sleepMelatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain (endocrine system) and by the retina in the eye and GI tract (paracrine system). It is naturally formed from the amino acid tryptophan and isnot a drug. Melatonin production is inhibited by light and permitted by darkness, and so its level peaks in the middle of the night and gradually decreases during the second half of the night. Because it is a natural substance, it is assigned by the FDA to be a dietary supplement with limited use. More concrete studies confirming additional uses are pending, however, melatonin is commonly used for:

  • Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS)
  • Jet lag
  • Prevention of migraine and cluster headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Sleep enhancement
  • Improvement of immune function and inflammation

Suggested Amounts:

  • Short term: 0.1-10 mg for as long as 9 months
  • Insomnia: 0.3-5 mg by mouth at bedtime
  • It seems to work best when used only a few nights per week (1 to 3 is fine).



Side effects are rare – usually associated with using too much – but can include:

  • Fatigue, confusion, sleepwalking/vivid dreams, headache, irritability, blood pressure changes, abdominal cramps, dizziness


Avoid or minimize the use of melatonin if also taking:

  • Other sleep aids: exaggerated effects may occur
  • Anticoagulants/blood thinners such as aspirin, NSAIDs, beta-blockers, and medications that reduce B6 vitamins –  they may also reduce levels of melatonin
  • Anticonvulsants: lowers the seizure threshold
  • Diabetes medications (especially Type 1diabetes)
  • Alcohol
  • Herbs and dietary supplements that aid in sleep: increases daytime sleepiness or sedation; chasteberry: may increase melatonin
  • Other herbals: Catnip, Hops, Kava, St. John’s Wort, Valerian: may reduce melatonin
  • Antidepressants (MAOIs): inhibit the breakdown of melatonin
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants
  • Antihypertensives (nifedipine, verapamil)
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Sedatives

Before using in pregnancy, speak to your healthcare professional.