Many people are familiar with melatonin as a supplement that helps you fall asleep more easily at night. But sometimes, even quality melatonin supplements can take hours to work. For many, this doesn’t help their sleep issues. After all, what’s the point if it’s not going to work quickly?
Here’s how to choose melatonin that works more quickly for you.
How quickly does melatonin usually work?
Supplements like melatonin gummies takes longer to work, compared to the melatonin you naturally produce in your body.
When your body naturally produces melatonin, it’s secreted in your brain’s pineal gland in the absence of light exposure. From there it's rapidly distributed in your bloodstream, signaling to distant organs and parts of your body to prepare to transition into sleep.
Oral melatonin especially (like gummies or tablets) takes longer because they're digested.
After it passes your stomach, melatonin that's ingested is metabolized by your liver in what’s known as the first-pass effect.
On average, oral melatonin can take up to 1 to 2 hours to peak, meaning when it reaches maximum concentration in the body.
Is there a range for how quickly melatonin supplements work?
Different forms of melatonin will take different lengths of time depending on the way they're absorbed.
Melatonin gummies typically take around an hour or longer because they have to be digested first. It's also poorly bioavailable due to being largely metabolized by the liver before your body can properly absorb it.
Transdermal melatonin (absorbed through the skin, such as a topical melatonin or melatonin patches) can take anywhere from 3 to up to 8 hours to peak significantly. However, this kind of melatonin tends to release slowly over time and can be beneficial for those who have difficulty staying asleep.
Intravenous melatonin (administered via a vein drip) took around 10 minutes to peak.
Nasally administered melatonin (nasal supplements) work as quickly as 5 minutes, working faster than other forms of melatonin, including oral and transdermal melatonin.
How can I make melatonin work more quickly?
One option is to up the dosage you’re taking. There's some evidence to suggest that taking more melatonin affects how long it stays in your system.
However this won’t necessarily impact the speed. If you’re taking oral melatonin, it still has to go through your digestive system in the same manner as it would if you only took a little.
Because of the risk of side effects from taking too much melatonin, it's best to start on the smallest dose and adjust from there. Since everyone has a unique sensitivity to melatonin, a single recommended dosage isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
A more straightforward option is to use a different type of melatonin supplement.
Using other types of melatonin supplements
One of the most effective ways to absorb things is through your nasal cavity.
The receptors in your nose offers a more direct pathway to your brain, bypassing any barriers that would delay it from being absorbed or degraded. Compared to the average 1 to 2 hours it takes for oral melatonin to be peak, nasal melatonin takes anywhere between 10 to 35 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.
Additionally, the bioavailability of intranasal melatonin is superior to that of oral melatonin, because it's not metabolized (and thus degraded) before your body can absorb it.
As discussed earlier, slow-absorption melatonin supplements like topical melatonin or melatonin patches release slowly over a longer period of time.
Because of this, transdermal melatonin might be a better for for people who have trouble staying asleep and want to avoid waking up in the middle of the night.