Daily Health

Quick Dose: Should I Take Melatonin Before Bed?

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Melatonin is a hormone produced by your brain that is involved in the control of sleep-wake cycles. When it’s dark, your body produces more melatonin to signal that it is time to sleep. Melatonin supplements are sometimes recommended as sleep aids for people who suffer from jet lag or maintain unusual work schedules. However, in most cases, taking a melatonin supplement might not necessarily be the answer to sleep troubles.

People who use melatonin as a sleep-aid may only notice a modest improvement in sleep onset. It is best to use small, physiological doses.  Too much melatonin can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night, or make you feel groggy and tired the next day. Rather, eating a small nighttime snack with natural melatonin, such as tart cherries, a cup of rice or a handful of peanuts, an hour before bedtime may be more beneficial. You may find other healthy bedtime rituals helpful including limiting your screen time before bed, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and dimming the lights.

Ian Katznelson, MD, neurologist, Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital