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General Information

Melatonin is a hormone that is found naturally in the body, but it can also be made synthetically in a laboratory. In our bodies, melatonin helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Darkness causes the body to make more melatonin, while light stops this process.

Common Name(s)
melatonin, pineal hormone, MEL
Scientific Name(s)
melatonin, N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine
How is Melatonin usually used?

Melatonin is taken by mouth. It is available in different forms, including regular tablets, sublingualsublingualtaken under the tongue tablets (placed under the tongue), and capsules. The adult dose of melatonin ranges from 0.1 mg to 10 mg per day taken at or before bedtime.

Your health care provider may have recommended using this product in other ways. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.

What is Melatonin used for?

Melatonin helps to reset the body's sleep-wake cycle. It is used by people to help:

  • increase the total amount of sleep for people suffering from sleep restriction or altered sleep schedule (e.g., shift work, jet lag)
  • ease daytime fatigue associated with jet lag
  • reduce the time required to fall asleep for people who have delayed sleep phase syndrome
  • reset the body's sleep-wake cycle

Most of the research shows that melatonin can help with certain symptoms of jet lag, including alertness, daytime sleepiness and fatigue. There is some evidence that taking melatonin may not help shorten the time it takes for jet-lagged travellers to fall asleep.

Taking melatonin on a short-term basis can modestly improve the time it takes to fall asleep. More research is needed to confirm this. However, it is not likely to help with sleep adjustment for people who do rotation shift work.

Melatonin has also been studied to help with sleep disturbances in people who are visually impaired and has been shown to help improve sleep disorders related to circadian rhythm.

Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.

What else should I be aware of?

Melatonin is safe for most adults when taken by mouth for a short term. If you are using melatonin for more than 4 weeks or your symptoms last more than 4 weeks, consult your health care provider. Common side effects reported include headache, daytime sleepiness, dizziness, stomach cramps, and irritability. Do not drive or use machinery for 5 hours after taking melatonin.

It can interact with certain medications including warfarin, diabetes medications, and immunosuppressants. It can cause more drowsiness when used with other medications that may also have this side effect (e.g., alcohol, sedativesedativean agent that induces sleep, relaxes, and reduces tensions, benzodiazepines such as lorazepam, temazepam).

Melatonin should not be used in people who are:

  • pregnant or breast-feeding
  • taking immunosuppressive medications (e.g., cyclosporine, prednisone)

Before taking melatonin, consult a health care professional if you have a history of asthma, seizures, diabetes, diseases affecting the immune system, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, depression, liver or kidney disease, migraines, or hormonal disorders.

Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.

  1. Melatonin. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. (Accessed 19 March 2014).
  2. Natural Standard. Melatonin. Accessed 19 March 2014
  3. Health Canada. Licensed Natural Health Products. Melatonin. (accessed 19 March 2014)

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