How Long Does Melatonin Take To Work And Why?

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on September 22nd, 2023

If you’ve ever tossed and turned in bed, you’ve likely considered using melatonin. As a popular sleep aid, melatonin is often the go-to solution for insomnia, jet lag, or even just a restless night. But have you ever wondered how it works and how long it takes to kick in? Keep reading to find out, because getting your sleep right can be a game-changer for your overall health.

What Exactly is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone that helps manage your circadian rhythm, the internal clock that tells you when it’s time to hit the hay or wake up. Produced by your brain’s pineal gland, melatonin plays a crucial role in various scenarios:

  • Alleviating jet lag symptoms
  • Managing migraines
  • Treating insomnia
  • Mitigating the side effects of stimulant medications, like Adderall
  • Addressing neurodevelopmental disorders, including Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Alleviating symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Because it plays a key role in sleep-wake cycles, melatonin is usually available in tablet form and can be consumed either orally or sublingually—that is, by holding it under your tongue for quick absorption.

Side Effects to Consider

While melatonin can be effective, taking it at the wrong time could throw your body’s internal clock out of sync. Side effects may include:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Irritability

Moreover, melatonin can interact with certain medications, so consult your healthcare provider before using it if you’re taking medications for blood pressure, diabetes, or other conditions.

How Your Body Produces Melatonin Naturally

Before you opt for synthetic supplements, consider optimizing your brain’s natural melatonin production. Your pineal gland begins to secrete this hormone at night, prompted by signals from your brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN governs your circadian rhythm and responds to the daily light-dark cycles.

How Melatonin Facilitates Sleep

Melatonin readies your body for sleep by lowering various physiological metrics like body temperature and blood pressure. It sets in motion a period known as “dim light melatonin onset” (DLMO), which occurs 2-3 hours before bedtime. Abiding by this natural cycle can significantly improve your sleep quality.

Proper Melatonin Dosage

Dosing depends on your specific sleep needs. Starting with a small dose of about 2 mg is advisable. You can incrementally increase it, but it’s important not to exceed 10 mg without professional guidance.

Ideal Timing for Melatonin Intake

For optimal effects, melatonin should be taken 30 to 90 minutes before your intended bedtime. This is crucial for aligning it with your natural sleep-wake cycle.

How Long Does Melatonin Take to Work?

On average, melatonin starts to take effect between 20 minutes to 2 hours after intake. Its effectiveness can vary from person to person due to factors like age, metabolism, and coexisting medical conditions.

Takes to work20 minutes to 2 hours
Takes to work with childrenAround 30 minutes to an hour
Half-lifeNearly 40 to 60 minutes
Stays in the systemAbout 5 hours

Why Melatonin May Take Time to Kick In

Produced from the amino acid tryptophan, melatonin works in alignment with your body’s circadian rhythm. The hormone attaches to specific receptors, helping to decrease nerve activity and induce relaxation. It can take some time for this process to manifest as sleepiness.

Factors That Affect Melatonin’s Effectiveness

Several factors can influence how long melatonin remains active in your system, including your age, caffeine consumption, smoking habits, and even your body size.


Melatonin plays an indispensable role in sleep regulation. While short-term use is generally considered safe, ongoing consumption can result in various side effects. Hence, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare provider for personalized advice. Whether you’re dealing with insomnia, jet lag, or other sleep disruptions, understanding melatonin can be your first step toward better sleep.


Editorial Staff

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