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Melatonin: Nature's Way to a Good Night's Sleep 
 
by Audrey Finkel Esposito June 07, 2005

How Much Melatonin Should I Take?

Start low and go slow. A common daily dosage is 3 mg. But if possible, purchase a lower dosage at first -- or use a knife or pill splitter and try half, or even a quarter, of that dose. Some people do very well at much lower doses, while others need the full 3 mg for a good night’s sleep. If you wake up groggy, reduce your dose and see if that helps.

When Should I Take It?

Take it about a half-hour before going to bed, whether you sleep in the daytime or at night. Don’t take it when you need to be awake, because drowsiness will result. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s taken on a full stomach or not.

Is Melatonin Safe?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements. So if a label or web site says their product is FDA-approved, look elsewhere to buy your melatonin. But having said that, there are no large-scale studies that show true danger from taking melatonin. There are some people who should not take melatonin. Healthy children, teenagers, and young adults already have plenty of melatonin in their bodies, so more won’t do them any good. The National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA), an umbrella group for health food producers, states that people under 40 should not take melatonin at all without a doctor’s recommendation.

When it comes to pregnant or lactating women, the effects of melatonin on a developing fetus or breastfeeding child is not yet known. People who take MAOI drugs (certain antidepressants) should not take melatonin either. MAOI’s inhibit the breakdown of melatonin by the body, which could lead to an overdose. People with severe allergies or autoimmune diseases should not take melatonin, since it could stimulate their immune system. The NNFA says people with diabetes and other endocrine disorders should not take it either, since melatonin is a hormone that comes from the pineal gland, part of the endocrine system. And finally, women who are trying to conceive should not take the hormone, since it can act as a contraceptive. If you are not sure if you should take melatonin, talk to your doctor first to be on the safe side.

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