Thursday, January 6, 2011

Can't Sleep? Melatonin May Be An Option

This week has been crazy, but so fun! I've been in Pittsburgh getting trained by the American Dietetic Association on how to teach kids about nutrition. I'm having a blast, but also can't wait to get home later this evening so I can unpack and get in my comfy clothes :)

I recently did some research on the supplement melatonin, because not only did I get a request for a post about it, but I have also had several people ask me about it at work. So what is melatonin? Melatonin is a neurohormone in the brain, which increases prior to bedtime. People typically take melatonin if they have trouble sleeping or staying asleep.

Overall, I think it's a great investment. I am always skeptical about sleep aids, but the research indicates this one might be worth the money. Research suggests that taking the quick-release melatonin 30-60 minutes before you go to bed will decrease the time it takes to fall asleep and also improve the quality and duration of sleep. Dosages typically range from .5-5mg.

Like all supplements, there is a potential for side effects and drug interactions. In fact, there is a long list of side-effects so I would highly suggest talking to your doctor before starting a melatonin regimen.

Source: iStock Photo

As always, make sure the supplement is high quality. I always look for USP certified products, which means they have been third party tested for quality. I would also suggest trying the melatonin supplement on a weekend first, when you don't have to work the next day. It may take some time to get used to your new sleep cycle (hopefully, a better sleep cycle!).

Even though melatonin seems to be safe, I would suggest asking yourself these questions first;

  • Are you sleeping in too late on the weekends? This could throw you off for the entire week and thus cause you to have problems falling asleep.
  • Are you consuming too much caffeine during the day? Clearly this could affect your sleep.
  • Are you consuming caffeine too late in the day (if I have coffee past 2pm I usually have trouble sleeping)?
  • Do you exercise later in the evening? This may give you too much energy before you go to bed.
  • Do you eat a lot late at night? Sugar or possibly even just too many calories later in the day can potentially keep you from getting a good night's sleep.

Question: What are your go-to methods for getting a good night sleep? Have you ever tried melatonin?


  1. i always use melatonin when i can't sleep! It works pretty well- some times better than others, but all in all its great!

  2. I work with kids and teaching them about nutrition (I'm not a nutritionist but help run the program) and am always looking for more ways to get them involved - let me know if you have any helpful hints!

  3. I have to be really careful about the amount of caffeine I consume, and when-- if I drink coffee past about 11:00, it could keep me up! Crazy!

  4. Glad you're enjoying the training!

    I usually don't have a problem sleeping unless I drink caffeine too close to bedtime. I'm usually pretty exhausted by the end of the day!

  5. Sounds like interesting training!

    I have been trying to read before bed which I find gets my mind off of everything else going on - usually, when I have trouble sleeping, it is because my mind is going a mile a minute!

  6. Interesting! Good to know the dosing ranges for melatonin. The only times I have trouble sleeping are when I don't follow one of the guidelines you listed. Caffeine, exercise, sleeping in, and stress will keep me awake. Otherwise, I'm good! I never sleep too late on the weekends for this very reason. Mark, however, always sleeps in and every Sunday night has trouble falling asleep. Big dummy!

    Safe travels back to CBus, Gina! Your week sounds awesome!

  7. So glad you are enjoying your training. It sounds awesome.

    When it comes to sleep, I don't have much trouble, except when I finish teaching. I teach Monday 11-midnight and Thursday midnight-1 am, and I am so excited and energized after teaching that I find it hard to calm down immediately and fall asleep. I often wind up talking on the phone to friends and family for an hour before heading to bed. I usually take a 1 hour nap before each class, which is something new I have started.

  8. I've actually tried Melatonin before when I had trouble sleeping, but never stuck with it long enough to notice any difference. Now when I have any trouble falling asleep, I'll use a deep relaxation practice I do in yoga, mentally scanning and relaxing each part of the body. It takes my mind off of any racing thoughts and relaxes my body at the same time. Even if I don't fall right asleep, I'm at least getting relaxed and rejuvenated.

  9. Great post, Gina! Melatonin seems to be gaining in popularity among the people I know, and I myself have used it for years. I'm so glad you brought up the idea of trying it on a weekend first, because I had trouble with the dosages at first and was getting way too knocked out during the day. I've never seen the 5 mg version - that's a lot!

    I think it's great that you added that sleeping troubleshot list to try first - too many people look for a medication or supplement to overcome a problem instead of getting right to the source.

    Have a great day, Gina! Glad you had fun in Pittsburgh :)

  10. First of all--let me just tell you that one of my dream jobs (something buried in the very back of my head) is to be a child nutritionist. So I got all excited when I read about your trip to learn more about it at the ADA! U should share some of what they talked about :). In regards to sleep, I dont believe in drinking any pills or anything of the sort. I have friends who do it and they've become addicted to it! (Ie: They cant sleep without it). I believe going natural on everything is best.

  11. Whenever I can't sleep, I do..nothing. Whoops! Does reading blogs help sleeping?! :)

  12. Honestly, I have no trouble sleeping at all. I can consume caffeine right before dinner and go for a good workout, and can still manage a very good night sleep. I think I have an oversleeping problem.

  13. I tried melatonin years ago, and I don't think I thought it worked back then... I may want to give it another try...

    I think the most important thing for me is to "de-stress" before bedtime. If I don't, I often have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep...

    Have a great weekend!

  14. i think the solution to a good night's sleep is a solid night cap before you hit the hay haha.

    enjoy your weekend girl!!

  15. I've never thought to supplement with a sleep aid, even when I suffered insomnia in high school! I appreciate the review on this product though bc I have not heard much about it and I KNOW I'll get questions! Happy weekend Gina! That training sounds FUN!

  16. Eric uses melatonin so I'm glad to hear that it seems safe. Though I will say his sleeping problem is directly related to the fact that he sleeps VERY late on the weekends, but oh well- he's not giving that up any time soon!

    I, on the other hand, don't sleep late ever or drink caffeine ever (or eat late at night), but my sleeping problems are 100 % stress related. The only thing that knocks me out enough to consistently sleep through the night in benedryl allergy, which is probably not safe to be taking as often as I do. Yikes.

  17. In pediatrics, I often suggest melatonin for kids...2 mg to start off with, that don't sleep more than 7 hours.

    I pop these babies whenever I hotels, on the plane, on the bus....helps me wind down if anything.

    As always, GREAT POST!

  18. Hi Gina!!
    It was great talking with you today. (My husband and I talked with you for a long time about organic eggs and whatnot...)
    I LOVE your blog. I'm going to add it to my Google Reader so I can keep up with it!
    Question.. The Melatonin sounds interesting. I don't have any trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep... but I feel like I can never get ENOUGH sleep. We hit the hay @ around 11 and I'd LIKE to get up at 6.. but I'm just SO tired! I wonder if Melatonin might improve the QUALITY of my sleep...? Just curious.

  19. I use melatonin somewhat frequently. What I've found is that it doesn't necessarily help me fall asleep faster, but it does kind of put me in a fog...often a restless fog. It's difficult to explain.

    Dr. Oz recommends no more than 1 mg of melatonin. He says that is plenty and if you take more, melatonin will effect your sex drive. (I know how much you love Dr. OZ.)

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  21. Melatonin supplements are used to treat jet lag or sleep problems. They're safe and effective but still you have to consult your doctor before taking them.