This is probably one of the most common questions that we receive related to melatonin and the answer is relatively simple: it depends, but a low dose seems to work better. Let’s begin this article by clarifying that we are focusing on the right dose of melatonin when it is used as a sleep and circadian supplement, the use of melatonin in the treatment of medical conditions is a completely separate topic that should be discussed between doctors and patients.
Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in response to darkness. Secretion of melatonin starts approximately 3 hours prior to our natural bedtime and then it disappears completely from our blood after we wake up. Since the secretion of melatonin is highly blocked by light, especially blue light, one must be in a relatively dark environment to study the natural cycle of melatonin. In circadian lingo, the moment when melatonin becomes detectable in the blood is referred to as the “Dim light melatonin onset” or DLMO. Scientist have estimated that the total production of melatonin during an entire night is somewhere between 10 and 80 micro grams (let’s keep in mind that 1 micro gram = 1000th of a mg). Most commercial formulations of melatonin could provide several times more melatonin than the entire production of melatonin for an entire night. If you are interested in learning more about the biochemistry of melatonin, we recommend reading our previous article about melatonin synthesis.
The next logical question would be: why not take 10 to 80 micrograms? Well, it is not simple; the body produces that amount of melatonin slowly, over the entire night. When we take a supplement, we take it all at once and then we need to wait until it is absorbed and metabolized.
The absorption of melatonin tends to vary significantly from person to person and if we take into consideration the fact that each melatonin formulation is different, it is relatively easy to come to the conclusion that this is area in which one dose won’t fit all.
Trying to do mathematical calculations about melatonin absorption and metabolism is too complicated given the differences that exist from person to person so, scientist have decided to simply study different dosages and then compare the results.
Some studies have shown good results with a melatonin dose of 5 mg, some other studies have found better results with melatonin dosages below 1 mg. Most circadian doctors recommend using lower amounts of melatonin, especially as we age.
At Keldik, we believe that the most common reason for melatonin disruption is exposure to light in the evening so, when a person takes melatonin as a supplement, we only need to get enough melatonin in to cover the first few hours of the circadian cycle; once we are in the darkness, our pineal glad will probably continue producing its own melatonin and supplements become less relevant. Our 0.8 mg capsules contain enough melatonin to support the circadian system but it is low enough to increase the chances of clearing all that melatonin before we wake up in the morning. Having high melatonin levels in the morning can increase grogginess.
The good news is that melatonin is relatively well tolerated and does not seem to have very serious side effects. Some people may metabolize melatonin very fast and this dose could work very well, some other people may experience grogginess in the morning. Younger people tend to metabolize melatonin faster and may benefit from using higher doses of this supplement. We plan to cover some of the side effects associated with melatonin in future articles.