Melatonin Supplements


Q: In last month’s article about optimizing sleep, you mention melatonin but don’t mention melatonin supplements. How helpful are they?

A: Aarti Grover, MD, medical director of the Center for Sleep Medicine and program director of the Sleep Medicine Fellowship at Tufts Medical Center and an assistant professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, answers: “Use of melatonin supplements has increased significantly in the past two decades. These over-the-counter supplements are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since the products are not regulated, the efficacy of each brand may vary. Additionally, the dosage, active ingredients, value, and brand reputation are variable, and no specific brand is recommended.

“On the market, melatonin tablets/pills typically state that they contain from 0.1 milligrams (mg) to 10 mg of melatonin, with most ranging from one to three milligrams. Melatonin in these products is often combined with other purportedly sleep-inducing ingredients such as valerian root and lavender. We typically recommend reading the label to find a product with pure melatonin when choosing an over-the-counter product.

“Melatonin can be helpful in the short term. No long-term studies are available to help guide us in its long-term use. Common side effects include drowsiness, grogginess, headache, and nausea.”


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