Melatonin Supplement Review

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  Evaluated for:
Effectiveness Rating Effectiveness Rating
Jet Lag
+2 (Moderate Evidence)
Adjunctive cancer therapy
+2 (Moderate Evidence)
0 (Effectiveness Unclear)


  • Melatonin decreases jet lag when taken starting several days before eastward travel, especially when crossing 5 or more time zones.
  • Melatonin improves sleep onset and duration in children with ADHD and in the elderly.
  • The side effects are usually mild. There aren't many risks in trying melatonin to see if it helps you.
  • Melatonin is relatively inexpensive.
  • Melatonin appears to have a role in palliative care. It may decrease the toxic side effects of chemotherapy and increase survival time for patients with incurable metastatic cancers.


  • Melatonin increases drowsiness if taken too early in the day, so don’t take melatonin early unless you want to fall asleep before dinnertime.
  • Some people may experience fatigue or a “hangover” effect the following morning.
  • There is a theoretical concern that its antioxidant properties may make cancer treatments less effective. Future studies are needed.
  • Melatonin hasn’t consistently shown itself to be of help to everyone who has trouble falling or staying asleep. Especially for insomnia associated with shift work, the overall effect is somewhat weak and results are mixed.

Melatonin can interact with medications and supplements. If you are already taking another sleep medication, please discuss its use with your doctor before you add melatonin or any other additional sleep medicines.

DOSAGE:For the treatment of insomnia or jet lag, doses range from 0.5 to 5 mg. To prevent jet lag, begin melatonin several days prior to eastward travel (at the anticipated bedtime in the new time zone). For many sleep conditions, small doses seem to be as effective as larger doses. Doctors treating metastatic cancers usually use doses around 20 mg. We suggest dosing as directed on the label.

CONCLUSION:We conclude that melatonin is a safe and effective product for the treatment of jet lag, metastatic cancers and some sleep-related problems. While it shows promise for the treatment of insomnia, there is not enough evidence for us to support its use for this indication. Another way to increase your melatonin levels is by meditating, avoiding computer and TV screens in the evening, and eating certain fruits and vegetables (notably cherries, bananas, corn, wine and red grapes). If you elect to try it, remember to include it in your list of medications when you visit your doctor and other health care providers.

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