Melatonin is a hormone common to animals, plants, and microbes. In humans, it is important for promoting sleep and maintaining a healthy sleep-wake cycle. When light decreases in the evening, melatonin is released from the pineal gland, a small endocrine gland at the base of the brain. Release of melatonin initiates a tide of sedating hormones and neurotransmitters that flow into the brain and promote sleep.

Note that melatonin is a sleep initiator, not a sleep sustainer. Once sleep becomes established, melatonin levels naturally decline.

Melatonin the Antioxidant

Melatonin, when naturally secreted from the pineal gland, is a powerful free-radical scavenger and antioxidant. It works with other antioxidants to improve the overall effectiveness of each antioxidant. It has also been shown to be twice as active as vitamin E (another antioxidant) and a better protector against mitochondrial oxidative stress.*

Benefits of Melatonin:*

  • Supports normal, healthy sleep
  • Maintains a normal sleep-wake cycle
  • Powerful antioxidant

How to Use Melatonin Supplements

Stress, odd working hours, shifts in day-night cycles associated with travel, and artificial light in the evening are all factors that can disrupt normal melatonin secretion. Melatonin levels also commonly decrease with age.

Herbal supplements and sleep practices that balance normal circadian rhythm help promote natural secretion of melatonin. In addition, supplemental melatonin can be used to help restore normal sleep cycles that have been disrupted.*

After normal sleep cycles are reestablished, supplemental melatonin should be discontinued to prevent tolerance from occurring. Supplemental melatonin is most beneficial for individuals who suffer from occasional sleeplessness or are experiencing a period of stress.*

The dose of melatonin should be limited to physiologic doses, or less than 1 mg. Tart cherries are a good source of low levels of natural melatonin. Doses of >3 mg should be avoided because of the risk of disrupting natural melatonin secretion.*

Melatonin supplements are best taken 30-60 minutes before bedtime. This timing supports normal onset of sleep by mimicking the body’s natural sleep initiation processes.*

People who use melatonin supplements long-term report only mild benefit. Clinical studies that support the use of melatonin show benefit primarily with short-term use for dealing with issues like jet lag and disruption of normal day-night schedules.*

Side effects:

Tolerance to melatonin supplements can occur with regular use. Melatonin supplements should be used primarily to support re-establishment of normal sleep cycles. They can be used in conjunction with natural herbal therapy to support normal sleep.* Patients with significant depression should avoid melatonin.

High doses of oral melatonin (>3 mg) and time-released melatonin do not mimic the normal secretion of melatonin in the body and should be avoided.

Ingredients similar to Melatonin:

Bacopa, Passionflower

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult your qualified healthcare provider before beginning any diet or program.

Learn more about Melatonin from the FDA here »


About the Medical Director
Dr. Bill Rawls
Dr. Bill Rawls has practiced conventional medicine as a gynecologist for
over 20 years and is also the co-founder and medical director of Vital Plan, a wellness and herbal supplement company.

Statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Always consult a qualified healthcare provider before making changes to your healthcare regimen.