Drugs Q & A

How Long Does It Take For Melatonin To Work?

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a natural hormone  that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain and then released into the bloodstream. Darkness prompts the pineal gland to start producing melatonin while light causes that production to stop. As a result, melatonin helps regulate circadian rhythm and synchronize our sleep-wake cycle with night and day. In doing so, it facilitates a transition to sleep  and promotes consistent, quality rest.

Melatonin created within the body is known as endogenous melatonin, but the hormone can also be produced externally. Exogenous melatonin is normally made synthetically in a laboratory and, as a dietary supplement, it is most often sold as a pill, capsule, chewable or liquid.

Melatonin supplements is taken to adjust the body’s internal clock. Melatonin is most commonly used for insomnia and improving sleep in different conditions. For example, it is used for jet lag, for adjusting sleep-wake cycles in people whose daily work schedule changes (shift-work disorder), and for helping people establish a day and night cycle.

How does melatonin work ?

Melatonin’s main job in the body is to regulate night and day cycles or sleep-wake cycles. Darkness causes the body to produce more melatonin, which signals the body to prepare for sleep. Light decreases melatonin production and signals the body to prepare for being awake. Some people who have trouble sleeping have low levels of melatonin. It is thought that adding melatonin from supplements might help them sleep.

Melatonin acts on regions of the brain that are active when a person is not engaged in a specific mental or physical task. The collective term for these regions is the default mode network (DMN). Melatonin promotes sleep through its effects on the DMN.

How long does it take for melatonin to work?

Generally it takes about 30 min to 1 hour for the effects of melatonin to kick in and for the medication to begin to work because your body absorbs melatonin rapidly. Most melatonin supplements are released into the bloodstream immediately after taking them. However, some formulations are designed for extended-release. This means small amounts of melatonin enter the bloodstream over time. Time-released melatonin is intended to mimic the body’s natural production of melatonin, which occurs throughout the night.

It is recommended that you take melatonin 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. However, the best time to take melatonin is different for each person. Everyone absorbs medication at different rates. To start, take melatonin 30 minutes before bed. You can adjust the timing depending on how long it takes for you to fall asleep.

What’s most important is that you avoid taking melatonin at or after your ideal bedtime. This can shift your body clock in the wrong direction, resulting in daytime sleepiness.

How Long Does Melatonin Stay in Your Body?

In general, melatonin doesn’t stay in the body for long. The half-life of the supplement, the time it takes for your body to metabolize half of the dosage, is about 30 to 40 minutes. In most cases, it takes 4 to 5 half-lives for your body to eliminate the supplement. Therefore, melatonin can stay in your body for up to 4 hours.

For this reason, we recommend you avoid driving or operating dangerous equipment at least 5 hours after taking the supplement. However, because melatonin affects each person differently, it may take longer for it to be eliminated from your system. The following factors could affect how long melatonin remains in your body:

Age: Early research shows that melatonin may stay active for longer periods of time in older individuals.

Caffeine intake: Caffeine is a stimulant that may counter the effects of melatonin.

Body weight: Heavier individuals (those over 250 pounds) may not feel the effects of a small dosage of melatonin.

Taking other medications: Blood pressure, hypertension, immunosuppressant, and diabetes medications, as well as blood thinners and other anticoagulants, may change the way your body processes supplemental melatonin.

How Much Melatonin Should You Take?

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies melatonin as a dietary supplement, similar to vitamins and minerals. This classification means that melatonin is not regulated in the same way prescription or over-the-counter medications are. Therefore, there are no safe dosage guidelines for melatonin, making it difficult to determine the right amount to take.

Additionally, melatonin affects each person differently. A low dose of melatonin (0.5 mg) may cause extreme sleepiness in one person and have no effect on another. There is also conflicting evidence on whether or not this supplement is safe for pregnant women or young children. You Can Find Additional information On: Can A Child Overdose On Melatonin Gummies?


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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