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Should You Be Taking Melatonin to Fall Asleep?

Cover Photo by Christopher Jolly via Unsplash

In an age where sleep so often falls by the wayside, it’s always nice to hear about folks who put in the effort to get a good night’s rest. Whether it’s sipping some chamomile tea in the evening or putting your phone away for a while before you hit the pillow, there are several actions we can take to maximize the chances of clutching that restorative, deep sleep we so genuinely need. 

Popping melatonin, however, is not so universally loved. What is melatonin, anyway, and is taking it really a good idea?

First thing’s first, it’s a hormone. 

Melatonin is already produced naturally by the body. In order to help with sleep, the body ramps up its melatonin-manufacturing process when it gets dark and holds back once light returns. 

The supplement has grown quite popular, with American consumers reaching an expenditure of roughly $408 million in 2017 alone. Entrepreneurs have seized the opportunity to hawk melatonin in liquid, powdered, and even gummy form. One has to wonder — is this all legitimate, or just some marketing scheme?

Why do people take melatonin?

Melatonin had proved effective in helping those who struggle with sleep disorders like insomnia or delayed sleep-wake phase, with its primary benefit being greater ease in falling asleep. Those who work in occupations with nontraditional schedules (and may have to sleep during the day, for example) as well as individuals grappling with disrupted circadian rhythms can also reap its benefits. Supplementing the body’s natural melatonin supply can also help those on either end of the age spectrum, as both children and seniors are subject to subpar melatonin production. 

What are the downsides?

On the whole, melatonin has a largely positive, safe history. However, there exists a gap in the knowledge base about how melatonin impacts users who opt for larger doses over an extensive period of time. Conflicting research has also cropped up regarding its effects on diabetic patients. 

What should I watch out for?

As always, it’s best practice to remain vigilant about how melatonin might interfere with any other medications in your regimen. It’s also important to look out for lingering effects, especially when operating a vehicle or machinery the next morning. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration regulates supplements differently (and more relaxedly) than it does over-the-counter items, and so it’s important to consider what is actually inside the product you are purchasing when waiting in line at the checkout counter. Of course, discussing your own personal risk factors and health situation with your healthcare provider is also advised. 

What are your thoughts on melatonin? Let us know in the poll below. 

Cover Photo by Christopher Jolly via Unsplash

  • Have you ever considered taking melatonin?

    • Yes
    • No


Written by Megan Pontin

Enthusiastic word-collector, avid pancake-consumer, and experienced hammock-lounger. Student at Cornell University.

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