Melatonin: Most frequently asked questions with answers

You’ve probably seen it in someone else’s stories about sleep related issues, or heard from your friends about it, and they healed all their sleep problems. Melatonin has entered the realm of common knowledge, but still, many of us aren’t sure what it means or if it’s good for us to take melatonin supplements. Let’s understand first what melatonin is and then we’ll move to the next section.

What is melatonin?

It is often called the “sleep hormone”, but it’s actually not a very accurate description. It’s actually a dark hormone produced by your body and released when it’s dark at night or when you’re wearing a sleep mask. 


When and how is melatonin released?

It all has to do with your body clock. This clock regulates melatonin release, and the timing is affected by light or lack of light. Generally, melatonin release begins two to three hours before bedtime. As the sun sets and the light turns to darkness, the eye notices the lack of light and sends a signal to the master biological clock in the brain (a small structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN for short). And this activates the pineal gland to release melatonin. This tells all the organ clocks that night is approaching. Now both your brain and body will recognize that it’s night and it’s time to shift gears.


When it gets dark and your body clock gets ready for the evening, your body releases melatonin. It is released throughout the night and begins to decline as morning approaches.

What happens when melatonin is released?

Some of melatonin’s sleep-inducing effects are due to the fact that melatonin in the blood causes blood vessels to dilate, which has been shown to make the body feel warmer and more conducive to sleep.

What about taking melatonin?

According to doctors, there are very few instances where taking melatonin supplements (melatonin strip, melatonin gummies, melatonin tablets etc) is done over-the-counter without recommendation from any doctor.


  1. If you are preparing for or trying to cope-up with the jet lag, then relying on a travel pillow alone is not going to induce sleep, rather taking melatonin at a specific time will. It helps your body to adjust to a new time zone. So, before your trip gives you the feeling of jet lag, instead you can take advantage of that time. It’s a great way to prevent fatigue from changing.


  1. In elder people the pineal gland becomes more calcified thus releasing less melatonin. Production is further inhibited, when the eyesight worsens, or turning of eyelenses’s colour to yellow, as this leads to poor determination of darkness from lightness. 
  2. People who are having low melatonin levels can get themselves tested and your doctor can finally determine if you have low melatonin levels or no. If yes, they can help you with right amount of dosage.


Can I take melatonin or take too much?

There is no acute overdose of melatonin with 20 mg tablets if the tablets are taken as per doctor’s permission, no toxicity occurs.


However, taking too much melatonin supplements can upset the delicate balance of various hormones in the body. It has been shown that very few people report any side effects from taking melatonin, ranging from headaches to seizures. Taking melatonin orally, eliminates the need to make it by your own body.


Are there any “best practices” for melatonin?

Doctors touch on some important things to keep in mind when considering taking melatonin.


  1. Get your dose right – look for doses between 0.5 mg and 3 mg. Higher doses have no additional positive effects, only negative ones. You could end up paying more and disturbing your sleep.
  2. Look for slow-release tablets that release melatonin throughout the night. This mimics what your body does naturally throughout the night, unlike standard melatonin tablets that give you a peak dose right after you take it.
  3. Look for established brands – melatonin as a sleep aid is currently not well regulated, so melatonin supplements may contain many other things.


Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a way to magically fix your sleep problems, melatonin supplements(melatonin gummies, melatonin strips etc.) aren’t your answer. You have to take doctor’s help to understand the root cause of your problems.

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