Header for Osteoporosis Digest

Melatonin Sleep Aids

Research has shown that melatonin sleep aids help to restore natural sleep patterns. But more melatonin is not necessarily better and melatonin should only be taken for short periods of time.

Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in our body to regulate our sleep-wake cycle also known as the circadian rhythm. It is sometimes referred to as the darkness hormone, as darkness stimulates the release of melatonin and light suppresses its activity in our nervous system.

There is evidence that melatonin production slows down as we age, which combined with jet-lag or hormonal changes during menopause can cause significant sleep loss.


Research has found melatonin sleeps aids to be effective with sleep disturbance resulting from various medical conditions as well as from jet-lag and shift work. But people vary in their response to melatonin and require different dosages for the desired result.

For most healthy people, low doses of melatonin cause few side effects when taken for periods up to three months. However, some people may experience unwanted effects such as headaches, nausea, grogginess, irritability, hormone fluctuations, vivid dreams or nightmares or reduced blood flow... especially at doses of 3 mg/day or more. Melatonin can also cause drowsiness and therefore should not be taken when driving or operating machinery.

Melatonin should not be used by children, teenagers, or pregnant or lactating women. People with the following conditions should also avoid using melatonin sleep aids:

  • auto-immune diseases (such as Crohn’s, rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves... )
  • diabetes
  • depression (especially if taking an MAO inhibitor)
  • epilepsy
  • lymphoproliferative disorders (such as lymphoma and leukemia)

People suffering from any of these conditions should consult a physician before taking a melatonin sleep aid.

Melatonin does not require approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is not subjected to the same controls placed on drugs. For this reason, there is little information on melatonin’s interaction with other medications.


The proper melatonin dosage varies greatly from person to person. It is generally recommended that a person begin with a small dose (around 1 mg) and work their way up to larger dose if necessary. Pills are commonly available in doses ranging from 1 mg to 3 mg.

Some studies suggest that smaller doses (for example 0.3 mg as opposed to 3 mg) are equally effective as the larger doses. Studies conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have found that melatonin supplements have three to ten times the amount needed to facilitate sleep.


For sleep disorders associated with stress, shift work or menopause, melatonin is best taken at nighttime and is most effective when taken thirty to sixty minutes before going to sleep.

To avoid the effects of jet-lag when traveling across multiple time zones, ingestion prior to getting on the flight is recommended followed by another dosage prior to going to bed.


Melatonin is available without prescription in most parts of the United States and Canada but is available only by prescription (or not at all) in other countries. The hormone may be administered orally, as capsules, tablets or liquid, sublingually, or as a transdermal patch.

Melatonin is also available as a prolonged-release prescription drug with the trade-name Circadin. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved 2 mg Circadin for patients who are aged 55 or over for the short-term treatment (up to 13 weeks) of primary insomnia characterized by poor quality of sleep.

Women who are suffering from sleep loss due to hormonal changes during menopause may wish to explore the use of progesterone cream, which can be used for longer periods than is recommended for melatonin.

Women who have entered menopause may wish to use progesterone cream which can be used for longer periods than melatonin sleep aids.