Wasting precious hours of sleep by tossing and turning is not ideal. For many people, taking melatonin supplements is a sufficient solution for their sleep issues and its use is growing more popular among adults.
Melatonin supplements are widely available and commonly found in an oral gummy or tablet form. Other forms of melatonin include diffusers, oral sprays, and more. You’ll find that some of these will work more quickly for you, while others might take much longer to work.
(There’s a reason why Ascent Instant Sleep is a nasal supplement- more on that later.)
If you’re thinking about considering melatonin supplements for yourself, it’s important to use them responsibly and see if they are suitable for your sleep needs.
How does your body use melatonin?
When we discuss how your body uses melatonin, there is a difference between how your body absorbs melatonin as a supplement versus when it’s produced naturally.
Melatonin is a naturally produced hormone in your body, where it’s secreted in your brain’s pineal gland in the absence of light exposure. Melatonin is rapidly distributed in your bloodstream and travels to distant organs and parts of your body. This onsets your sleep cycle, signaling your body to prepare for sleep.
This process is very direct, bypassing the usual wait time that you experience when you take melatonin supplements.
On the other hand, oral melatonin supplements- such as gummies- have a very different process. Oral supplements go through your digestive system and are metabolized by your liver, which is responsible for breaking down substances and chemicals that enter your body. This process delays the absorption of melatonin.
How long does it take for melatonin to work?
Like mentioned above, your digestive system slows down the process for the melatonin to be absorbed. Oral melatonin's effects usually peak after one hour. For some people, it can take even longer.
This is also relative to your body’s natural sensitivity to melatonin and the way you take melatonin.
Why does it take so long?
Generally, it takes so long because oral melatonin is inefficient.
Ingesting an oral supplement requires that it passes through your liver. Your liver metabolizes substances and chemicals that pass through your body, breaking them down into parts that are easier for your body to absorb before it circulates your bloodstream.
This also applies to melatonin that you ingest orally, such as gummies or tablets. These melatonin supplements are metabolized before they can be absorbed, causing its concentration to be reduced before it can reach circulation (your bloodstream). This phenomenon is known as the first-pass effect.
Because of this effect, the amount of melatonin that you actually absorb is far less compared to the amount you’re actually taking. As a result, The bioavailability of oral melatonin is quite poor; most people don’t even absorb half of the amount that they take.
If melatonin supplements take too long for it to be effective for you, it might be best to try different sleep aids or try different kinds of melatonin. For example, nasal melatonin such as Ascent Instant Sleep work much faster than oral melatonin.
What’s the difference between nasal melatonin and oral melatonin?
The main difference is how efficiently your body is able to absorb nasal melatonin versus oral melatonin.
For one, nasal melatonin is much quicker-acting than oral melatonin.
Intranasal application offers a more direct pathway to your brain, bypassing any barriers that would delay it from being absorbed or degraded such as the first pass metabolism in the liver or the blood-brain barrier.
Unlike oral melatonin, it isn’t slowed down by your digestive system and your metabolism. While oral melatonin effects peak in an hour or even longer, Ascent Instant Sleep works in as quickly as 15 minutes.
A study comparing methods of absorption found the greatest potential in intranasal absorption, which was absorbed much more quickly compared to other methods including oral and transdermal melatonin.
The second thing is that nasal melatonin is more efficient than oral melatonin. Because it bypasses any metabolizing mechanisms and barrier through intranasal application, around 90% of the melatonin taken in a nasal supplement is absorbed, compared to the less than 20% of an oral supplement.
Because of this, you need far less melatonin to feel greater effects when using nasal melatonin.
What's faster than traditional melatonin supplements?
As we’ve covered, oral melatonin is largely inefficient because it takes a long time to be effective, and its effects are compromised as it's metabolized before being absorbed. Nasal supplements Ascent Instant Sleep are a more efficient solution to traditional oral melatonin supplements.
Are there other reasons melatonin is taking too long to work?
Melatonin helps advance sleep onset, but it does not "induce” sleep automatically. It merely signals sleep cues to the rest of your body to prepare for sleep, and does not guarantee sleep with use. You should still practice good sleep hygiene to support your body’s ability to sleep better.
Is your sleep environment dark and quiet? Are you using your phone in bed? This could be suppressing your natural melatonin production, which is greatly affected by exposure to light- including blue-light, which can suppress melatonin production, that comes from digital screens like your phone or the TV.
It could also be that you have other conditions that are interfering with your sleep quality in spite of having also taken melatonin. Speak with your physician if melatonin is a suitable sleep aid for your lifestyle.