Is It Time to Ditch the Melatonin? Experts Share Signs to Look For

It’s a noble, albeit endless quest: our search for better sleep. Just one night of restlessness is enough to have us quitting caffeine for good, putting on a PM meditation, and investing in a game-changing alarm clock. And because there’s so much on the line (our mental capacity, work performance, food cravings, and morning workout commitment), you may have been tempted to explore the wide world of sleep aids. Namely, melatonin. Though it may seem like a magic pill, the supplement’s steady rise to fame has us asking: Is melatonin safe? Your answers await.

Featured image from our interview with Odette Annable.

Is Melatonin Safe? An Expert Sounds Off

I was introduced to melatonin during a particularly rough period of insomnia. Desperate for something to help me fall—and stay—asleep, I dove deep into sleep teas, lavender essential oils, and melatonin supplements. I took the latter on an as-needed basis. (Looking back though, I needed melatonin a lot.) Though the steps I was taking to address my evening anxiety showed progress, the journey was slow. I wanted results, and I wanted them now. Millennial, much?

But as with all things relatively quick-fix, caveats exist. My armchair analysis turned up the general consensus: melatonin supplements are safe in the short-term. But they worked so well! Was I really supposed to abstain from the *sole thing* that gave me a restful, restorative snooze? I either needed someone to spill the true tea on melatonin or walk me through all the lifestyle shifts that support healthy sleep hygiene. Thankfully, I connected with someone who delivered both.

For answers, I spoke with Jewel Zimmer, a certified brain health trainer and the CEO and founder of the wellness brand, Each other. Ahead, Zimmer and I discuss all things melatonin. From the potential short- and long-term risks to its impact on our circadian rhythms (and everything in between). Consider this your go-to guide not just to melatonin, but to transforming your sleep life altogether.

Jewel Zimmer




Jewel Zimmer is the CEO and Founder of Juna. As a certified brain health trainer, Jewel is dedicated to helping women everywhere feel their best. She’s passionate about educating on optimal gut/brain axis, the connection between the two and helping people implement daily habits to reach their health goals. Her mission is to equip individuals with the tools to optimize their health, inspiring a wave of healthier, happier humans.

When to Consider Using Melatonin

As we age, our melatonin naturally declines. Adults over 40 should consider supplementing a microdose nightly of 0.3 mg or under to make up for our bodies’ natural decline. This microdose can also be very helpful for jet lag and shift workers who need to reset their circadian clock.

How Melatonin Impacts Our Circadian Rhythm

Melatonin helps regulate our sleep/wake cycles by signaling darkness to our bodies, which prepares us for sleep. Since light and dark have the most significant influence on our internal body clocks, melatonin plays a crucial role in managing our daily rhythms.

Potential Melatonin Risks

Melatonin, known as the hormone of darkness, has become one of the most talked about sleep aids/sleep ingredients on the market in recent years. It’s a powerful neurotransmitter, hormone, and antioxidant that is secreted deep in the limbic brain from the pineal gland. The limbic brain is also the part of the brain that controls our sleep/wake cycles or circadian rhythms. Our brains naturally release melatonin and signal our body to prepare for darkness and sleep.

Our bodies naturally produce about 0.1% of melatonin each night. However, this declines with age and increased blue light, so many of us are looking for supplementation. The biggest misconception is how much melatonin to actually take. An MIT study suggests 0.30mg is the ultimate dose to encourage our bodies to produce enough melatonin to fall asleep and stay asleep. But the majority of supplement brands on the market believe more is better, which is false.

The average melatonin supplement on the market is three to ten times more than what the body actually needs.

Short-term overuse and overdosing can result in nausea, bedwetting (in children), morning hangover (grogginess), inability to focus, headaches, vivid dreams and disruption to our sleep cycles, the exact thing we are trying to fix.

Long-term overuse and overdosing can result in more serious risks. Some research suggests hormone interference in children delaying puberty. Excessive overuse has also been linked to increased depression.

What to Look for in a Melatonin Supplement

It’s important to find a quality melatonin supplement that is third-party tested for potency and purity. 99% of the melatonin on the market is synthetic and oftentimes has drastically different amounts than advertised. Form factors, such as gummies versus capsules, are a personal choice. Look for something that has no sugar or filler that could upset your digestion and spike your glucose before bed, resulting in sleep disturbance.

Melatonin Compared to Other Sleep Aids

If used correctly, starting with a microdose or dose suggested by your health care practitioner, you should be encouraging your body to produce the optimal amount of melatonin it needs for deep, restful sleep. Because the body is an interconnected system, melatonin optimization will usually have positive effects on your overall mood and hormones. In contrast, prescribed sedative sleep aids block receptors and may cause undesirable side effects like addiction, dizziness, headache, gut issues, and memory problems.

Studies show that sleep aids should not be used long-term and only actually help you fall asleep about 8–20 minutes faster and sleep an additional 35 minutes.

When to Consider Taking Melatonin Long-Term

Lack of sleep has been known to affect our mental alertness, mood, and other health issues such as dementia and depression, thyroid, hormonal imbalances as well as metabolic issues like obesity. If you’re not sleeping and also experience one of the above, consistent supplementation could be beneficial long-term.

Additional research is needed, but initial findings indicate that melatonin could offer significant advantages to aging individuals—potential anti-aging properties, ability to alleviate cognitive decline, and enhanced sleep quality. It’s suggested that long-term melatonin supplementation should only be taken under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.

  • Incorporate sunlight into your eyes first thing in the morning or early in the day. Light regulates our melatonin and signals our circadian rhythms
  • Increase levels of vitamin D either through sunlight or supplementation. Vitamin D supports our bodies’ melatonin production.
  • Daily exercise has been known to improve sleep quality by reducing the time it takes to fall asleep and may promote deeper sleep.
  • Avoid eating sugar after dinner. Sugar has been shown to disrupt our stages of sleep such as REM and deep sleep.
  • Limit bluelight use (screentime) to a minimum of one hour before bed to avoid melatonin disruption.
  • Turn your thermostat down to 65 F. Studies show our bodies sleep deeper in cooler temperatures.



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