Sleep is supposed to be this epic thing your body just does, yet many people can’t get a grip on it. Maybe you're the kind of person who's often too anxious to fall asleep, or perhaps you have a habit of waking up in the middle of the night. Either way, how do you go about addressing these nocturnal struggles? Warm milk works nicely, reading in bed should suffice, but what about using melatonin supplements to ease yourself to sleep? That sounds like a simple enough solution, right? But is it bad to take melatonin every night if sleep is something you constantly struggle with? It’s all natural, after all, but I’m thinking there has to be some sort of catch.
First things first, though, let’s break down what melatonin actually is, because it plays a pretty vital role in your body. Jeffrey Gladd, M.D., an integrative physician on Care/of's scientific advisory board, defines melatonin as a hormone that is naturally produced in the brain, with its main function being to control your sleep and wake cycles (aka your circadian rhythm).
“Melatonin levels tend to rise in the evening before bed to help facilitate deep, restful sleep, and then decrease in the morning as it gets light out,” Dr. Gladd tells Elite Daily. The idea is that melatonin keeps your sleep cycle on track, even in the absence of natural sunlight giving us cues of when to rise and rest. Make sense?
These days, because science is a magical thing, melatonin is sold in capsules (like Humm Nutrition's Beauty zzZzs), gummies (ZzzQuil's Pure ZZZs are my personal fave), powders, and drinks (such as the new Vital Proteins Sleep Collagen Shot), all of which are at your disposal to lean on when you can’t sleep. Typically the human body is capable of producing enough melatonin naturally to foster quality sleep. However, a supplement can be helpful from time to time, says Dr. Gladd.
Here's the thing, though: If you were to take melatonin every night, the supplement would send a message to your brain — something along the lines of “hey, no worries, I got this” — so that your body would think it didn’t need to produce melatonin on its own. So while melatonin can help with occasional sleep troubles, Dr. Gladd tells Elite Daily that “it’s not generally recommended for long-term daily use.”
When you do take melatonin to help you sleep, Dr. Roy Raymann, resident sleep expert and vice president of sleep science and scientific affairs at SleepScore Labs, tells Elite Daily that one to three milligrams is the recommended dosage. Once you take it, he explains, the supplement will start to distribute throughout the body, making you feel drowsy and causing more blood to flow to the outer layers of the skin, thus cooling your body temperature and encouraging sleep.
Here’s where the catch comes in: Because most human bodies are able to produce enough melatonin for quality sleep, taking a melatonin supplement every night could actually disrupt your sleep cycle. In other words, it’s kind of contradictory. Still, if you want to or think you’d benefit from taking melatonin to support your sleep health, Dr. Raymann recommends taking it at the same time every night, just to maintain some sort of schedule.
So if you’re not supposed to take melatonin every night, when can you take it? Considering that popping melatonin supplements on the reg seems to be a bit of a gamble in terms of how it'll affect your sleep quality, you probably don’t want to risk the odds of making things worse. According to Sarah Greenfield, RD, director of education for HUM Nutrition, in theory, you could take melatonin every night, but she highly suggests taking it on an as-needed basis, instead.
Just keep in mind that too much of anything is never a great thing, and that goes for all-natural stuff, too, like melatonin. So, when in doubt, says registered dietitian and certified sleep therapist, Jenn Randazzo, MS, RD, CLT, “it’s best to follow the recommended dosage on the supplement label, and if there’s any concern, discuss with your doctor.”
It's also worth noting, as Randazzo tells Elite Daily, that too much melatonin can potentially lead to feelings of grogginess, intense dreams, nausea, dizziness, headaches, anxiety, diarrhea, and joint pain. At that point, I think I’d rather take the lack of sleep, wouldn’t you?