- I have a history of sleep problems and have tried a variety of methods to get a better sleep schedule.
- Melatonin– a natural hormone that is available in supplements over the counter – is said to help people with occasional sleeplessness.
- I took melatonin for a week.
- I found that while it did regulate my sleep schedule, it caused far too much daytime drowsiness to continue taking it regularly.
I have a long history of sleep problems. From trouble falling asleep to waking up in the middle of the night, I rarely wake fully rested and ready to take on the day.
Over the years, I have tried it all – sleepytime teas, a weighted blanket, ASMR, meditation, and p.m. medicines. And while many of these things help, nothing has helped me truly establish a consistent pattern of healthy sleep.
I decided to try and take melatonin, a natural supplement that replicates the hormone your body makes to control your sleep-wake cycles.
I have tried melatonin in the past with little to no luck. Having only ever taken small doses (1-3 milligrams), this time around I slightly increased the dose to 5 milligrams, which is the highest recommended dosage.
For my week of trying melatonin, I journaled my experience, writing down every little thing that could potentially be a result of the new supplement. At the end of the seven-day trial, my conclusion was clear.
Day 1: I had high hopes for how melatonin would change my sleep schedule
On the first night, I felt distinct sleepiness about 30-45 minutes after taking the melatonin. As opposed to a medicated drowsiness, the melatonin-induced sleepiness felt natural.
So natural that I even forgot that I’d taken it, thinking to myself, “Wow! I’m really sleepy.” This was a big deal for me because as someone who has trouble sleeping I hardly ever feel naturally tired at a reasonable time.
So the thought of a non-medicinal supplement giving me that natural yearning to go to bed early gave me high hopes for what melatonin could do for my irregular sleep patterns.
That night I slept soundly and did not wake up in the middle of the night like I usually do.
Day 2: I was feeling positive about melatonin’s effects
On day two, I had a pretty busy day scheduled. I woke up feeling like I had an amazing night’s sleep. Although I did feel a bit of sleepiness in the morning, I couldn’t tell if that was the melatonin or the fact that I’d slept so well I just didn’t want to get out of bed.
By midday, I felt energised and was feeling positive about melatonin’s effects on my sleep schedule.
That evening, I took melatonin about a half hour before bedtime and fell asleep quickly and easily.
Day 3: I dragged throughout the day
On the third day of the experiment, I was gearing up for a very long day and was excited that my newfound energy, which I was gaining from having a full night’s rest, would help me get through the day.
Despite having slept soundly through the night, that morning I experienced a distinct and lingering residual sleepiness that lasted throughout the entire day.
Unlike grogginess that you experience from p.m. medicine, this daytime sleepiness felt natural. I didn’t feel medicated, I just felt very tired, and this proved to be a problem for my busy day.
I had to compensate with coffee and push through my packed schedule to get things done.
Around bedtime, I took the melatonin and fell immediately asleep for another uninterrupted night of sleep.
Day 4: Melatonin helped me start waking up earlier but continued to cause me drowsiness during the day
Day four was a weekend and typically I use the weekend to sleep in as long as I want. I know it is best for your sleep cycle not to do this and that we all should aim to wake up at the same time every day, but as someone who struggles to sleep at night, there are times where weekend mornings are the only time I feel I can get an adequate amount of sleep.
On this morning, however, I naturally woke up much earlier than normal. It was very strange for me because I am not a morning person and typically require many alarms to get up at early morning hours.
I was pleasantly surprised at this and felt ready to take on the day until daytime sleepiness hit me in the afternoon. I was bummed about the daytime drowsiness because I truly enjoyed feeling like I was getting on a better schedule.
That evening, taking melatonin was helpful for easing some late-night anxiety I was experiencing. I was grateful for the help to get to sleep quickly and easily.
Day 5: I started to feel the benefits of a routine wake-up and bedtime, but was getting frustrated with the daytime drowsiness
Another day on melatonin and another natural early morning wake-up. On day five it was evident that melatonin was regulating my sleep schedule. I was waking up around the same time every day and falling asleep at the same time every night. This was, no doubt, a great thing for me and my history of irregular sleep patterns.
The daytime drowsiness, however, was really getting to me. It became harder to push through. I had to take a mid-day nap – something that I never typically do. I was unable to focus at work due to the overwhelming feeling of sleepiness and began to resent the melatonin.
Day 6: I had another long, sleepy day
The sixth day of my experiment was the day that solidified my choice to not continue taking melatonin after the week was over.
The daytime sleepiness I was experiencing started to completely overshadow the positive effects of gaining a regular sleep schedule. I had to take another midday nap and struggled to be as productive as I needed to be throughout the day.
I was reluctant to take the melatonin again, but with only a short time left I had to push through.
Day 7: I was excited to stop taking melatonin so I could get my daytime energy back
On the final day of the week, I was elated to stop taking melatonin. I felt that the benefits of the sleep aid had peaked on the third or fourth day of the experiment and the rest of the week had felt like a sleepy blur.
I had hoped that by the end of the week my body would have adjusted to the melatonin, but this was not the case. I considered possibly lowering my dose and trying for a second week, but truth be told I couldn’t picture getting through another week of being so tired throughout the day.
I was still maintaining my early-to-bed, early-to-rise routine, which felt healthy, and was continually sleeping throughout the night without interruption, however, I don’t see what the point of a full night’s sleep is if I still feel tired the next day.
Melatonin can be helpful in small doses for short periods of time, but it is not something I would take long-term as a solution for
chronic sleep problems
I can see the positive effects of melatonin. The drowsy feeling I got at night was so natural. The sleep I had while on it was quality and restorative. It helped me get back to a normal, healthy sleep schedule. And I enjoyed that it was a natural option.
The daytime drowsiness, however, negatively impacted my life too much for me to consider taking it regularly.
I would be open to lowering my dose and trying to take it again, however, in the past when I have taken lower doses (1-3 milligrams) I have not experienced any effect on my sleep whatsoever. For me, the low dose of melatonin is not enough and five milligrams is far too much so my options regarding the sleep supplement are limited.
That said, melatonin is something I will have around for special circumstances such as jet lag, unexpected interruptions to my regular sleep cycle, and particularly bad occurrences of night-time anxiety.
When it comes to a long-term solution to my sleep problems, I am still on the hunt for something effective that doesn’t leave me drowsy during the day.
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