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Taking Melatonin to Fall Asleep? This Sleep App Is The Safer Alternative

This Sleep Science App Helps You Fall Asleep and Stay Asleep Without the Use of Melatonin Supplements — or Any Other Sleep Aids
Reviewed by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
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Woman taking melatonin to fall asleep

Sleep is necessary for our survival, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Many of us have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting enough sleep each night to feel and perform our best. 

So more and more of us have started turning to sleep aids, especially melatonin. To many, it feels like the safest choice as it’s a hormone our bodies produce naturally. Perhaps that’s why one study found that by 2018, Americans were taking more than double the amount of melatonin they were a decade earlier. 

But just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it’s harmless — it’s still a powerful hormone after all. Unlike many other countries, it’s unregulated in the US. Research has found that some supplements contain up to almost 500% more melatonin than the label says. Plus, they can contain other harmful compounds, and we don’t yet know the effects of long-term melatonin use. Even short-term use comes with dangerous side effects like depression, tremors, and abnormally low blood pressure. 

So if melatonin supplements aren’t the answer to a good night’s sleep, what is? It turns out, there is a way to harness the power of melatonin without ingesting potentially harmful supplements. Our bodies produce melatonin naturally to help us feel sleepy, and there’s a window of time when this melatonin production is at its highest it will be all night. If you go to bed during this window, you’ll have a much easier time falling and staying asleep. And that’s where RISE comes in. 

RISE is a sleep science app that predicts the exact timing of this “Melatonin Window” each night. To improve your sleep even more, the app tells you when you should do sleep-boosting behaviors during the day that make sure your natural melatonin production isn’t disrupted in any way.

RISE uses 100 years of sleep science research to improve its users’ sleep. Founders Jeff Kahn and Leon Sasson met at Northwestern University, and worked on sleep science research together before launching the company. They first worked with businesses and sport teams, teaching them how better sleep could improve their days — and it worked. Jeff and Leon helped them achieve everything from two Super Bowl wins, a 14% increase in revenue, and 95% of people feeling more productive at a Fortune 500 company. 

Next, it was time to share this sleep science knowledge with the rest of the world. The RISE app launched to the public in mid-2020 and quickly became a go-to tool for improving sleep. The app already has 1 million users — and counting — and 80% report feeling and performing better within just five days. 

Want to improve your sleep the natural way? Here’s how RISE can help.   

RISE app screenshot showing your peak energy and dip times
RISE is a sleep science app that predicts the exact timing of your “Melatonin Window” each night

RISE Busts Common Melatonin Myths and Helps You Fall Asleep Naturally 

Melatonin sleep supplements can be found in every form, from capsules to gummies, sprays to topical creams. It’s easy to think of it like a vitamin supplement that gives you more of something you’re deficient in. But the amount of melatonin needed for sleep is much smaller than most of us imagine. So you don’t actually need more of it in supplement form to sleep. Instead, you just need to promote your natural melatonin production.

When it starts getting dark, a few hours before our natural bedtime, the pineal gland in our brain starts producing melatonin, which soon makes us feel sleepy. So melatonin supplements don’t actually make you fall asleep straight away. Instead, they signal to the brain that it's evening time, helping it wind down and get ready for sleep. And it may take hours to feel the effects. 

The problem with our natural melatonin production is that it’s easily disrupted by light. If you get too much light exposure in the evenings — especially blue light from electronic devices — you won’t get the darkness needed to trigger your brain into producing the hormone. To make sure you’re getting enough natural melatonin to feel sleepy, you should dim the lights and put on blue-light blocking glasses at least 90 minutes before you go to bed

There’s also a window of time when your brain will produce the most amount of melatonin it will all night — we call this the “Melatonin Window.” This one-hour window is the ideal time to go to bed to give yourself the best chance of falling asleep and staying asleep all night. But the timing of it all depends on your circadian rhythm —  your internal body clock that controls things like when you feel awake, sleepy and when you produce hormones like melatonin. It’s also affected by your chronotype — whether you’re an early bird, night owl, or something in between. 

RISE predicts your circadian rhythm to calculate the timing of your Melatonin Window each night, so you’ll know when you should go to bed to get a better night’s sleep.

RISE Helps You Tap Into Your Natural Melatonin Production 

But it’s not just when you go to bed that makes a difference; your behavior in the day also impacts your sleep. Everything from ill-timed caffeine to late-night meals can make it harder to fall asleep. By following good sleep hygiene — daily habits that promote sleep — you may find you don’t even need sleep aids like melatonin supplements. 

Good sleep hygiene includes drinking your last caffeinated drink earlier in the day, and taking time to wind down before bed. RISE lets users know the best time to do these sleep hygiene habits according to their individual circadian rhythms. 

And not only does the app help users fall asleep naturally, it helps them feel and perform better in the day by focusing on their sleep debt. Sleep debt is the amount of sleep you “owe” your body compared to the amount you should have had over the last 14 nights. It’s determined by genetics, just like height and eye color, so you have no control over it, and most adults need 8 hours 10 minutes of sleep a night, give or take 44 minutes or so. 

RISE is built on sleep research that says that sleep debt is the biggest factor affecting how much energy we have each day. The app calculates how much sleep debt you have and keeps track of it as you slowly work to pay it back, feeling better each day you do. 

While melatonin supplements can be useful in some cases, like when battling jet lag or adjusting to shift work, it should be pharmaceutical grade, and used in low dosages for only a short amount of time. Most of us are far better off promoting our natural melatonin production through good sleep habits, and then aiming to go to sleep when this production is at its highest. 

RISE Uses Smart Technology to Give You Personalized Recommendations  

One of the problems with melatonin supplements is that they are the same for everyone. But every single one of us reacts differently to them — not to mention, we all need a different amount of sleep and have different circadian rhythms. So to really improve your sleep, you need to start doing the things that work for you. 

RISE gives you personalized suggestions to improve your sleep and boost your energy. The app uses historical data on your phone to determine how much sleep you actually need and analyzes your phone-use behavior, or your wearable technology if you use any, to see how much you’ve been getting. It then calculates how much sleep debt you need to pay back. 

Next, RISE uses your sleep times and inferred light exposure based on your location to work out your circadian rhythm. Armed with this information, and based on each night’s sleep, it predicts the next day's rhythm, so you can see when you’ll have the most and least energy in the day. 

The app also uses this information to let you know the best times to do everything from having your last coffee to putting on blue-light blocking glasses to winding down for bed — all of which prime your body for the best night’s sleep and make sure your body can produce melatonin efficiently. It also predicts your Melatonin Window, giving you an ideal bedtime to aim for each night that’ll increase the likelihood of you having a restful night’s sleep. 

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
RISE uses historical data on your phone to determine how much sleep you actually need and analyzes your phone-use behavior to see how much you’ve been getting. It then calculates how much sleep you need to pay back your debt. 

Millions Are Using RISE to Improve Their Sleep Naturally  

The company started off by helping businesses and sports teams improve their sleep. The app then launched to the public in mid-2020 and immediately started getting up to 30,000 downloads each week, becoming one of the fastest growing consumer apps out there. Just 11 months after launching, it already had 1 million users. Here’s what some of them have to say: 

“The constant source of feedback and useful information is a great help. [RISE] provides the discipline to improve the parts of your life which you really want to. Already protecting my “sleep window” and melatonin zone to get to sleep.” — 5-star review (May, 2021) 

“If you’re like me, have ADHD, and struggle to wind down in the evening, this app creates motivation to catch the melatonin window. So thumbs up from me.” — 5-star review (December, 2021)

“As someone that has always found sleep tricky, this app was a perfect start to show me the right way to go about it.” — 5-star review (June 2021) 

7 months after launch, RISE became one of the top 12 apps in Health & Fitness in the US, right behind Headspace.

Swap Melatonin for Natural Sleep with RISE 

RISE isn’t your typical sleep app. It uses sleep science to predict your circadian rhythm, allowing you to harness your natural melatonin production to get the sleep you need to feel and perform your best each day. Swap harmful sleep aids for RISE, and start falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting enough sleep — night after night.


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About Rise
Rise is the only app that unlocks the real-world benefits of better sleep.

Instead of just promising a better night, we use 100 years of sleep science to help you pay down sleep debt and take advantage of your circadian rhythm to be your best.

Over the past decade, we've helped professional athletes, startups, and Fortune 500s improve their sleep to measurably win more in the real-world scenarios that matter most.

Rise Science is backed by True Ventures, Freestyle Capital, and High Alpha; investors behind category winners Fitbit, Peloton, and Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

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