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  • It takes melatonin between 30 minutes and two hours to work.
  • You should start with a low dose of melatonin (0.5 mg) and gradually taper up according to your needs.
  • You should never take more than 10 mg or you could experience nausea and other side effects. 

Taking melatonin supplements as a sleep aid has become increasingly common among US adults.

For the best results, it's important to know when you should take melatonin so you don't take it too early or too late. Taking it early can result in feeling groggy before you're able to hit the hay, and taking it late may result in falling asleep later than desired.

Here's what you need to know about how to take melatonin and how long it takes to work.

How to take melatonin

For people who have trouble falling asleep, sleep specialists typically recommend melatonin dosage between 0.5 to five milligrams two hours to 30 minutes before bed — but what works best varies from person to person.

You should take special precautions when buying melatonin since it is categorized by the FDA as a dietary supplement, not a drug, says Dr. Rajkumar Dasgupta, sleep medicine specialist at Keck Medicine of USC.  

This means that it isn't as regulated, so you should: 

  • Take only pharmaceutical-grade melatonin. It will likely say this on the label, but to be extra cautious, you can ask your doctor or pharmacist what trustworthy brands they recommend. 
  • Understand that not all melatonin supplements contain the dosage they say they do. Since it may contain more than it says, start low with the dose to avoid adverse effects.

Here are some general guidelines for starting melatonin:

  • Start with a low dose (Dasgupta says you can start as low as 0.5 milligrams)  
  • Take it up to two hours before bedtime, since this would mimic the time your brain would naturally release melatonin in a circadian rhythm.  

Once you know how your body reacts to melatonin, you can start tailoring your dose to your needs. For example, some people may need to take melatonin closer to their desired bedtime, up to 30 minutes prior, if they notice it works more quickly for them.

You can also raise your dose by tapering up in increments of 0.5 milligrams to one milligram, Dasgupta says. Just be sure to never take more than 10 milligrams of melatonin within a 24-hour period. Higher doses can result in a greater risk of side effects such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Next-day drowsiness

How long does it take for melatonin to work?

Everyone metabolizes melatonin differently, due to various factors ranging from body size to other medications you may be taking that may interact with melatonin, says Dasgupta.

Theoretically, though, melatonin is rapidly absorbed, says Dr. Brian Gotkin, a sleep specialist at Memorial Healthcare System. After taking the supplement, melatonin levels typically peak after about an hour, and decrease from there. 

Due to its short half-life, Gotkin says melatonin is better suited for helping you fall asleep, but not necessarily staying asleep. 

Therefore, people who have trouble staying asleep should look into alternative treatments. If insomnia is the cause, Dasgupta says the ideal treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI-I). This is typically tried before any sleep aids are prescribed.

Alternatively, an underlying health problem might be the reason you can't stay asleep. Aside from insomnia, Dasgupta says some conditions that may result in waking up throughout the night are:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Narcolepsy
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

Additionally, it should be noted that melatonin is not a sleeping pill, and it isn't going to knock you right out –– especially if you don't have good sleep hygiene. For example, Dasgupta says if you're having caffeine later in the day or looking at bright screens before bed, you may find that melatonin doesn't help much. 

Insider's takeaway 

Melatonin supplements affect everyone differently, and it may take some trial and error to figure out what dosage and timing work for you specifically.

Keep in mind that melatonin is not a silver bullet to make you fall asleep quickly. Healthy bedtime habits are still crucial, and for people with clinical insomnia, cognitive behavioral therapy and sleep hygiene changes remain the gold standard of treatment — not melatonin — says Gotkin.

Read the original article on Insider