When you take melatonin, it makes sense to be concerned with how long it takes for it to work.
But after you’ve fallen asleep, how does your body deal with the melatonin in your system? Does it affect how much melatonin you should take?
Overview: How your body produces melatonin
Melatonin is a natural hormone that’s secreted in your brain’s pineal gland. Melatonin production is triggered by the absence of light exposure, which signals your pineal gland to begin secreting this hormone.
Once melatonin is synthesized, it’s not stored in your cells; instead it’s rapidly circulated into your bloodstream so it can reach distant organs and parts of your body. This onsets your sleep cycle, signaling your body to prepare for sleep.
What happens to hormones in the body?
Your body’s endocrine system consists of glands that produce hormones to regulate processes in your body, which include growth, your metabolism, sexual development- and sleep.
Many of these glands are controlled by the pituitary gland, which produces its own hormones that signal to other glands when to produce less of or more hormones.
When hormones are released, they target specific organ’s cells; these cells have receptors to which the hormones can bind to. This allows them to “read” the hormone’s signals and carry out its instructions.
When it’s time to cut these signals off to avoid hormone imbalance, your body gives off a negative feedback loop; this is a stimulus that signals to your glands to stop producing a certain hormone, or to inhibit that hormone. These feedback loops respond to the changes in concentration of hormones and inhibit the secretion of hormones to avoid creating an imbalance.
Hormones are eventually degraded or removed by your body. Most are broken down by your liver and harmlessly excreted by your kidneys, or are broken down by the organs themselves.
How long does melatonin stay in your body?
Hormones have a duration that’s measured by their half-life, which is how long it takes for a certain amount of a hormone to be reduced in half. This determines how long they remain in the body.
Different hormones have different half-life lengths, much of which is dependent on how complex their structures are, or how soluble they are.
After that, melatonin is excreted harmlessly through your urine.
How long melatonin stays in your body can also be dependent on a number of factors. Your age can affect this, as older people tend to naturally produce less melatonin. Certain medications you might be on could also interact with melatonin and affect how long it stays in your system.
Please consult your physician before taking melatonin supplements to ensure that you use them responsibly.
Will melatonin work better if I take more?
It seems intuitive that if you take more of something, the longer it might last in your body. In the case of melatonin, it appears that the more melatonin you take does marginally increase how long it takes for the hormone to be degraded.
However a better way to make melatonin work more effectively is to choose melatonin that is absorbed more efficiently.
Oral melatonin- like gummies and tablets, the most common type of melatonin supplement- take a while to get absorbed. The digestive process delays the absorption of melatonin; oral melatonin can take up to 1 to 2 hours or even longer before it circulates through your bloodstream.
Not only that, but melatonin taken orally is mostly metabolized before it can be properly absorbed. Almost all of the melatonin you ingest orally is degraded by your liver, which breaks down substances entering your body to make it easier for your body to process.
Even if you take more melatonin, its concentration will be greatly reduced.
Risks to taking more melatonin?
There is no evidence that people build a tolerance to melatonin. But although side effects of using melatonin is rare, there are still cases of people who experience side effects with use. Use melatonin supplements responsibly to avoid any unwanted side effects, which might include:
- Dizziness or grogginess
- Feeling tired in the morning
- Elevations or drops in blood pressure
- Agitation or mood swings
For this reason we recommend starting at the smallest dose possible for that reason. Compared to oral melatonin, nasal melatonin supplements like Ascent Instant Sleep work more efficiently at much smaller doses starting at 0.2mg.
How much melatonin should I take?
The average recommended dose for healthy adults is anywhere between 0.5mg to 10mg. The dose should be adjusted for children, elderly people, and people who have health conditions that might affect their sensitivity to melatonin.
Different people have unique thresholds of sensitivity and will thus require different doses. A dose that may be appropriate for one person might be too much (or even too little) for someone else.
Start with the smallest dose before adjusting to a higher dosage.