How Long Does Melatonin Stay in Your System?
We have a pretty shocking statistic we want to share with you:
Since 2000, melatonin use has increased four-fold among Americans.
This makes sense. We're living through an insomnia epidemic, and people do what they can to sleep. But here's the shocking part: the percentage of people dosing 5mg of melatonin (or more!) has also increased three-fold.
If you've been following our series on microdosing melatonin, you're aware that this dosage is unnecessary and potentially harmful.
So what gives when it comes to taking melatonin? How long does melatonin stay in your system? Will melatonin even work if you only take a small amount?
Let's get into the nitty gritty details of how melatonin behaves in your system so that you can get some sleep (and we can avoid becoming a zombie nation).
Why More Melatonin Isn't Better
It's no secret we live in a "more is better" society. And in a way, this is understandable. After all, the more-is-better logic seems sound at first glance, especially when it's related to anything deemed "healthy."
Antioxidants are healthy? Eat more. Protein is healthy? Eat more.
The thing is, while logic appears to support these statements, nature and biological processes work in holistic ways that aren't so black and white.
Take this as an example: vitamin D and vitamin A are healthy. Therefore, you've decided you should take as much as possible. After all, you've taken a ton of vitamin C before and you feel great.
The kicker is that the logic of more vitamin A and D doesn't apply the way it did with vitamin C. Why?
Vitamin C is water-soluble. Excess that isn't stored or utilized by your tissues will be flushed out. It's safe to take quite a bit. On the other hand, Vitamin A and D are fat-soluble. This means they get stored in your fat cells. If you take too much of either, you can cause harm.
(This is especially true with Vitamin A which, in toxic amounts, causes flaky skin, fingertip fissuring, brutal headaches, and the horrific sounding "hemorrhagic pancreatitis.")
Now, you'd need to take quite a bit of those vitamins to reach a level of toxicity, but the point remains: more isn't always the answer.
The same logic applies to melatonin.
Less Is More With Melatonin
In our earlier series, we dove into why taking too much melatonin can actually disrupt your sleep.
In short, dosing too much melatonin (and especially taking extended-release melatonin) can cause your pineal gland to stop its own natural production.
Studies have also shown that the most effective dose is 0.3mg or less. In fact, they've even revealed that results plateau in people who take dosages higher than this. Most brands sell melatonin at 3, 5, or even 10 mg dosages. That's upwards of 30 times the amount of the effective dose!
Aside from potentially creating a dependency, this amount may also be the reason for some of the negative side effects associated with melatonin, such as nightmares and daytime drowsiness.
At the end of the day (yes, pun intended), to get the most benefits of your melatonin it's beneficial to take less.
How Long Does Melatonin Stay in Your System?
The short answer? It depends on the supplement.
If you've ever browsed the sleep section in your vitamin shop, you've likely seen standard melatonin alongside "extended-release" melatonin.
Extended-release melatonin is a special concoction that drips into your system throughout the night. While this may sound like a good idea, it can be harmful.
Extended-release melatonin usually offers two layers in one tablet. The first layer is a "quick release" melatonin layer that encourages your body to fall asleep. The second layer kicks in after the first is dissolved and releases melatonin for 6-7 hours.
The problem with this? Your pineal gland, which regulates your melatonin production, shuts off its melatonin valve over time. When extended-release tablets are doing the work all night long, your pineal gland says: "Well, I'm no longer needed here!"
This is dangerous because it can create dependency. If your natural production turns off, your body won't get sleepy at the appropriate time.
Typically when it gets dark outside, our pineal gland is stimulated to produce melatonin. This causes drowsiness and a desire to sleep. If our pineal gland does nothing when it gets dark, we'll certainly have a rough time getting sleepy. Cue the insomnia (unless we take our extended-release mega-dose of melatonin again).
This has farther-reaching effects than we may think. By shutting off a critical hormone in our bodies, our entire circadian rhythm will be disturbed.
This system governs our sleep and wake cycles and is linked to and stimulated by other important hormones in our bodies, including cortisol.
If we mess with one hormone, we throw the others out of whack, potentially setting ourselves up for long-term sleep issues. Even worse, since our hormonal system is an intricate web that governs the entire body, we may cause a cascade of other issues like depressed immunity, low testosterone, and even erectile dysfunction.
The Ideal Melatonin Lifespan
As you can see, taking too much melatonin (and the wrong type) can have far-reaching effects.
We overload our bloodstream when we take a high dosage or an extended-release variety of melatonin. This isn't natural. Our bodies typically release melatonin at the onset of sleep, and don't drown us in this potent hormone throughout the night.
If we continually receive blasts of melatonin or there's too much coursing through our bloodstream, our bodies become tricked into thinking we're only in the earliest stage of sleep. With large doses of melatonin, this can last for 5-8 hours! Throughout this period, we never fall into deeper levels of sleep, because the initial dose never falls off the way it should naturally.
In short, if we keep "poking" our melatonin levels throughout the night, it's highly likely to leave us exhausted in the morning.
Ideally, a melatonin supplement will give your body and pineal gland a gentle tap to produce the hormone 1-2 hours before bed. Then, after helping you fall asleep, it'll naturally leave your bloodstream, and quickly.
When and How to Take Melatonin
Aside from choosing a melatonin supplement that doesn't linger in your blood stream, it's crucial to consider your dosage.
As we mentioned earlier, standard doses of most manufacturers of melatonin are extraordinarily high. Studies show the ideal amount for quality sleep is 0.3mg or less.
Any dose in excess of this amount tends to plateau. At worst, higher doses keep you from reaching deep levels of sleep — you'll wave in and out of shallow sleep throughout the night, potentially have freaky dreams, and spend the next day yawning.
In addition, how and where you take your melatonin matters.
The pineal gland triggers melatonin production based on light conditions. When it gets dark outside, your body should start producing melatonin to prepare you for sleep. However, this isn't always the case due to a huge issue: artificial lighting.
Any light source can immediately put a halt to your melatonin production. This includes streetlights, lights from your TV, light from your laptop, and light from your phone.
In fact, studies show that even small amounts of light on the back of participants' knees in a dark room could influence their melatonin production.
Now, you may think that if you are exposed to light at night, you can turn it off, and your melatonin level will shoot back up. This isn't the case. Some studies show that your melatonin production may not even rebound after exposure to light at night. This in and of itself can be a factor in insomnia.
As you can see, this is why controlling light at night is extremely important. Here are some tips to optimize your nighttime lighting:
- Avoid using your phone, laptop, or TV at least one hour before bed
- Only use very dim lighting in your room, such as candlelight
- Consider purchasing blackout curtains to block any light coming in through your window
- Cover alarm clock lights
This last option isn't the most ideal, but if you find yourself having to use your laptop or phone at night, consider investing in blue-light-blocking glasses.
These are typically referred to as "blue blockers," and can help prevent blue light from your smartphone screen from ever reaching your eyes.
The Ideal Melatonin
Now that we've answered the question "How long does melatonin stay in your system?", let's get to the fun part: which melatonin supplement should you take?
At Hibernate, we want you to sleep... not become dependent on melatonin, worsen your insomnia, disrupt your hormones, or become a zombie.
This is why our formulas contain a scientifically proven, ideal amount of melatonin: 0.25mg.
This microdose of melatonin doesn't linger in your bloodstream. And, it's supported by natural minerals, antioxidants, and electrolytes to encourage deep, restorative sleep.
It can also help you stay asleep by helping to stabilize slow-wave sleep cycles.
Want to remember what real, natural sleep feels like? Check out Hibernate Sleep Formula here.