What is Melatonin? Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland that regulates our circadian rhythm. It is made by our body when we are exposed to darkness and helps us feel calm and sleepy.
It is available in the United States as an over the counter pill to help people get better sleep, such as those who are jet-lagged, working in shifts, have dementia, or even children suffering from autism spectrum disorder.
How Long Does Melatonin Last In Your Body?
Its effect lasts in the body for up to 5 hours. This varies based on your height, weight, sex and age. But Typically, melatonin’s effects last 4-5 hours.
In addition, Melatonin is also commonly used for other health conditions such as migraine, ADHD, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). So how does it work? Let’s take a closer look.
The pineal gland is located in the center of our brain, controlled by our nerve cells, also known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN).
These neurons in our nervous system regulate our body clock by transmitting information or signals to each other.
In the daytime, light is absorbed by the retina in our eyes, giving signals to the SCN, which then transmits signals to our pineal gland to stop producing melatonin, helping us stay awake.
However, at night, the process reverses, and as we get exposed to the dark, the pineal gland is activated by the SCN, which produces melatonin and makes us feel sleepy just as our body temperature and blood pressure drops.
Our body quickly absorbs melatonin, with its effects reaching the peak in around an hour. But since everyone is different, melatonin can have different results on an individual as it may take more or less time to feel its effects.
There are mainly two types of melatonin tablets; regular and extended-release. Regular tablets dissolve immediately, releasing their effect in our bloodstream, whereas the extended-release tablets dissolve at a slow pace releasing melatonin gradually over time. The latter is generally considered better for a good night’s sleep.
The recommended dose for the supplement is 1 to 5mg while initially starting with a lower dose to note any adverse effects one might feel afterwards.
Taking an overdose can also be counterproductive and disturb your circadian rhythm, making you feel sleepy during the day. Since melatonin is not closely monitored or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as it is not a drug but a supplement, manufactures can label incorrect recommended doses of it on the package.
Nevertheless, it is still good to always follow the directions on the package and take it accordingly.
While the ideal time to take melatonin for each person might be different, it should generally be taken half an hour to an hour before one intends to go to sleep. It takes around 30 minutes for it to release its effects after going into our bloodstream.
It stays in our body for a short time of around 5 hours, so it is suggested to avoid driving during this period. But again, the window during which one feels the effects of melatonin could be different for each person depending on their age, caffeine intake, body composition, and the type of tablet they take.
However, you are less likely to have a hangover if taken at the right time before going to bed. If taken too late, it could result in drowsiness and daytime sleepiness the next day.
In general, melatonin is considered a safe supplement to take with little to no adverse side effects, apart from causing sleepiness, which it is intended to do.
Depending upon the person, they might feel mild symptoms such as headache, nausea, or dizziness, while some rare ones include mild anxiety, tremors, or nightmares. However, these usually occur if one takes too much melatonin at a given time.
In addition, some people might want to avoid melatonin, especially those pregnant or breastfeeding, having an autoimmune disease or seizure disorder, or those with kidney or heart problems.