Time-Release Melatonin vs. Immediate-Release: Which Is Better?

Everyone needs melatonin: it’s the vital hormone produced by your brain’s pineal gland that causes you to feel drowsy and relaxes your brain until it is ready to sleep. 

However, not everyone can get to sleep quite so easily, so they take melatonin supplements like tablets or gummies to give their brains an extra boost of this critical hormone.

Although there are tons of different melatonin supplements to choose from, they all broadly fit into two distinct categories: time-release melatonin and immediate-release melatonin.

In this guide, we’ll break down the major differences between these types of melatonin supplements. 

What Is Immediate-Release Melatonin?

Immediate-release melatonin is melatonin released immediately through a supplement like a tablet, capsule, or gummy.

As opposed to time-release melatonin supplements, immediate-release melatonin supplements dissolve immediately and are digested as quickly as possible. Your body then absorbs the melatonin and brings it into your bloodstream and eventually your brain much quicker than otherwise.

Some melatonin supplements or gummies may allow you to experience the effects of immediate-release melatonin in just minutes. 

What’s Time-Release Melatonin?

Time-release melatonin, on the other hand, is released over a longer period. Depending on how the melatonin supplement is made and what ingredients it includes, time-release melatonin tablets or gummies release their melatonin hormones over several hours.

This mimics the way melatonin is naturally released by your body. Typically, melatonin is released gradually over several hours, and melatonin levels increase as darkness falls and daylight wanes. By the middle of the night, melatonin levels have reached their peak.

Therefore, time-release melatonin supplements follow the cycle of your body and may provide a more natural supplementary experience compared to immediate-release melatonin tablets.

Which Is Better?

In truth, neither. They’re both ideal for different situations or unique needs.

Both immediate-release and time-release melatonin supplements provide your body with between 0.5 and 5 mg of melatonin. These supplements, therefore, don't cause you to overdose on melatonin (in most cases) and may help you fall to sleep more quickly, provided your sleeplessness isn't caused by some other condition besides a melatonin imbalance.

The only difference between time-release melatonin and immediate-release melatonin is how quickly your brain gets the extra hormones. But in both cases, you should know that melatonin is relatively fast-acting. You’ll only experience the benefits of a melatonin supplement for between 20 and 40 minutes at maximum.

Therefore, you should take your supplement right before bed and eliminate any other distractions. In the case of time-release melatonin capsules, the melatonin will still only last for a short while. But each “dose” of melatonin is released separately, extending the effect of the hormone and making it seem as though it doesn’t kick in until sometime after you consume the supplement.

When To Take Immediate-Release Melatonin

Immediate-release melatonin allows your body to absorb the full dose of melatonin, whether it’s 0.5 mg, 5 mg, or some other amount, all at once.

More importantly, there's lots of research behind immediate-release melatonin supplements. There's plenty of evidence to show that immediate-release melatonin supplements may effectively alleviate some of the mild symptoms of sleep troubles or support overall sleep health.

Indeed, if you need to fall asleep more easily and are looking for a melatonin supplement to help with that goal, immediate-release melatonin might be the way to go.

That said, giving your brain a sudden boost of melatonin may not always be the wisest idea. Suppose you have difficulty staying asleep but not a lot of trouble falling asleep initially. In that case, an immediate-release melatonin supplement might not give your brain enough of the hormone when it needs it most.

When To Take Time-Release Melatonin

Time-release melatonin is the exact opposite of immediate-release. These supplements only release their hormone contents gradually, usually over several hours. Say that you have a melatonin supplement with 5 mg of the hormone contained within.

A time-release melatonin supplement with 5 mg releases 1 mg per hour for five hours. Your brain will, therefore, get a long-term boost to its melatonin levels. Naturally, this could be excellent if you have difficulty staying asleep or if you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night frequently.

In contrast, time-release melatonin isn't as effective if you need help getting to sleep in the first place. If you need a larger dose of melatonin, only getting 1 mg of the hormone when you take the capsule may not be enough to help you reach a slumbering state.

Additionally, there isn't as much scientific literature surrounding the effectiveness of time-release melatonin supplements at this time. Time-release melatonin supplements are newer, which means there hasn't been enough time for scientists to determine how effective they are in the broader population.

If you’re looking for a melatonin supplement that has a greater proven chance of success, an immediate-release melatonin gummy or capsule might be better.

Are There Side Effects For Either Type of Melatonin Supplement?

Yes. Both types of melatonin supplements, when taken too frequently or in large doses, could cause side effects like:

  • Drowsiness or fatigue, especially in the morning. Your brain might have too much melatonin and may not have processed it all by the time you wake up
  • Headaches or dizziness
  • Difficulty concentrating during the day
  • And more

Additionally, taking an immediate-release melatonin supplement could lead to side effects like difficulty falling asleep without a supplement in the future. Your brain might eventually become used to you providing extra melatonin for it, so the pineal gland may not make enough melatonin to fall asleep naturally.

However, remember that melatonin supplement side effects are overall rare. Because it’s difficult to truly overdose on melatonin unless you take several capsules or gummies at once, you shouldn’t need to worry about these effects in most cases.


In the end, both time-release melatonin and immediate-release melatonin supplements may be very effective if you have difficulty falling or staying asleep. But we always recommend you speak to your doctor before trying any new supplementary regimen.

They’ll be able to not only identify the source of your sleeplessness problems but they’ll also be able to recommend a specific supplement or over-the-counter solution if necessary. 

If you want to try a melatonin supplement for yourself, Hope Health’s Melatonin Gummies are a great place to start. As immediate-release gummies, our supplement can give you a dose of melatonin right when you need it most: when you tuck yourself in the bed and are trying to drift off to sleep.

Even better, you can take two of our gummies without having to worry about any side effects. Alternatively, you may take one or even part of one if you need a slightly lower dose of melatonin. It’s all up to you.

If you need other supplements for additional needs, such as increased cognition, focus, or overall wellness, check out our online store and feel free to contact us if you have any questions!



Melatonin: What You Need To Know | NCCIH

The effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature | NCBI

Melatonin pharmacokinetics following two different oral surge-sustained release doses in older adults | NCBI