicks in?
Research shows that melatonin concentration in your blood will likely peak about 1 hour after you take an oral dose, then declines from there. This means that you need to plan a bit ahead if you want your melatonin to kick in right when you lay down. As mentioned above, your natural levels of melatonin don’t peak until the middle of the night. So you can think of taking melatonin before bed as giving yourself a little “boost” as your melatonin levels start to increase.
Another question is whether you need to take it repeatedly for the effect of melatonin to kick in. The short answer is no, as melatonin tends to have acute effects. However, most studies showing benefits have lasted 3 weeks or more, with longer studies showing greater benefits. This suggests that there may be some benefit to a “training effect” of taking a melatonin supplement at the same time every night for a few weeks.
How much melatonin should I take?
Most studies showing the benefits of melatonin have used doses ranging from 3 to 5 mg. This is the level found in most melatonin supplements on the market, but there are extra-strength melatonin products out there. However, there is no good evidence that higher amounts will work any better, and they may increase the chances of side effects. The same meta-analysis mentioned above showed that higher doses, up to 5 mg, were more effective, but few studies have tested higher levels so there is no reason to believe higher doses would be more
Are there any side effects of melatonin?
The number one side effect of melatonin is drowsiness, but we probably can’t call that a side effect! Some studies have reported of headaches, dizziness and nausea reported, but these have been relatively rare, with similar incidence in placebo groups. We should also point out that there is limited safety data on melatonin use in children, so more research is required there. Overall, melatinon can be considered a supplement that’s safe to use when taken at the proper dose. Check out some of our other articles on the safety of certain supplements.
How long until melatonin kicks in? Generally speaking, it’s best to take melatonin about an hour before bed, as it takes about 60 minutes to reach peak blood levels. This can help give your body a boost to its natural melatonin levels and better prepare you to drift off to sleep. Using melatonin regularly for a few weeks may provide some additional benefits. Always be sure to use any melatonin supplement as directed, and check with your doctor if you are unsure.