Best Melatonin Supplements

getting better sleep with melatonin
Melatonin is a sleep hormone that is responsible for getting you ready for sleep and stops you from waking during the night. It’s known as an inhibitory neurotransmitter – a fancy term for a chemical that relaxes the nervous system and slows down brain activity.

Melatonin supplements are molecularly identical to the melatonin that the body naturally produces, and the supplemental form can be used as a last-resort, short-term fix to get you to sleep if you’re having trouble adjusting to a new time zone, starting shift-work, or suffering from anxiety.

How Melatonin Works

The pineal gland in the brain secretes melatonin when the eyes detect darkness as the sun sets, and the internal circadian clock says it’s bedtime. As more melatonin is secreted, brain activity slows down, metabolism reduces, and the body begins to feel sleepy. Melatonin inhibits the release of cortisol, a stress hormone that is responsible for keeping us awake, soon enough we fall asleep [1].

When the sun comes up, light reaches the retinas through the eyelids and the pineal gland stops secreting melatonin. Cortisol is no longer inhibited and it wakes up the brain and the body.

This is a great system, except when something goes wrong. Jet lag, shift work, and anxiety can throw off the circadian rhythm and natural release of melatonin, leaving you feeling wired throughout the night. Using a melatonin supplement can help to reset your sleep cycle and prompt the pineal gland to release melatonin at the right time [1] [2].

CAUTION: Using melatonin supplements can interfere with the body’s natural production of the hormone, leading to a long-term dependency on the synthetic version. You may also build up a tolerance against melatonin and require larger doses to feel effects. Only take melatonin supplements in moderate doses (0.3g – 1g) and as a short-term solution [2].

Using Melatonin Supplements for Jet Lag

Long-haul flights mess up the body’s circadian rhythms. It takes 2 – 5 days for the pineal gland to adjust to a new time zone, particularly if you fly westward. If you flew from California to Australia, you’ll be secreting melatonin at lunch time, and may wake up pumping cortisol in the middle of the night [3].

A recent Cochrane review concluded that a small dose of melatonin can help to re-set your circadian rhythms and help your body adjust to a new time zone [3]. Here’s how to use melatonin to prevent and treat jet lag:

  1. Set your watch to the time zone you’re travelling to as soon as you board your flight. The flight attendants do the same thing – the cabin is dimmed when it’s nighttime at your destination to stimulate everyone’s pineal glands to release melatonin within that time zone. Check your watch and take a small dose (0.3mg – 1mg) of a melatonin supplement half an hour before you want to doze off.
  2. You may not need melatonin again after you land. But if jet lag persists, it is safe to take a melatonin supplement for 2 – 3 nights to help you doze off and remain in deep sleep until morning. A 1mg dose should be more than enough.
  3. If you find you’re unable to sleep without melatonin in the long-term, consider improving your sleep hygiene practices, try herbal support and melatonin alternatives, and speak to your doctor.

Using Melatonin Supplements for Shift Work

Switching from day-shift to night-shift or visa versa can throw out the body’s sleep cycle.

It’s safe and effective for shift workers to take a low dose (0.3mg – 1mg) of melatonin for 1 – 2 nights when changing shifts [4]. The body should be able to regulate its natural release of melatonin after that.

If you still struggle to sleep during daylight hours, remember that blackout curtains and noise-canceling earplugs are your friends! Long-term melatonin supplementation is not recommended, and it can have long-term negative effects on your health.

Using Melatonin Supplements for Anxiety

As an inhibitory neurotransmitter, melatonin can stop the activity of mental stimulants and can reduce the frequency of intrusive, worrying thoughts [2]. It can also reduce blood pressure and pulse rate associated with anxiety and panic attacks. Be aware that it is a sedative and can make you feel dozy – only use melatonin supplements to ease anxiety before bedtime or a nap.

As for other conditions, melatonin is only recommended for short-term use. Very small doses (0.05mg – 0.5mg) are required to reduce the severity of panic attacks or night-time anxiety, so opt for a liquid melatonin supplement – they come with droppers and are the easiest way to control the dosage.

Do NOT use Melatonin Supplements for Sleep Disorders

Melatonin supplementation is NOT recommended for serious sleep disorders, including insomnia, night terrors, restless leg syndrome or sleep apnoea unless prescribed by a physician. These conditions can be worsened by melatonin supplementation and long-term dependence on melatonin can cause secondary sleep disorders [3][4].

CAUTION: Insomnia involves way more chemicals than just melatonin. For sleep to occur, hormones like adenosine, GABA, serotonin, and glutamate need to be perfectly balanced, blood sugar needs to be regulated, and the nervous system needs be firing at the right frequency. Melatonin supplementation can give short-term relief, but it isn’t a cure [4].

Using a low dose (0.5mg – 1mg) occasionally is considered safe for some people with insomnia, but more than once a month can lead to increased dependence on synthetic melatonin, resulting in worsening insomnia symptoms. Speak to your physician before beginning melatonin supplementation.

For long-term insomnia support, consider melatonin alternatives, improved sleep hygiene, and seeing a sleep specialist.

How to Take Melatonin Supplements

When should I take melatonin?

Take melatonin supplements 30 minutes before you wish to fall asleep, with or without food.

Potential Side Effects of Taking a Melatonin Supplement

  • Daylight sleepiness – you may feel groggy and sleepy the day after you take melatonin.
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Vivid dreams or nightmares
  • Lower body temperature

Contraindications

Do NOT use melatonin supplements if you have issues with insomnia, blood pressure, or diabetes, or take any of the following types of drugs:

  • Sleep medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Diabetes medications including insulin
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Asthma medication
  • Narcotics Consult your doctor or pharmacist to check if melatonin will interfere with your current medications and drugs, and ask for alternatives to melatonin supplements.

NOTE: Do not operate machinery or drive after you have taken melatonin!

The 5 Best Melatonin Supplements

Alternatively, you can view our best melatonin alternatives here. These are natural ingredients that help stimulate sleep without melatonin. This is an option for those who wish to avoid melatonin, or taper off from large doses of the sleep hormone.

Sundown Melatonin Supplement#5. Sundown Naturals Melatonin (300mcg, 120 Tablets)

This Sundown Naturals supplement provides a safe and effective 300mcg of melatonin per tablet, so there’s no need to break big tablets into little pieces to try and divide the dose. Simple, effective, and affordable with no gluten, lactose, or GMO ingredients, you can rest assured that this melatonin supplement is safe and effective.

 


Natrol Melatonin Supplement#4. Natrol Melatonin Time Release Melatonin (1mg, 90 tablets)

Natrol offers a range of melatonin supplements from 1mg doses through to a questionable 10mg tablet. Be gentle with your body and start with ½ a dose of these 1mg tablets. The time-release technology will mimic the pineal gland’s natural secretion of melatonin across the night, allowing you to get to sleep and stay asleep – this is the best melatonin supplement for light sleepers and passengers on airplanes.

 


Melatonin Supplements#3 Source Naturals Sublingual Melatonin (1mg, 300 tablets)

Source Naturals is a trusted brand that offers melatonin in sublingual form – when you place the lozenge under your tongue it will dissolve directly into the blood stream. Tablets that you swallow require digestion, which means they take longer to work and can lose some of their potency before they enter the blood. Sublingual melatonin is the fastest way to get melatonin into your system, and this supplement a great alternative if you have trouble swallowing tablets or capsules.

Use Source Naturals Melatonin when you need to get to sleep quickly. This is the best melatonin supplement for shift workers who need to get to sleep after work.

View Source Naturals Sublingual Melatonin

NOTE: Source Naturals also offer a sublingual spray that is even quicker and easier to administer.


Melatonin by Now#2 NOW Melatonin Supplement (1mg, 100 tablets)

NOW is a very popular supplement brand that offers a melatonin complex with nutritional cofactors. This supplement includes niacin and vitamin B6 which are required for melatonin’s activity in the brain, and a small dose of magnesium citrate helps to relax the nervous system. Each tablet contains 1mg of melatonin and they are easy to break if you want to start with a 0.5mg dose.

This is the best melatonin supplement to take if you are feeling run down or stressed out. The boost of B vitamins and magnesium will help relieve stress so the synthetic melatonin and your body’s natural melatonin can regulate your sleep cycle.

View Now Melatonin


Best Melatonin Supplement#1 Bio Naturals Liquid Melatonin Sleep Aid (59mL, 3mg per 1mL)

Bio Naturals offers a liquid melatonin supplement with a convenient dropper. We rated this the best melatonin supplement for three reasons:

  1. The liquid form of melatonin is readily absorbed by the body. Bottom line: it works fast.
  2. This supplement also contains a good dose of L-Theanine, a safe compound found in green tea that helps to relax the mind. This is perfect for people who find it hard to sleep because of sudden mental stress, shift workers who need to “switch off” before sleep, and passengers on flights who feel too stimulated to sleep.
  3. Most importantly – you can control the dose! Each 1mL dropper contains 3mg of melatonin, so 1/3 of a whole dropper is enough for a therapeutic dose. Try using only 1 drop at a time to keep the dose extra-safe, particularly if taking melatonin for anxiety.

View Bio Naturals Melatonin Here


References:

  • [4] Barion, A. & Zee, P. C. (2007) A clinical approach to circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Sleep Med., 8:6, 566 – 577. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17395535
  • [3] Herxheimer, A. & Petrie, K. J. (2002) Melatonin for the prevention and treatment of jet lag. Cochrane Database Sys Rev., 2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12076414/
  • [2] Masters, A., et al. (2014) Melatonin, the hormone from darkness: from sleep promotion to Ebola treatment. Brain Disord Ther., 4:1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4334454/
  • [1] Potter, G. D., et al. (2016) Circadian Rhythm and Sleep Disruption: Causes, Metabolic Consequences, and Countermeasures. Endocrine Reviews, 37:6, 584 – 608. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5142605/

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