Seeking Melatonin pros and cons
September 12, 2017 6:31 PM   Subscribe

My health care provider recently recommended that I try Melatonin to help improve my quality of sleep. If you've tried Melatonin, did it work for you?

I'm post-menopausal and have trouble sleeping through the night. I usually fall asleep pretty quickly using a guided meditation app, but I wake up 2-3 times per night. I asked my gynecologist for advice last week and she recommended I try 10mgs of Melatonin.
I know that everyone is different, but if you've tried Melatonin I'd like to know about your experience. Did it help you?How long did it take before you noticed an effect? Were there any negative side effects? I'm very interested in both pros and cons from people who've actually tried this. Thanks!
posted by bookmammal to Health & Fitness (45 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I use Melatonin off and on for sleep issues and I'd say 10mg to start is kind of insane, but I am not a doctor. I took 10mg once and felt drugged for 24 hours. 1-2mg seems to be pretty spot on for me in terms of benefits/side effects, but that may vary by your weight and diet.
posted by Young Kullervo at 6:35 PM on September 12, 2017 [6 favorites]

Melatonin helps me fall asleep - especially if my rhythm has been interrupted (like after travel across time zones). I don't tend to have side effects. I don't get grogginess, like I get from benadryl or nyquil (my other sleep aids).

My understanding is that the science shows that melatonin helps people fall asleep but doesn't help them stay asleep.
posted by entropone at 6:36 PM on September 12, 2017

Melatonin did basically nothing for me, but that includes no side effects, and it seems to work for many people so I would still recommend trying it on my lack of results.
posted by brainmouse at 6:38 PM on September 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

It didn't work for me -- it gave me very strange, vivid dreams and I would feel so groggy upon waking up. But it's possible I wasn't sleeping long enough. My husband's been using it and he feels much more well rested and refreshed. He does get the strange dreams too, though.
posted by saturngirl at 6:39 PM on September 12, 2017

I've been taking it maybe 5-6 years? Before, my life was horrible. Falling asleep wasn't hard, but I would keep waking up, and once having awakened, often was up til the morning.

Melatonin saved my life. I'd tried OTC sleep meds and got headaches, or felt druggy in the morning, or had bizarre disturbing dreams.

I started with 2mg pills but started breaking them in half, it was too much. It was very hard for me to wake in the morning. For years now I take my 1mg before bed and it makes me drowsy and if I wake up, I can get back to sleep. I'm incredulous that just 1mg does anything, I'm 250 lbs. But it

10mg seems insane to me. But YBCMV (body chemistry)
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:44 PM on September 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

I take 3mg nightly and I think it does help. Until some recently hurricane-related stress which cranked up my old insomnia, I was getting good rest and sleeping through the night without grogginess. 10mg does sound really high to me, though.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:45 PM on September 12, 2017

Melatonin knocks me out cold within an hour or so of taking one, but doesn't seem to prevent nighttime awakenings for me. But one of my parents takes melatonin to stop waking up at night and says it works like a charm.
posted by capricorn at 6:46 PM on September 12, 2017

I am really irritated about Melatonin for a bunch of reasons, HOWEVER a friend of mine in a similar situation was prescribed the lowest common OTC extended release dose PLUS a B-Complex vitamin an hour before bedtime and said that was like magic compared to just Melatonin before, which didn't work.

I am perimenopausal and about ready to give up and try it because I am fucking sick of knowing there is a 2:45-5:30am every damn night. (Every night! Who knew??)
posted by Lyn Never at 6:46 PM on September 12, 2017 [7 favorites]

I have had sleep issues for basically my entire adult life. At various times I have had trouble falling asleep, waking too early, and sleeping long enough but not feeling refreshed because of poor sleep quality.

Seconding the idea that melatonin helps you fall asleep, not stay asleep. That was my experience too, and I recall reading research about it. I've also read that if you use it too often, your body can habituate to it and have trouble producing its own melatonin.

You know what's great for sleep quality, including sleeping through the night? CBD oil. Made from marijuana (NOT hemp oil!). If you can get your hands on that, you're in luck. I got to try a small package once, and each one of those 20 small "servings" helped me have a delicious, uninterrupted night's sleep. Unfortunately, because my state is still an asshole about pot, I had to break the law to get it.

My ex also used to grow and use poppies for among other things, sleep. I tried it once and it was heavenly--even better than CBD oil. But it made me puke the next morning. YMMV of course.
posted by nirblegee at 6:47 PM on September 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

I've taken it more or less nightly for 5 or 6 years, along with valerian root. The combo knocks me right out, and I feel fine in the morning. It doesn't keep me asleep since my hysterectomy though, so it may not he what you're looking for. Agree with everyone else that 10mg sounds like a lot.
posted by donnagirl at 6:54 PM on September 12, 2017

I take it from time to time if I find that I am staying up too late and want to fall asleep at an earlier hour. It works well for me, though I find I need to take it within a half hour of the time at which I really want to fall asleep—if I end up staying wake beyond that, I feel super groggy but can't get to sleep.

I find that when I do take it, I sleep quite deeply. If something wakes me up even just a few minutes after I've gone to sleep, I'll wake up thinking I've been asleep forever. Sometimes I feel a bit groggy when I wake up, too.

I've never taken it for more than a few nights in a row.
posted by synecdoche at 6:59 PM on September 12, 2017

As I mentioned in this response, the effectiveness of any sleep remedy depends on the cause of your sleep problem.

I find melatonin useful for getting over jet lag. If it's not working for you, this is a strong indication the problem is not with your serotonin/melatonin cycle.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:05 PM on September 12, 2017

5-HTP to fall asleep, sometimes I add 500 mcg of Melatonin to that. Melatonin gives great dreams!

L-Glutamine to stay asleep. I never feel groggy or weird with these supplements, but stuff like Valerian or KavaKava did give me grogginess. Melatonin is great, I never feel weird the next day.
posted by jbenben at 7:07 PM on September 12, 2017

Melatonin tells your brain that it's bedtime but doesn't tell your brain to stay asleep. It also gave me awful vivid nightmares for some reason. I use Trazodome to stay asleep.
posted by joan_holloway at 7:09 PM on September 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Melatonin has been a huge help for me. I don't have insomnia, but I often have trouble falling asleep because my brain stays up being anxious and going around in circles. I take 5 or 10 mg most nights, and it makes falling asleep something sweet and easy, usually within half an hour of taking it. Never been groggy or fuzzy or anything. (For what it's worth, I weigh probably around 175 lbs, and for comparison, anything but the tiniest dose of pot - my previous sleep aid solution - *does* leave me stupid and groggy for 24 hours.)

I tend to skip taking it on weekends since I go to bed later, and never have trouble falling asleep; maybe I've avoided the whole dependency/body stops producing it thing?

Anyway, the bottom line is 10 mg has worked nicely for me, and I really can't say enough about how much happier and calmer and better-rested I am, but that's a baseline where once I'm asleep, I stay asleep, and it's really just getting over that drifting-off bump.
posted by kalimac at 7:09 PM on September 12, 2017

I used to take it somewhat regularly and then it started giving me night terrors. But I think that can happen with any sleep aid.
posted by lunasol at 7:10 PM on September 12, 2017

I've used it for time zone adjustments and when I work on something too late/too much screen time/can't shut my brain off. Definitely can report the vivid dreams with it--but it's not been too much for me. It has for other people I know.
posted by stevis23 at 7:29 PM on September 12, 2017

I've had good luck with melatonin when I've used it. I don't know about 10mg, I usually just get a bottle at the drug store and take the dose recommended on the label or halve it, depending on how desperate I am to get some sleep and how long it's been since I've used melatonin.

As these things go it's a fairly easy thing to try and see if it works for you or not.
posted by bunderful at 7:41 PM on September 12, 2017

Never had many issues with insomnia, but I travel a ton and melatonin has been a life-saver for jetlag for me - Unisom isn't enough, and I'm not comfortable taking Ambien. I've generally used one 3mg melatonin tablet timed carefully to when I should be sleeping, particularly for eastbound flights. Not a perfect cure, but definitely makes the jetlag way more manageable. Never had an issue with side effects that I've noticed.
posted by photo guy at 7:53 PM on September 12, 2017

I started taking 3mg melatonin because my neurologist recommended it for migraines (along with other supplements). It hasn't done anything for my migraine, but it does help me fall asleep. It tends to make me feel sleepy and ready to close my eyes; I'm also prescribed trazodone for insomnia, which keeps me asleep, but doesn't help me fall asleep.
posted by epj at 8:20 PM on September 12, 2017

melatonin has never worked right for me no matter how i take it; it doesn't make falling asleep any easier, when i do finally fall asleep i get sleep paralysis and frothing night terrors, and when i wake up i'm confused and groggy and miserable. i'm like 90% sure i have that delayed sleep phase thing though so in my case i guess taking melatonin was trying to solve a problem that didn't actually exist.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:28 PM on September 12, 2017

I use it occasionally, whatever the drugstore dose is. I sleep well and have vivid dreams. I need to have a full night available to sleep- no getting up early the next day. It's worth trying.
posted by kerf at 8:31 PM on September 12, 2017

I was on it for a few years. I think it worked at first then less effectively, not surprisingly. It only helped with sleep onset. I've never heard of anyone taking it to stay asleep and 10 mg does sound like a bananas dose to start from. I was on 3 mg.
posted by bizarrenacle at 9:02 PM on September 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I used melatonin once and I got a terrible migraine within a few hours. It could have been coincidence, but I wasn't willing to try it again to test.
posted by lollusc at 9:12 PM on September 12, 2017

I use it occasionally but not regularly, particularly when I have to be up early for something. After a bad result with a 5 mg dose, I stick to 3 mg or less.

For me, melatonin's greatest benefit is that it mellows my brain and makes me not care that I'm still awake, if that makes sense. Like, when the hardest part is when you're trying to fall asleep and your mind won't turn off and you're overly focused on the fact that the seconds are ticking away and your alarm will go off in less than five hours and you have so much to do tomorrow and every time you start to doze off you jerk wide awake and have to start all over...yeah. That's where melatonin works best for me. I don't know that it actually makes me sleepy so much as it makes me not stressed about the fact that I'm still awake. It stops my brain from getting into that vicious cycle where I can't fall asleep because I'm thinking about how much I need to fall asleep. And then...I actually fall asleep! It's kind of awesome.

I've never found it to be much use for things like jet lag, and every once in a while it gives me really vivid, unsettling dreams, but I use it pretty irregularly so the side effects aren't a deal breaker.
posted by Salieri at 9:55 PM on September 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

My new doctor upped my 5 mg. prescription to 15 mg. a night (I think he said it has a role in cancer prevention? I can't remember for sure.). It has never made me groggy, but my spouse felt groggy the next morning with just 5 mg. , so I think everyone's body responds differently. I notice that I dream occasionally since I started on the higher dose, and I don't remember ever remembering my dreams before.
posted by summerstorm at 10:37 PM on September 12, 2017

Use it on and off if I've had trouble sleeping. Previous pills were 5mg, and I'd take one or two. Current ones are 3mg and I end up taking two of those. No side effects so far, and I wake up well rested.

Side note, I get them through folk visiting the states. They're prescription here in Sweden.
posted by monocultured at 12:59 AM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I take 10mg. every night. No side effects other than it helps me feel sleepy. I noticed the other day that there is a time release version OTC now.
posted by tamitang at 3:58 AM on September 13, 2017

Melatonin helps me fall asleep easily. I use it for a week or three whenever a run of insomnia hits, to sort of reset myself. As long as I actually pay attention and go to sleep when the melatonin sleepiness kicks in, it's great. No side effects. I have never noticed that it helps me stay asleep, though.

My partner gets the extremely vivid and exhausting dream side effects, so it's a bad match for him. Trazodone was the only thing of several medication attempts that helped him sleep through the night.
posted by Stacey at 4:28 AM on September 13, 2017

I can never get enough sleep, so sleep hacking is one of my interests. Melatonin has worked for me, but I try to use it infrequently, and in limited amounts -- I usually break a 3 mg pill in half.

I've read some about how if you use it too often, your body stops producing it naturally. Keep in mind that the UK considers it more dangerous than the U.S. does. They've made it prescription-only.
posted by Borborygmus at 4:40 AM on September 13, 2017

Worked very well for me. . .for about 6 weeks then the effects were reduced.

Apparently it is a better anti-oxidant than vitamin C.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 5:04 AM on September 13, 2017

Melatonin mostly helps me fall asleep, not stay asleep. If I take melatonin and magnesium I'll mostly sleep through the night. I'll still occasionally wake up, but I'll quickly fall back asleep rather than lay there wide awake. I was taking this fairly consistently for a while, and I found that now I generally sleep better than I ever have before: not sure if it help me set a routine or if I'm just getting old. Like someone mentioned above, I was only taking it during the week. Now I'll generally only take it a few days in a row if I've been knocked off my regular sleeping schedule, or if I'm especially stressed.

10mg does seem like a high dose to start, if only because some people do react fairly strongly: my husband can't take more than 3 mg without feeling groggy the next day. I usually need 5-6 mg to have any effect.
posted by ghost phoneme at 5:12 AM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Good morning :(

I've been taking 10mg for a few weeks. Count me as one of the people who it helps fall asleep but not stay asleep.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:28 AM on September 13, 2017

Even the 10mg pills do nothing for me at all - jealous of all the people here saying they have to take less because it makes them so groggy!
posted by whitelily at 5:41 AM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Taking a 3mg dose helps me fall asleep but as others have said doesn't seem to do anything in terms of staying asleep. I've never tried a higher dose or the slow-release version.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:34 AM on September 13, 2017

I take 9mg of melatonin every night in addition to a prescription sleep med. Between the two, I sleep better than I ever have in my life before that. Melatonin helps me feel sleepy and hit the point where I can fall asleep, and when I wake up it lets me go to sleep again.

During the adjustment period where I first started taking it, I had some very fleeting nightmares that I described to friends as hot and fast, quick moments of nothing that I woke easily from and went back to sleep easily. This was not a big deal at all and the only reason I remember it now is because a friend who was trying it out explicitly asked me if I'd had that issue.

Start with a smaller dose, like 1-2mg and increase if you need to. I started low and had to take more as I adjusted, but I've been stable on my current dose for years.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:03 AM on September 13, 2017

Agree with the above that melatonin is great for me for falling asleep, but not staying asleep. It is short-acting. That said, if your mid-sleep wakeup is early enough in the night, you can take another dose.

I'd personally start with 5mg though. I like the ones that dissolve on your tongue so you don't have to have a glass of water at your bedside.
posted by radioamy at 9:34 AM on September 13, 2017

I tried it for a trip, to help with the jet lag, but it can cause dryness in your eyes (which apparently also have a melatonin cycle), which is a big drag for contacts-wearers, so I won't do that again. Can't really say whether it helped with jet-lag, as that was in an earlier era.

Consider also St. John's Wort.
posted by acm at 9:45 AM on September 13, 2017

10 mg sounds like way too much. Last year I was taking around 5 mg per night - sleeping like the dead, but it was SO hard to wake up. Also, right around that time I developed a daily case of diarrhea that had me convinced I was dying. Luckily, my husband happened to find anecdotal evidence that melatonin can cause gastro-intestinal distress in some people. I stopped the melatonin and the stomach issues cleared right up.
posted by GoldenEel at 12:30 PM on September 13, 2017

Consider also St. John's Wort.

Please, please, PLEASE be careful with St. John's wort. A boatload of scary interactions are possible if it's taken with other medications.

Per sources including the National Institutes of Health, St. John's wort could lead to serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening increase in serotonin, when combined with triptans (taken to treat migraines), the OTC cough suppressant dextromethorphan, or certain antidepressants (see below):

  • SSRIs: Celexa, Prozac, Lexapro, Luvox, Paxil and Zoloft.

  • Tricyclics: Pamelor, Elavil and Tofranil.

  • MAOIs: Nardil and Pamate.

  • Serzone.

  • St. John's wort can also reduce the effectiveness of antihistamines, digoxin, immunosuppressant drugs (taken after organ transplants or to control autoimmune diseases), birth control pills, reserpine, theophylline (taken by people with asthma, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis to open their airways), and warfarin.

    It can increase the impact of substances that have a sedating effect, including alcohol; anticonvulsants, such as Dilantin and Depakote; barbiturates; benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Valium, and tricyclic antidepressants.

    St. John's wort may also interact with antifungal drugs such as Nizoral, Sporanox, and Diflucan; statins, and some calcium channel blockers.

    The Food and Drug Administration recommends not taking St. John's wort with any type of antiretroviral medication used to treat HIV or AIDS. And among people who have or are at risk of mental health disorders, including bipolar disorder, taking St. John's wort may bring on psychosis.

    I apologize for the book-length post, but St. John's wort is Exhibit A for "natural ≠ safe," despite its being marketed as an innocuous herbal supplement.
    posted by virago at 1:35 PM on September 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

    I took 3mg melatonin semi-regularly while I was in Afghanistan. It helped me fall asleep reasonably quickly (usually takes me forever to get to sleep) and I think helped me stay asleep. If I had a good 8 hours before I had to wake up then I didn't wake up feeling groggy but anything less than that and I'd be sort of bleary for a bit after waking. If I am particularly stressed out about something and know I'm not gonna be able to turn my mind off and know that I'm going to bed early enough that I will be able to get a full night, then I will take melatonin, but I don't use it regularly.
    posted by Hal Mumkin at 4:14 PM on September 13, 2017

    I used melatonin (2.5g) and valerian, and eventually just shifted to valerian. It seemed to work as well for me as the two combined.
    posted by oneirodynia at 10:15 PM on September 13, 2017

    I find melatonin very useful, including keeping me asleep. I take 1 mg. A friend was recommended 3 mg, decided 5 was even better, and says she had the weirdest dreams ever. I find my dreams a bit vivid on 3, but not disturbing.
    posted by JawnBigboote at 7:22 AM on September 14, 2017

    Melatonin is great for my tendency to sleep procrastinate. It makes me too dozy to stay up too late. I don't notice any effect from taking less than 5mg, which is what I take once or twice a week, but not every week. I have had no noticeable side effects from taking 10mg, though.
    posted by Edna Million at 1:29 PM on September 15, 2017

    I us3d it occasionally in my 20s, to reset my sleep cycle from jet lag while traveling, and it was great for that.

    In my late 30s, I developed insomnia due to a shockingly loud living situation and life stress, and tried it again. It didn't work very well in that situation, and I found that it left me groggy all the next day.

    I also worked in a few vitamin/supplement stores over the years, and annecdotal reports of its efficacy varried quite a bit.

    My conclusion is that it really depends on the individual biochemistry of the user, at the particular stage of life they are in.

    Also, many people, my self included, found that lower doses actually worked better than higher ones to stay asleep all night. A lot of people ended up buying the weakest dosage, and breaking up the tablets into halves or quarters.
    posted by ethical_caligula at 10:11 AM on September 16, 2017

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