Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important factors supporting overall health and wellness.
Unfortunately, poor sleep and sleep deficiency affects millions of Americans every year. Sleep deficiency can come as a result of stress and a number of lifestyle factors; poor diet, lack of exercise, etc.
To combat some of these issues, many people have turned to natural sleep aids. One of the more popular over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids is melatonin.
Naturally, there are many questions concerning melatonin — about its effectiveness and potency.
However, there is one popular question that burns in the minds of many seeking to take advantage of this natural sleep: How long does it take for melatonin to work?
What is Melatonin?
First, it is important to understand that melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone within the body. In fact, it is often referred to as the sleep hormone.
As a hormone, melatonin helps control the circadian rhythm. This refers to the body’s internal clock relating to 24-hour cycles. In this case, melatonin interacts with the sleep-wake cycle; it supports the normal sleep and wake pattern.
The pineal gland naturally produces melatonin in response to diminishing light.
How Does it Work?
Melatonin, as a hormone, is created by the pineal gland within the brain. The pineal gland is controlled by a group of neurons or nerve cells located within the hypothalamus. These are known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN).
Through a signaling process, the SCN helps control the energy levels within the body, including melatonin levels.
Under normal conditions, melatonin levels fall during the day as you are exposed to sunlight. As sunlight is absorbed through the eye’s retina, the SCN signals the pineal gland to cease melatonin production.
As light diminishes, we see a reversal of the same process. When we are exposed to darkness, the SCN signals the pineal gland to release melatonin. As melatonin levels rise, we start to feel more and more sleepy as the afternoon and evening wears on.
Melatonin as a Supplement
Under normal conditions, the body produces sufficient amounts of melatonin to aid healthy sleep. However, some factors can contribute to low melatonin levels in some people. In these cases, OTC melatonin can be help support your overall sleep health.
However, melatonin gummies are a popular and convenient alternative.
Some reasons for low melatonin levels include:
- Not being exposed to enough natural light during the day.
- Excessive amounts of blue light exposure (computers, smartphones, tablets, television).
- Aging; melatonin levels tend to drop as we age.
- Lifestyle factors; smoking, excessive alcohol use, high levels of stress.
Also, some people require extra melatonin for other reasons. For example, some night shift workers use melatonin because their normal circadian rhythm is disrupted. Some people who suffer from sleep disorders also benefit from supplemental melatonin.
How Long Does it Take for Melatonin to Work?
Now for the burning question: How long does it take for melatonin to work?
The answer to this question is not so simple. The time it takes for melatonin to kick in depends on a variety of factors.
Generally speaking, melatonin is absorbed rather quickly by the body. The popular medical consensus suggests that it takes roughly 30 minutes for melatonin to make its way into the bloodstream.
Typically, melatonin reaches its peak after 30-60 minutes. Most agree that melatonin reaches peak levels at about two hours after it is taken. This is when you should start to feel its effects — overall supporting a good night’s sleep.
But, like most supplements, melatonin can affect everyone in different ways and at different times.
Factors that Affect How Long It Takes to Work
Many factors could affect how long it takes for melatonin to start working. We will briefly discuss some of the most common.
Regular and Extended Release Melatonin
One factor has to do with the type of melatonin being used. Generally, OTC melatonin is available in regular form and extended-release form. The standard form of melatonin is what we discussed above; it is considered an “immediate” release. Typically, it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to feel its effect.
Extended-release is formulated to dissolve more slowly in the body and is released more gradually. It is also known as slow-release, time-released, or controlled-release melatonin.
Extended-release melatonin is meant to mimic or imitate the body’s natural melatonin release process. Research has shown that extended-release melatonin may be the more effective option for older adults (55 years and older).
In terms of how long it will take for melatonin to work, the dosage amount matters. Typically, normal dosages or servings yield between one to five milligrams of melatonin. Some people prefer to start with lower doses when they begin taking melatonin, moving gradually to the recommended dosage or serving amount.
Other factors can affect the time it takes for melatonin to work, e.g., age, weight, medications, etc.
Age and Weight
A person’s age can have quite a bearing on the actual effectiveness of melatonin and the time it takes to work. For example, melatonin levels tend to drop as we age.
As is the case for most medications and supplements, body weight plays a role in ineffectiveness. It may take longer for those who have higher body weights to feel the effects of melatonin instead of those with lower body weights.
Medications can also affect the time it takes for melatonin to work. Certain medications could disrupt the process of release in the body, making it quicker or longer. Some examples include anticoagulants, anti-platelet medications, herbs, supplements, and beta-blockers (atenolol, propranolol). All in all, certain medications may not mix well with melatonin. If you are on medication, it is wise to consult your healthcare provider before taking melatonin.
Stimulants and Sleep Environment
Caffeine, found in coffee and sodas, is a stimulant that could contradict the effects of melatonin — how long it takes to work and how prolonged melatonin lasts. Avoid ingesting caffeine like coffee, energy drinks, soda, and other caffeinated products if you know you’ll be taking melatonin later in the day.
Your sleep environment matters as well. Most recommend taking melatonin 1-3 hours before you want to fall asleep or before your intended bedtime. Believe it or not, exposure to bright light and “blue light” from electronics (phone, computer, TV) can disrupt the effects of melatonin.
Exposing your eyes to light and electronic stimulants like a cell phone or laptop can send your body mixed messages (remember the circadian rhyme?) and defeat the whole purpose of melatonin. Light exposure can trick your brain into thinking it’s daylight instead of nighttime.
Melatonin is produced by the body and is part of our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Under normal conditions, it’s a kick start to the processes that get us ready for bed.
However, melatonin levels within the body can vary between people, depending on many different factors. Due to this, melatonin has become a popular way to support healthy sleep. The amount of time it takes to work and its overall effectiveness vary from person to person.
Shop Hope understands the importance of sleep. Our sleep gummies support your sleep health so you can get a good night’s rest. Each serving boasts 5 mg of melatonin and other botanicals to support healthy sleep.