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Can I Take Melatonin Every Night? You Probably Shouldn’t

Melatonin may help you fall asleep, but you shouldn’t take it every night. Research says it’s safe short term, but the jury’s still out on long-term use.
Published
2022-05-04
Updated
2024-02-22
14 MINS
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Jamie Zeitzer, PhD, Rise Science Scientific Reviewer
Our Editorial Standards
We bring sleep research out of the lab and into your life. Every post begins with peer-reviewed studies — not third-party sources — to make sure we only share advice that can be defended to a room full of sleep scientists.
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Updated Regularly
We regularly update our articles to explain the latest research and shifts in scientific consensus in a simple and actionable way.
Woman thinking about taking melatonin at night

Can You Take Melatonin Every Night? 

  • You probably shouldn’t take melatonin every night. While research shows it’s safe in the short term, more studies are needed to know if it’s safe to take every night in the long term. 
  • Beyond health risks, taking melatonin every night can be habit-forming. You may feel like you need it to fall asleep and struggle to sleep without it. 
  • Most people can safely take melatonin every night for a few nights when adjusting to jet lag or shift work.
  • Taking melatonin shouldn’t stop your body from producing its own supply, but more research is needed.
  • The RISE app can tell you the best time to take melatonin supplements but can also help you fall asleep without them. It guides you through 20+ sleep habits to help your brain make all the melatonin it needs to fall and stay asleep naturally. 

Unlike traditional sleep aids, melatonin is made naturally by the brain to help us sleep. But just because it’s natural, that doesn’t mean you should take melatonin supplements nightly. 

Below, we’ll cover whether it’s safe to take melatonin every night and how with a few simple lifestyle tweaks, you can use the RISE app to optimize your natural melatonin production to fall asleep without relying on supplements every night.

Ask a Sleep Doctor

Ask a sleep doctor:

“Studies show melatonin is safe for most people in the short term, but there’s a lot we still don’t know about long-term use. My advice is to only take melatonin when you need to shift your sleep schedule, like when treating jet lag. Every other night, focus on avoiding bright light in the hours before bed to support your body’s natural melatonin production.”

Advice from Rise Science sleep advisor and medical reviewer, Dr. Chester Wu, who’s double board certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine.

Is It Bad to Take Melatonin Every Night? 

It may be bad to take melatonin every night, but more research is needed. While short-term melatonin use seems to be safe, there aren’t many studies looking into how safe it is to take melatonin every night long term. 

Even if it is safe, it still might not be a good thing to take melatonin every night. Taking melatonin nightly can be habit-forming. You won’t become physically addicted to melatonin, but you may feel the need to take it every night to fall asleep. 

Plus, it doesn’t work that well at helping you fall asleep faster at your usual bedtime, so there’s no need to take it every night to sleep. Even though it’s known as a sleep aid, melatonin works best when used to shift your sleep schedule, which you can do in a few days. 

Here’s more on why it may be bad to take melatonin every night. 

There Are Limited Long-Term Studies 

A 1997 study stated there is no published data on the use of melatonin for longer than six months — and things haven’t changed much since then. A 2015 paper, for example, looked at several studies and concluded there was very limited data about long-term melatonin use.

In some long-term studies, participants only experienced mild side effects when taking melatonin compared to those taking a placebo. They reported side effects such as dizziness and headaches after three months of use. 

But, most of the time, studies are only one to seven days long. So while short-term use appears to be safe, there’s not enough research to say whether using melatonin every day is safe. 

Melatonin May Be Habit-Forming 

Melatonin isn’t addictive and you won’t develop a tolerance to it, but it can be habit-forming if you take the supplement every night. 

When you don’t take it, you might get anxious and struggle to sleep without it, so you don’t want to build the habit of nightly use. 

As Dr. Jamie Zeitzer, co-director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences at Stanford University and one of our sleep advisors explains, if you find you can’t sleep without taking melatonin every night, “you may have developed a psychological dependence” on the supplement and an “additional psychological barrier to actually getting sleep.”

“You definitely can sleep without taking melatonin!” he adds.

We’ve covered more on why you can’t sleep without melatonin here. 

And more on how to fall asleep without taking melatonin soon. 

Supplements Are Unregulated 

Melatonin in countries like the UK and Australia is only available by prescription. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies melatonin as a dietary supplement. This means it’s unregulated and available over the counter. There may be impurities in the pill and the dose might not match what is advertised. 

Indeed, a main concern around the safety of melatonin is that you may not know how much you’re taking. A 2017 study tested brands of supplements and found they contained 83% less to 478% more melatonin content than advertised on the label. 

So, even if you think you’re taking a low dose each night, you may be taking a much higher amount of melatonin, increasing your risk of side effects in both the short and long term. 

We covered how much melatonin is too much here. 

Melatonin May Not Work Long Term

Even if it’s safe, there’s some research showing melatonin may not help those with sleep issues long term. 

In a 2013 study, participants reported improved sleep after taking supplements for three months, but these improvements weren’t felt at the 12-month mark. 

However, as with many studies on melatonin, these participants had a health condition, and there’s not a lot of data on long-term use in healthy participants. 

Beyond this, some research states melatonin may not help you get over jet lag, cure insomnia, adjust to shift work, or fall and stay asleep — the reasons most people take the supplement to begin with. And it’s not that effective when you take it before bed to fall asleep faster at your usual bedtime. 

Plus, it’s easy for melatonin to backfire. If you take too large a dose close to bedtime, or take it in the middle of the night, you can wake up with high levels of melatonin in your system. This can leave you feeling groggy and push back your circadian rhythm, making it harder to sleep the next night.

Melatonin May Not Be Best for Sleep Disorders 

If you suffer from a sleep disorder like insomnia, you might feel like you need to take melatonin every night to fall asleep. But the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) doesn’t recommend using melatonin to treat insomnia at all, let alone long term.  

Even when it is used, it’s not often prescribed as a long-term fix. 

For example, in the UK, the supplement is usually prescribed for one to four weeks, and occasionally up to 13 weeks. Some healthcare providers may even recommend taking melatonin two to three times per week, instead of every night. 

And it may not even be the best treatment anyway. 

While some studies say melatonin may be a useful treatment for insomnia, especially in older people, other research suggests it doesn’t make enough of a difference to be a recommended treatment. Some experts even think it could make insomnia worse, although again, more research is needed.

So, if you want to use melatonin every night to treat ongoing sleep problems, it’s always best to get medical advice before doing so. Every treatment plan is different, and there may be a better treatment out there for you.

Heads-up: Melatonin may not be safe for everyone. People who are pregnant or breastfeeding, transplant recipients, those on prescription medication, or those with certain conditions — like diabetes, high blood pressure, seizure disorders, bleeding disorders, or depression — should speak to their healthcare provider before taking melatonin supplements. 

More research is needed on melatonin use in kids and adolescents. The AASM issued a health advisory in 2022 stating that parents should consult a healthcare professional before giving melatonin to their children and that kids’ sleep problems may be better managed with habit and schedule changes. 

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What Happens to Your Body if You Take Melatonin Every Night? 

It’s not clear what happens to your body if you take melatonin every night. Your natural melatonin levels don’t appear to be affected, and it isn’t thought to be addictive, but you may become psychologically dependent on it.

More research is needed into the long-term health impacts of taking melatonin every night. 

A 2019 study suggested long-term melatonin use in children could delay puberty. But, as with many melatonin studies, the researchers ultimately concluded the research was based on limited data and there wasn’t enough evidence to say either way. 

Research suggests taking a 2 mg dose of melatonin for one month doesn’t cause any changes in anterior pituitary hormones, except for prolactin. Another study found melatonin supplements increased prolactin levels, which can lead to liver, kidney, and hormone problems. 

Taking a very large dose of melatonin (80 mg) was shown to substantially increase prolactin secretion, and as high levels of prolactin are associated with infertility in both men and women, it’s another reason you may want to stick to smaller doses for the short term until more research into the long-term effects of melatonin is done. 

Does Taking Melatonin Decrease Natural Production? 

It doesn’t appear that taking melatonin decreases your natural production of the hormone. But more research is needed.

One study that looked at night shift workers who took melatonin for seven days and had their natural levels compared to those taking a placebo didn’t show any evidence that taking melatonin supplements decreased their natural levels. But more and longer-term studies looking into whether melatonin supplements can stop your body from producing the hormone are still needed.

How Long Can You Take Melatonin Every Night? 

There are no set guidelines for how long you can take melatonin every night. Most experts recommend taking melatonin short term. That could be for just a few days. You should take melatonin for as short a time as possible, and how long you need to take it for will vary from person to person. 

Melatonin is a chronobiotic, or something that can shift the timing of your circadian rhythm. It works best when you take it to sleep when you usually wouldn’t. 

This can be useful when: 

  • Treating jet lag
  • Shifting your sleep schedule 
  • Adjusting to shift work 

In these cases, you’d want to take melatonin until you’re adjusted and then use good sleep hygiene (more on that soon) to fall asleep without the help of a supplement. 

Jet Lag 

Take it: A few days before your flight and until adjusted in your new destination.

Melatonin has been shown as an effective way to recover more quickly from jet lag. Taking melatonin early in the morning can help you stay up later, if you’re flying west, and taking it four to five hours before you want to sleep can help you fall asleep earlier, after flying east. 

It’s generally recommended you take melatonin supplements a few days before your flight and then until you’re adjusted, which could be two to three days after arriving at your destination. 

Advice varies, however. For example, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) recommends taking melatonin for only five nights maximum when treating jet lag. 

We’ve covered how many mg of melatonin to take here. 

Shifting Your Sleep Schedule 

Take it: For a few days until adjusted to your new sleep schedule. 

There may be times in life when you need to reset your sleep schedule — like if you’re a night owl who wants to become a morning person. Melatonin can help you make the shift by helping you fall asleep at a time when you wouldn’t naturally be tired. 

The advice here would be the same as if you were adjusting to a different time zone: use melatonin as a short-term aid until you’re adjusted. Then rely on sleep hygiene to keep your circadian rhythm running at the new time. 

Adjusting to Shift Work 

Take it: For a few days until adjusted to your new sleep schedule. Consider other treatments. 

If you’re a shift worker, you may need to quickly flip your days and nights, and it can feel impossible to suddenly be alert through the night and fall asleep during the day. That’s where melatonin may help. 

One study looked at police officers who took melatonin for a total of 11 days to help them sleep in the morning after a night shift, and then at night once the night shifts were over. They didn’t experience any side effects, and they said they slept longer and reported better sleep quality (although sleep scientists still don’t agree on a definition for sleep quality). However, the study was very small — only eight people! 

The National Institute of Health (NIH) highlights that many studies looking into melatonin use and shift workers are small and inconclusive. Light therapy may be a more effective tool for shift workers. 

So again, the recommendation here would be to take melatonin only short term until you’re adjusted to your new sleep-wake cycle. 

Not everyone agrees melatonin is suitable for shift workers as there’s a risk you can make yourself sleepy during your shift and affect your performance. Consider alternative treatments — like light therapy — to help if you’re constantly switching. 

Sleep Problems and Circadian Rhythm Disorders 

Take it: Follow the advice of your healthcare provider. 

If you’re taking melatonin for a sleep problem or circadian rhythm disorder, like delayed sleep phase disorder, a healthcare professional can tell you how long you should take it for. 

It may only be a few times a week, instead of every night, or it may be every night for just a few weeks. 

We’ve covered how much melatonin you should take here and how long before bed to take melatonin here. 

RISE can tell you the best time to take melatonin supplements.

RISE app screenshot showing melatonin supplement reminder
The RISE app can tell you the best time to go to sleep.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can set up their take melatonin supplements reminder here.

Expert tip: If you do turn to supplements, we recommend Thorne and USP tested. RISE can tell you the best time to take them based on your body clock.

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What Are the Side Effects of Taking Melatonin Every Night? 

It’s not clear what the side effects are of taking melatonin every night. The side effects of melatonin include: 

  • Headaches 
  • Nausea 
  • Dizziness 
  • Depression 
  • Tremors
  • Low blood pressure  
  • Allergic reactions 
  • Drowsiness when you don’t want it — like during the day or sleepiness when driving 
  • Impaired cognition (a 2023 study found young adults had worse cognition the morning after taking melatonin)

The side effects of long-term melatonin use are still unknown. 

Expert tip: Start with a small dose of melatonin to see if it works. Higher doses come with a higher risk of side effects. Most experts recommend 0.3 mg to 1 mg doses of melatonin.

How to Fall Asleep Without Melatonin?

You can fall asleep without melatonin by improving your sleep hygiene and syncing up with your circadian rhythm. This will help your body produce all the melatonin it needs at the right time for your sleep schedule. 

Here’s what to do.

Improve your Sleep Hygiene 

Sleep hygiene refers to the set of behaviors you can do throughout the day to help you sleep come nighttime. Some of these habits directly affect your natural melatonin levels. 

Here’s what to do: 

  • Get natural light each morning: Getting light exposure first thing will suppress melatonin production, setting up your circadian rhythm to ensure the hormone can be made later that evening. Aim for at least 10 minutes of natural sunlight, or 15 to 20 minutes if it’s cloudy or you’re getting light through a window. 
  • Get natural light throughout the day: The more light you get during the day, the less sensitive you’ll be to it come nighttime. Get out for a walk on your lunch break, exercise outside, and work by a window, if possible. 
  • Dim the lights in the evening: Turn down the lights and put on blue-light blocking glasses (we recommend these) about 90 minutes before bed. Research shows exposure to room light in the run-up to bedtime can delay and shorten melatonin production. 
  • Keep your bedroom dark: Use blackout curtains and wear an eye mask. If you wake up in the night to use the bathroom, keep the lights off or as low as possible. Use a low power red light night light instead of your phone’s flashlight. 
  • Avoid alcohol too close to bedtime: One study found even a moderate dose of alcohol one hour before bed can suppress melatonin production. Avoid alcohol three to four hours before bed to stop it from disrupting your sleep. 

Beyond these behaviors, sleep hygiene includes not drinking coffee or eating large meals too close to bedtime, and sleeping in a cool, dark, and quiet bedroom. 

RISE can help you perfect all of these habits by sending you timed reminders for 20+ behaviors at the best time for your circadian rhythm. This makes sleep hygiene even more effective to help you get healthy sleep without melatonin. 

RISE app screenshot showing sleep hygiene habit reminders
The RISE app can tell you when to do 20+ sleep hygiene behaviors.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications here

Sync Up With Your Circadian Rhythm 

Your circadian rhythm is your internal body clock. It runs on a roughly 24-hour cycle and dictates when your body feels awake, sleepy, and when it produces certain hormones, including melatonin. 

You can sync up with your circadian rhythm to have an easier time feeling sleepy when you want to. Do this by keeping a regular sleep schedule every day of the week. 

You can also check RISE for your Melatonin Window. This is what we call the time of night when your body’s rate of melatonin production is at its highest. If you go to sleep during this roughly one-hour window, you’ll be taking advantage of your natural melatonin supply and have a much easier time falling asleep compared to if you went to bed at other times of night. 

RISE users say this helps them drift off — no melatonin or other sleeping pills required. 

“If I go to sleep according to my schedule, within my Melatonin Window, I am guaranteed to satisfy my sleep needs without any additional sleep aids, supplements, or medications. I am blown away by the accuracy and effectiveness of RISE.” Read the review

We’ve covered more on how to increase melatonin naturally here and how to sleep without any sleeping pills at all here.

RISE app screenshot showing your melatonin window reminder
The RISE app can tell you the best time to go to sleep.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can set up a reminder to check their Melatonin Window here.

Heads-up: Everyone needs a different amount of sleep. When we looked at how much sleep 1.95 million RISE users aged 24 and up need, we found it ranged from five hours to 11 hours 30 minutes. Almost half needed eight hours or more sleep a night. RISE can work out how much sleep you need exactly. 

The RISE app can tell you how much sleep you need
How much sleep RISE users need.

How Does Melatonin Work? 

Melatonin is a hormone that primes your body for sleep. As long as it’s dim enough, a few hours before your typical bedtime, your pineal gland will start producing melatonin. This moment is called the dim light melatonin onset (DLMO).

But production is easily thrown off by many external factors — the biggest of which is light exposure. If you get too much light in the evenings — think from your TV, phone, or bright overhead lighting — melatonin production can be suppressed, especially if you haven't been outside during the daytime, which can make it harder for you to fall asleep.

The RISE app can tell you your normal melatonin production over 24 hours
Melatonin levels over 24 hours. Source: https://sites.psu.edu/lifeitmoveson/2018/01/26/sleep-external-influences/

By taking melatonin supplements, you’re adding to your natural levels of melatonin. This will have different effects depending on what time of day you take them. 

Taking melatonin supplements in the morning can push back your bedtime, while taking melatonin later in the day (but still during daylight hours) can trick your brain into thinking it’s time to wind down and start preparing for sleep at a time it usually wouldn’t.

They may not do much for you if you take them before bed, though. Supplements are more effective when natural melatonin levels are low, such as during the day. 

Most of the time, supplements aren’t needed for daily use as your brain — with the right behaviors — can make all the melatonin it needs for a good night’s sleep. 

Beyond sleep, melatonin supplements may help those with high blood pressure, ADHD, insulin resistance, anxiety before surgery, or cancer. 

We’ve covered more on what melatonin does here. 

You Probably Shouldn’t Take Melatonin Every Night

Melatonin supplements are effective for some as a short-term sleep aid — like when treating jet lag or shifting your sleep schedule — but the jury’s still out on whether they’re safe to use long term. 

The best way to fall asleep night after night is by using your natural supply of melatonin.

The RISE app can help you practice good sleep hygiene and sync up with your circadian rhythm. This will ensure your brain can make all the melatonin it needs for a good night’s sleep, and you go to bed at the right time to harness the sleep hormone. 

It doesn’t take long to feel the difference  — 80% of RISE users get more sleep within five days. 

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