Ask Dr. Nandi: Can Melatonin Really Help You Sleep Better?

Posted at 12:00 PM, Jun 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-04 12:00:12-04

Having trouble sleeping and looking for solutions? You’re not alone as the American Academy of Sleep Medicine tells us that 30 to 35 percent of adults experience insomnia for brief periods of time. That means millions in America are not getting enough z’s. And lack of sleep can really affect our lives. You know what I’m talking about – irritability, crankiness, fatigue, unmotivated and unfocused. And if you experience insomnia for a few days, you may be desperately looking for solutions fast. Now melatonin has been marketed for years as a sleep aid. But does it help you sleep better? Let’s look at the research.  
Scientists are finding that Melatonin can work for different sleep problems. Now a few studies have compared melatonin and placebos. The results suggest that the supplement works better and you may take less time to fall asleep, get more hours of sleep overall and feel more alert during the day.    

Melatonin can also help you sleep if you’re suffering from jet lag or working the night shift. And as we get older, unfortunately, insomnia becomes more common. Current research suggests melatonin may work best for those aged 55 and over.   

Now how much do we need?  

I want you to start with start with a low dose. Less than 0.3 milligrams as this is close to what your body normally produces. Melatonin is generally safe for short-term use but do watch for side effects like headaches, dizziness, drowsiness and nausea. But before you start on this supplement, I’d like you to talk with your doctor first. Because melatonin can interact with other drugs like those for diabetes, high blood pressure and blood clotting disorders. Your doctor can also help you find the safest and most effective dose that works right for you. And hopefully you’ll be sleeping soundly and feel more rested ruing the day in no time.

Partha Nandi MD FACP
Chief Health Editor