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When Should I Take Melatonin?

21st February 2019

Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally secreted in the human body and its purpose is to aid sleep. It plays a key role in our “body clock” which is the 24 hour cycle that our body follows for sleeping, eating and going to the toilet. Our bodies are naturally aligned with the sun so short of being disrupted by shift work or a holiday, we go to bed when it’s dark and wake up when it’s light.

The part that melatonin plays in this is that our brains begin to produce this hormone when it starts to get dark outside, with levels increasing until we go to sleep and then staying at their peak all night to keep us asleep. When sunlight is detected on the eyelids, our bodies stop producing melatonin and we wake up. So if there’s a problem with or disruption to this process, then you may experience problems sleeping, which is why melatonin is available in the form of a pill.

Forms and Dosage of Melatonin

Melatonin pills are completely safe and widely available from pharmacies, as the drug works with your body’s natural processes, rather than against them. The exact dose of melatonin can vary between 1mg and 10mg, and the recommended dose will very much depend on the severity of the sleeping problems you are experiencing.

When to take Melatonin?

Since individual symptoms may vary and the response is also not the same, it is difficult to recommend a standard dosage of melatonin that will be equally effective for everyone. Likewise, the exact time when should take the pill will also vary depending on how well the body responds to it. Starting with lower doses is recommended so you can properly understand the effects, as you can have it increased if you find that this doesn’t work very well for you.

When to take melatonin usually has a simple answer; you should take it when you want to go to sleep. Taking it around half an hour before bedtime is usually best, but some people may need to take it one or two hours beforehand in order to fall asleep at the desired time. The best thing to do is to work out when you want to fall asleep (and when you want to wake up) and work backwards from there.

Melatonin can be used in a number of different sleep disorders but the main one is jet lag. This is because jet lag is not a chronic case of insomnia, but is a condition that simply displays symptoms or your body having not adjusted its body clock. When travelling across multiple different time zones, your body will still be used to the original destination, but the time on the clock in the new destination will be telling a different story. In cases like this, you should try and adjust to the new time as quickly as possible, so even if you are not tired (because your body is telling you it’s only 6pm) then you should take a melatonin tablet at around half past 10 to fall asleep between 11 and half past.

People who are suffering from insomnia can also take melatonin to try and regulate their sleeping pattern, especially those are finding themselves lying awake for hours at night and then feeling tired when it’s time to wake up in the morning. Taking a tablet a couple of hours before you want to go to bed will ensure that it’s at its peak potency to help you go to sleep at the desired time. It’s important that melatonin for insomnia is purely used for the primary kind though (this means there is no known cause). If you are suffering from secondary insomnia then this means that your sleeping problems are caused by some other environmental (noise or uncomfortable bed), medical (chronic pain or trouble breathing) or mental (stress) problems. In these cases, melatonin is not advised.

The dosage plays an important role and it should influence the time when you take the melatonin pill. Smaller doses can still be taken well into the night, while higher doses should be limited to nine or ten. Taking 10mg or higher after midnight may induce sleepiness and cause a sense of hangover in the morning, which may not wear off completely. The purpose of taking this medication is to aid sleep, not to affect wakefulness in the morning or any kind of lack of focus during the day. It works best when taken at the right time and in a suitable environment; having too many distractions, from loud noise to brightly lit settings, might affect the quality of sleep.