So, you’ve tried some melatonin supplements to help you fall asleep, but you haven't gotten a good night's sleep with them. Now you’re wondering, “Why does melatonin not work for me?” Thankfully, there’s a lot more you can do to get the most out of your melatonin – such as trying more effective melatonin supplements or improving your nighttime routine.
In reality, it is possible that melatonin supplements don’t work for some people. We estimate that this may be true of about 3-5% of the population. However, if you’re not feeling the effects of melatonin, it’s much more likely you’re taking it at the wrong time, you’re not taking the right amount, or your habits are working against the melatonin. Read on to learn all the different things you can try before concluding, “Melatonin doesn’t work on me.”
Note: If melatonin alone doesn’t work for you, try MELO Sip. MELO Sip combines melatonin with other ingredients like L-Theanine, Valerian root, and Chamomile that help you relax when melatonin alone isn’t enough.
In this post, we'll cover:
Why Melatonin Doesn’t Work for You
Many of the reasons melatonin doesn’t work are related to specific supplements. It can be difficult to find a good melatonin supplement, not least because these supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA. This is why we started MELO Labs: to create more effective, fast-acting, and transparent melatonin supplements.
With this in mind, let’s talk about some of the reasons why melatonin might not be working for you.
You’re Taking the Wrong Amount
How much melatonin do you think you should be taking? It’s natural to think a bigger dose is going to be more effective. Some companies sell supplements with as much as 10 mg of melatonin, and of course, people can make individual doses even bigger by taking multiple pills at once. But when it comes to melatonin, more isn’t better.
Why is this? Unlike other sleeping pills, melatonin is not a drug. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, and it governs our circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. In an interview with Business Insider, Alex Dimitriu, MD says, “taking too much [melatonin] can disrupt your natural circadian rhythm and internal body clock, causing you to actually have more trouble falling asleep.”
So, if you think taking more melatonin will make it work better – think again. Taking more than you need could actually be making it less effective for you. Dr. Dimitriu recommends starting with as low a dose as possible, and if that doesn’t work, gradually increasing the dose until you find the amount that works for you.
So, what is that low dose you should start with? According to a systematic review from the Cochrane Library, the most effective doses of melatonin are between 0.5 mg and 5 mg. The researchers note that higher doses of melatonin (above 5 mg) didn’t seem to be any more effective.
That said, it is also possible you aren’t taking enough melatonin. Adults 55 years and older produce less melatonin (according to a systematic review from Drugs & Aging). As the body’s natural melatonin production decreases with age, it may make sense to take slightly larger doses as you get older. A clinical review from the Senior Care Pharmacist found optimal doses of melatonin in older adults were between 1 mg and 6 mg.
As a general rule, you want to find the lowest dose possible that works for you. Taking more than you need is a waste of the supplement – and your money.
Your Supplement Doesn’t Actually Have the Advertised Amount
Let’s say you’ve been responsible with your melatonin dosage, starting with a small amount and slowly working your way towards slightly higher doses. You might still be taking the wrong amount, for reasons that aren’t your fault.
This is because the contents of many melatonin supplements don’t actually match the amounts advertised on their labels. In fact, a study from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that 71% of melatonin supplements deviated from the amount on their labels by more than 10%. That’s a vast majority of melatonin supplements that have a significantly different amount of melatonin than what they’re telling you.
The problem goes in both directions, too: Some melatonin supplements have less than what they advertise, and some have substantially more. Worse still, the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine Study also found that 26% of melatonin supplements contain serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland known to promote wakefulness (according to a study from Sleep Medicine Reviews).
All products from MELO Labs have a Certificate of Analysis (COA) verifying the accuracy of the product labels. We’re also in the process of having our products third-party tested, so you don’t have to take our word for it.
You’re Not Absorbing All the Melatonin in Your Supplement
Even if manufacturers are honest about the amount of melatonin in their pills, there’s still reason to be skeptical of melatonin that comes in pill form. A clinical trial from the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found an average of only 15% bioavailability in 2-4 mg melatonin tablets. So, the vast majority of the melatonin found in pills won’t actually get absorbed by your body.
An article from Medicare Europe explains why this is: Pills first need to be broken down by the stomach before the body can absorb anything from them, and this process can take upwards of 30 minutes. Once the pill is broken down, only 39% to 53% of the contents of the pill will get absorbed. The same is likely true of gummy pills, whose bioavailability is similar to that of pills (according to a study from Nutrients).
By contrast, Medicare Europe also points out that supplements in liquid form can be absorbed in as little as 1-4 minutes, and your body will be able to use 98% of what’s in those supplements. In other words, liquid supplements are much more effective than pills. This includes powdered supplements, such as MELO Sip, after they’ve been thoroughly mixed with water.
You’re Taking Melatonin at the Wrong Time
According to the CDC, your body’s natural melatonin levels rise about 1-2 hours before your regular bedtime. This coincides with the standard recommendation for when to take a melatonin supplement. If you’re taking your supplement just before getting into bed, it may not be doing much for you.
What’s more, if your melatonin supplement is a pill, you also have to factor in the amount of time it takes for the pill to be absorbed. This could be at least an additional half hour (as we saw in the section above).
Thankfully, there are melatonin supplements that get absorbed more quickly. Liquid supplements like MELO Sip will be absorbed much more quickly than pills, but the option with the fastest absorption rate is a vaporizer.
A randomized controlled trial from the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences found vaporized substances could be absorbed in as little as 20 seconds. MELO Labs also makes a melatonin vaporizer, MELO Air.
MELO Air is among the fastest-acting melatonin supplements you can get. Because it gets absorbed so quickly, you can take it 30 minutes before your bedtime (as opposed to 1-2 hours when taking pills). This gives you a lot more flexibility in your nighttime routine.
You’ve Been Taking Melatonin Too Regularly
It is possible to develop a dependency to melatonin. A case report from the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research found that melatonin could become less effective when taken every night for several weeks in a row. Interestingly, the researchers found that substantially decreasing the dose of melatonin in these cases could make it more effective.
At MELO Labs, we recommend taking melatonin for occasional insomnia (or jet lag), not every single night. Save it for those nights when you really need it, and you may find that it’ll actually work better when you use it sparingly.
Your Sleep Environment Needs Work
One of the biggest mistakes you can make after taking melatonin is continuing to use your electronic devices in the last hour or two before bed. The blue light from these devices can block melatonin production, according to a study from the Journal of Biophotonics. The effects of melatonin supplements are subtle and can easily be overridden with excess blue light.
The same is true for other types of bright light as well. The CDC explains that exposure to bright light in the evening can interfere with melatonin, so it is best to avoid bright light up to two hours before bed. If you take a melatonin supplement 1-2 hours before your bedtime but aren’t limiting your light exposure, your supplement probably isn’t doing very much.
If you enjoy using your devices in the evening before bedtime, consider getting a pair of blue-light blocking glasses. It’s also important to think about what kind of content you’re engaging with, though, and whether or not it’s actually helping you relax.
How to Improve Sleep Hygiene
This is part of a broader concept known as sleep hygiene. Your sleep hygiene refers to your daily habits that influence your sleep at night. Note that good sleep hygiene takes into account all your habits, not just your habits right before bedtime. For instance, the CDC recommends limiting bright light in the evening, but for the same reason, they also recommend bright light exposure early in the morning – to help you wake up. This is part of good sleep hygiene.
Some additional recommendations for good sleep hygiene include keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet, avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening, getting exercise during the day, and going to bed at roughly the same time each night (according to the CDC). Practicing good sleep hygiene will help you sleep better and also have the added benefit of helping your melatonin supplements work better on nights when you need them.
Melatonin Doesn’t Work for You
If you’ve carefully experimented with all of the above strategies and still find melatonin supplements to be ineffective, it is possible melatonin doesn’t work for you. That said, you still might not want to give up on melatonin completely.
For instance, if you regularly have trouble falling asleep due to anxiety, melatonin won’t counter your anxiety. However, some melatonin supplements contain additional compounds known to help with reducing anxiety and increasing relaxation. Both MELO Air and MELO Sip contain L-Theanine, and MELO Sip also contains valerian root extract, chamomile extract, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), potassium, zinc, and a variety of other nutrients all known to support sleep.
If your problems with sleep are rooted in anxiety, consider a melatonin supplement with additional relaxation-enhancing compounds, such as MELO Sip.
How to Make Melatonin Work Better for You
When it comes to melatonin supplements, a wide array of variables need to be considered and experimented with. Let’s talk about some of the things you can try to make your melatonin supplements work better for you.
Carefully Track How Much You’re Taking
First and foremost, you need to know how much melatonin you’re actually taking. Look for companies who have a COA for their products and/or who’ve had their products third-party tested. Otherwise, it’s a bit of a crapshoot.
Once you’ve verified that the product you’re taking lists the correct amount of melatonin on the label, then you can experiment with a very low dose and gradually work your way towards higher doses (if the lower doses don’t work), increasing your dose by about half a milligram at a time. Keep a record of how much you took and how you slept that night. Just writing these things down may help you uncover some patterns.
Try Adding More if You Haven’t Been Taking Too Much
If you’ve regularly been taking doses in the 1-3 mg range and haven’t been feeling the effects, it’s perfectly safe for you to increase your dose, especially if you are over 55 years old. As melatonin production decreases with age, it may be necessary to increase your dose as you get older.
As we saw earlier, a clinical review from the Senior Care Pharmacist recommends doses between 1 mg and 6 mg for older adults. The same review also mentions that some supplements go as high as 10 mg—a dose far too high to positively augment human sleep physiology.
That said, it’s important to increase your dose gradually. Go ahead and try a higher dose if the lower doses haven’t been working for you, but increase your dose a little at a time. The best you can do is find the lowest possible dose that works for you.
Try Taking a Break or Cutting Back if You’ve Been Taking Too Much
If you’ve regularly been taking higher doses of melatonin, say 10 mg, and you’re not finding this effective, it’s best to stop at this point rather than continuing to increase the dose. Give your body a chance to reset its natural circadian rhythm and sleep cycle before trying again.
After taking a break from melatonin supplements, at least a few days but maybe up to a week, try starting at a much lower dose. A case report from the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research found that taking a break and then resuming with a much lower dose could help make melatonin more effective in those who’ve developed a high tolerance.
Clean Up Your Sleep Hygiene
Melatonin supplements can’t make up for bad sleep conditions, so it is essential for you to check on your sleep environment if you want melatonin to work better for you – and if you want to sleep better on those nights when you don’t take melatonin.
Get exposure to sunlight (or other bright light) in the morning, get physical activity during the day, avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening, and limit bright light and blue light exposure in the evening. Having a good wind down routine before bed can help you relax and de-stress, and it can also signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep. Lastly, try to stick to a consistent sleep schedule.
Try a Different Type of Melatonin Supplement
As we saw earlier, most melatonin supplements have poor bioavailability. This is in large part because most melatonin supplements are pills. Pills take time and energy to be broken down by your body, and a substantial amount of the supplement they contain won’t get absorbed by your body.
Consider trying a melatonin liquid or vaporizer. Both are known to have much better absorption rates than melatonin pills. You’ll absorb them more quickly, and you’ll also absorb more of what’s in them, meaning you’ll need a lower dose of these products than you’d need if you were taking a pill.
Talk to Your Doctor
If all of the above fails for you, consider speaking with your doctor or healthcare provider about your sleep problems. It’s possible you have an underlying condition that melatonin can’t treat, in which case, you’ll need guidance from a medical professional. Remember: Melatonin is not a sleeping pill, it does not treat anxiety, and it is not a good long-term solution for chronic insomnia or any sleep disorder.
Use Melatonin Responsibly
At the end of the day, we all have different physiology and different needs. The only way to know for sure what sort of melatonin supplement and how much of that supplement works best for you is to carefully experiment. Try any of the above strategies you haven’t tried before, and keep track of your progress.
And if you’re considering switching melatonin supplements, visit MELO Labs to learn more about some of the fastest-acting and most effective melatonin supplements on the market.