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How Much Melatonin Should I Take for Better Sleep — And How Much Is Too Much? A Doctor Weighs In

Plus, find out how much you should increase your dosage by to avoid jet lag

If you’re among the countless people tossing and turning at night, you’ve probably searched high and low for the secret to restful slumber. Melatonin, hailed as the hormone of sleep, has likely caught your eye. But you might be wondering: how much melatonin should I take to drift off into dreamland?

“The key is not taking more, but taking it right and combining it with good sleep hygiene,” says Wendy Warner, MD, a functional medicine specialist. “If you take too much melatonin, you can feel groggy and suffer from nasty side effects. But finding the right balance can significantly improve your sleep.”

What is melatonin?

Melatonin isn’t your typical sleep aid, explains Dr. Warner. The hormone is naturally produced by the pineal gland in your brain. Your levels rise in response to darkness, signaling to your body that it’s time to wind down.

When taken as a supplement, melatonin doesn’t knock you out like a sedative. Instead, it works subtly to regulate your circadian rhythm — your body’s internal clock. This natural process helps you maintain a consistent sleep-wake cycle, making it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up refreshed.

Sleep trouble is more common as we age

Both men and women experience a decline in sleep quality over the years. “As we age, our adrenal function and blood sugar regulation worsen, contributing to more frequent awakenings and poorer sleep quality,” Dr. Warner explains. That means less deep sleep, which curbs melatonin production. “The only big difference is that, for women, sleep trouble might start at a younger age compared to men.”

The hormonal changes associated with menopause play a significant role in sleep disruptions. As estrogen drops, it stops providing its protective effect against cortisol. This stress hormone then rises and causes you to wake up more frequently, disrupting melatonin production. “If you’re awake in the middle of the night, your body’s going to stop making melatonin while you’re awake,” Dr. Warner adds.

How much melatonin is too much?

A woman's hand holding melatonin gummies
Melatonin can come in pill or gummy form.Getty

When it comes to melatonin, less is more. “With plant-based melatonin, you can use really low doses,” says Dr. Warner. “ 3 mg of a synthetic probably won’t be very beneficial, but 0.3 mg of a plant-based one works really well.” The quality of your supplement matters, too. Plant-based options often include additional natural compounds that boost effectiveness. Dr. Warner’s go-to is Symphony Natural Health’s 0.3 mg Plant Melatonin.

Supplementing with too much can backfire. “If you take too much, you can get groggy and experience some pretty nasty GI side effects,” Dr. Warner warns. (More on that below.) Excessive amounts of the hormone can disrupt your sleep rather than enhance it.

Worth noting: Dr. Warner says very high doses of the hormone, such as 20 mg, are occasionally used in specific medical scenarios, like preventing cancer recurrence. But these are exceptions and should be handled under the care of your doctor.

Symptoms of melatonin overdose

You can’t fatally overdose on melatonin, but overdoing it can lead to discomfort, says Dr. Warner. Symptoms of an overdose include headaches, dizziness, nausea and excessive sleepiness.

How much melatonin should I take?

Now that you know how much is too much, how much melatonin should you actually take to clock more Zzzs without unwanted side effects? Dr. Warner recommends starting with a low dose. For most of her patients, 0.3 mg of the plant-based pills works as long as they also follow good sleep hygiene. This means sleeping in a dark room, avoiding screens for at least 30 minutes before bed and maintaining a regular sleep schedule.

Tap into the benefits while traveling

Jet lag affects people when they travel by air across multiple time zones. It can cause disturbed sleep, daytime tiredness, impaired functioning and digestive problems. Melatonin is effective in minimizing jet lag by realigning your internal clock.

To manage jet lag, Dr. Warner recommends increasing your melatonin dosage before and during travel. About a week before you travel, start taking a higher dose of up to 3 mg of plant-based melatonin. Continue this higher dose while you’re away and for a week after you return to help your body adjust to the new schedule. Then, you can return to your normal maintenance dose.

Melatonin is not a quick fix

Some people find melatonin ineffective because they misuse it, says Dr. Warner. It’s most effective when used consistently and as part of a broader sleep routine.

“If you’re just having trouble falling asleep, staring at the ceiling for 45 minutes and then get up to take melatonin, that’s not going to work,” Dr. Warner says. “Melatonin doesn’t work that way.”

More ways to improve your sleep:

Doctors Reveal the Best Sleep Apnea Self-Care Tips + the 1 Thing You Should Never Do

This Simple Timing Trick Can Help Stop Someone From Snoring, Top Sleep Expert Says

Sleepy Girl Mocktail: Does the Trendy Sip Live Up to the Hype? Experts Weigh in

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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