Last week I gave a talk about insomnia and insomnia remedies, and I asked people in the audience to share what they knew. “Melatonin!” a man shouted out. “It doesn’t work!” Others laughed in agreement.

For many years I thought the same thing. Melatonin supplements are unregulated by the US government. What little information we do get about melatonin—from labels and from the Internet—is often misleading, prompting some of us to buy it and try it when we may as well have bought a pair of lottery tickets instead.

But there is at least one type of insomnia sufferer who stands to gain a lot by taking melatonin supplements regularly at the appropriate time of day. This is the topic of my second book trailer. Watch this three-minute video clip and tell me what you think!

Does Melatonin Work for Insomnia?

Posted by Lois Maharg, The Savvy Insomniac

Lois Maharg has worked with language for many years. She taught ESL, coauthored two textbooks, and then became a reporter, writing about health, education, government, Latino affairs, and food. Her lifelong struggle with insomnia and interest in investigative reporting motivated her to write a book, The Savvy Insomniac: A Personal Journey through Science to Better Sleep. She now freelances as an editor and copy writer at On the Mark Editing.

2 Comments

  1. From what I have read about Melatonin, it appears we secrete a much smaller amount than is contained in most supplements. I have been told that this is also part of the reason for its ineffectiveness, as well as the timing issue you talk about. I have also found that nearly everyone I have talked with about their insomnia has tried it, usually in some sort of herbal combination, and maybe one or two have reported some success.

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  2. People secrete varying amounts of endogenous melatonin, in part based on their age. (Melatonin secretion typically goes down as people get older). So there’s talk about melatonin replacement therapy in older adults. In Europe and Israel, there’s a prolonged release version of melatonin called Circadin. It’s prescribed for trouble sleeping in people ages 55 and above.

    Over-the-counter melatonin supplements sold in the US have been found to be effective for night owls (as I explain in the video), when the object is to shift the timing of sleep to an earlier hour. But melatonin supplements don’t seem to have much to offer people with other kinds of insomnia symptoms. The reason usually given is that melatonin has a very short half-life–45 minutes or less. So it doesn’t stick around in the system long enough to make much of a difference.

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