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Can Melatonin Supplements Help You Sleep Better As You Age?

Getting enough sleep is so important as we get older. Unfortunately, many people find it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep as they age. Melatonin supplements have become a popular option to help with sleep issues. But do they really work? Let’s take a look at the evidence.

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone our bodies naturally produce that regulates our sleep-wake cycles. It is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin levels rise in the evening as it gets dark, making us feel sleepy. Levels fall during the day when it is light out, helping us feel awake.

As we age, our bodies often produce less melatonin, which can make it harder to fall and stay asleep. Taking a melatonin supplement aims to boost the levels of this sleep-promoting hormone.

Do Melatonin Supplements Work?

Studies show mixed results on whether melatonin supplements help improve sleep in older adults. Here’s a look at some of the research:

  • A review of 19 studies found that melatonin decreased the time it took to fall asleep by 4 minutes on average and increased total sleep time by 8 minutes[1].
  • A study of adults ages 55-80 found that prolonged-release melatonin improved sleep quality and morning alertness[2].
  • However, a large analysis of studies found that the effects of melatonin on sleep in people over 55 were small and not clinically significant[3].
  • One study found no difference in sleep between older adults taking melatonin and those taking a placebo[4].

So while some studies show modest improvements in sleep with melatonin supplementation, the evidence overall is mixed. Melatonin seems to have a relatively small effect for many people.

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How Much Melatonin Should You Take?

Melatonin doses typically range from 0.5 mg to 5 mg. Lower doses around 0.5-1 mg are likely just as effective as higher doses for improving sleep[5].

Start with the lowest dose possible, like 0.5 mg. Only increase if the lower dose isn’t effective. Taking more melatonin than you need can lead to side effects like daytime drowsiness.

When Should You Take Melatonin?

It’s best to take melatonin about 30-60 minutes before your desired bedtime. This aligns with your body’s natural melatonin production cycle.

For example, if you want to go to sleep at 10 pm, take your melatonin supplement at 9-9:30 pm. Avoid taking it earlier in the evening or during the day.

Are There Side Effects?

Melatonin supplements are generally considered safe when used short-term (up to 3 months). Some potential side effects include:

  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Higher doses are more likely to cause side effects. Start low and increase gradually as needed.

Who Should Be Cautious With Melatonin?

Certain people should use extra caution with melatonin:

  • People on medication: Melatonin can interact with many common medications like blood thinners, diabetes medication, immunosuppressants, and more. Talk to your doctor before using.
  • People with autoimmune disorders: Melatonin may worsen symptoms in people with autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis.
  • Children: More research is needed on the safety and appropriate dosing of melatonin for children.

Tips for Improving Sleep Naturally

While melatonin may provide some benefit, it likely won’t solve all your sleep problems. Try these tips to improve sleep naturally as you age:

  • Stick to a regular sleep-wake schedule, even on weekends
  • Avoid screens and stimulating activities before bedtime
  • Create a relaxing pre-bed routine like reading or meditating
  • Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet
  • Avoid large meals, alcohol, and caffeine close to bedtime
  • Get regular exercise, but not too close to bedtime
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The Bottom Line

The evidence on melatonin for improving sleep in older adults is mixed. While some studies show modest benefits, others show little to no effect.

Melatonin supplements appear safe for short-term use. Start with a low dose of 0.5-1 mg taken 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Be cautious of side effects like daytime drowsiness.

Melatonin shouldn’t replace healthy sleep habits. Focus on limiting screen time at night, avoiding caffeine/alcohol, and winding down before bed for better sleep.

Talk to your doctor before trying melatonin, especially if you take any medications. They can help determine if melatonin is right for your situation.

Product Recommendations

Nature Made Melatonin Tablets

Nature Made Melatonin tablets provide 3 mg of melatonin per tablet. They are made with high-quality ingredients and are verified for purity and potency. Nature Made is a trusted brand for supplements. Take one tablet 30-60 minutes before bedtime.

Life Extension Melatonin Capsules

These melatonin capsules from Life Extension provide 300 mcg per capsule for precise low dosing. They use fast-acting liquid softgels to improve absorption. Life Extension products are rigorously tested for quality and purity. Take 1-3 capsules 30 minutes before bed.

Zarbee’s Naturals Children’s Melatonin Gummies

For children struggling with sleep, these naturally-flavored melatonin gummies from Zarbee’s Naturals are a great option. Each gummy provides just 1 mg of melatonin. The lower dose is ideal for children. Zarbee’s is a leader in natural children’s supplements.

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