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Implementing a daily melatonin routine that includes experimenting/learning how to sleep well optimizes your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing

Do you want to know about the best time to take melatonin, a neurologist and sleep medicine specialist offers advice on what else you should know when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.

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If you’re having trouble sleeping and you’re like many Americans, you may be thinking about trying melatonin.

According to the National Institutes of Health, your brain produces melatonin in response to nighttime. The NIH reports that the hormone’s effects on circadian rhythms, or your body’s 24-hour internal clock, and sleep are beneficial.

Drops, gummies, liquids, and tablets containing melatonin can be purchased from pharmacies like CVS and Target, as well as from direct-to-consumer (DTC) supplement brands sold online.

However, melatonin’s dosing instructions can be hazy, much like those of other vitamins and supplements. Also, you might be wondering if there’s a specific time right before bed that you should take your medication. Perhaps you’re curious about the science behind the supplements or curious about the effects of melatonin on the human body.

Washington University in St. Louis is home to neurologist and sleep medicine expert Yo-El Ju. We sought her advice by asking her to respond to three central questions about taking melatonin to enhance sleep quality.

Is there a recommended time to take melatonin before bed, and what is it?

Before deciding when to take melatonin, Ju says, you need to make one distinction.

How close to bedtime you take a supplement depends on whether or not you have a circadian rhythm disorder. Night owls are a common term for people whose circadian rhythms are slightly off.

People with circadian disorders, such as the “night owl” type she describes, “will be recommended to take melatonin about an hour or two before their desired bedtime,” she says.

Those who are taking the supplements solely to aid in falling asleep “can take it at bed time or just 15 minutes prior,” says Ju, because most people do not suffer from a circadian disorder.

What kind of melatonin supplement should I take?

The effectiveness of melatonin supplements for sleep is influenced by a number of factors, not just how much time you’ve been taking them. Different supplements and different doses can have very different effects, according to Ju.

In addition, she advises keeping in mind that melatonin and other nutritional supplements aren’t governed by the same rules as pharmaceuticals. In light of this, in 2017 scientists compared numerous melatonin supplement brands across multiple delivery methods (tablets, gummies, liquids, and more).

According to Ju, “they found that the dosage that is actually present inside the actual melatonin pills does not always match what is on the label.” Even more concerning, the study found that serotonin, which is present in some supplements, may prevent people from falling asleep.

Doctors should advise their patients to take at least a three milligram tablet, according to Ju. And if they are taking 3 milligrams for the first time, they should try 1.5 milligrams.

Taking melatonin at the recommended dosage won’t leave you feeling groggy or cause you to fall into a deep sleep from which it will be difficult to awaken, she claims. Adults typically take a dose of between one and six milligrams, and taking more than that typically doesn’t improve outcomes.

Do you know any other facts about melatonin that you think are crucial?

Ju says that natural melatonin works best when taken in a dark room with as little light as possible, because the hormone is inhibited by light.

As Ju puts it, “the effect of light is probably 10 times that of melatonin” when it comes to counteracting the natural melatonin in people’s brains. “I would advise someone to work on their light exposure in the hour or so prior to bedtime before they take melatonin.”

Ju says that while extra melatonin isn’t always necessary, taking an additive every day rarely causes negative side effects. Before taking a supplement, she suggests the following:

Limit your exposure to light, especially blue light from screens, at least an hour before bed.

Maintain a regular schedule for when you go to bed and when you get up.

Get into the habit of a relaxing pre-bedtime ritual.

“I think it’s very effective when people build in time to relax, journal, meditate, stretch, whatever it is that works for each individual to help calm down the stresses of the day,” says Ju.

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