Q. Dear Terry, “I recently stopped working the night shift and I’m having trouble falling asleep. I heard that melatonin can help. How much melatonin should I take and when?” – Tanner L., Lincoln, NE
A. Dear Tanner, Melatonin is frequently recommended for sleep troubles and for supporting the circadian rhythm, which is our 24-hour biological clock. To help reset the circadian rhythm and adapt to a new schedule, whether traveling overseas or starting a new job, melatonin can be helpful.
Melatonin is made by the body during the hours of darkness. However, in our modern world there are a lot of threats to ample melatonin production: light pollution, aging, shift work, screen time and late nights. Therefore, many of us are deficient in this key hormone and people who work night shift can produce up to 33% less melatonin overall. To overcome the many threats to our natural melatonin levels, supplementation is a must for a large percentage of the population.
When it comes to timing of melatonin, ideally it should be taken about 1-2 hours before desired bedtime. Because melatonin is quickly metabolized by the body some supplemental forms can be completely cycled through in as little as two hours. If you want more sustained release benefits from melatonin, you could consider looking for a form that slowly administers itself into the bloodstream over time. I would try 5 to 10 mg of a slow-release melatonin, which is the same form used in clinical research because it helps reestablish circadian rhythms more efficiently and effectively.
Terry . . . Naturally