Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland. That’s a pea-sized gland found just above the middle of your brain. It helps your body know when it’s time to sleep and wake up.Normally, your body makes more melatonin at night. Levels usually start to go up in the evening once the sun sets. They drop in the morning when the sun goes up. The amount of light you get each day — plus your own body clock — set how much your body makes. 

Who Can Take Melatonin?

  • Circadian rhythm sleep disorders in the blind. Melatonin can help improve these disorders in adults and children.
  • Delayed sleep phase (delayed sleep-wake phase sleep disorder). In this disorder your sleep pattern is delayed two hours or more from a conventional sleep pattern, causing you to go to sleep later and wake up later. Research shows that melatonin reduces the length of time needed to fall asleep and advances the start of sleep in young adults and children with this condition. Talk to your child’s doctor before giving melatonin to a child.
  • Insomnia. Research suggests that melatonin might provide relief from the inability to fall asleep and stay asleep (insomnia) by slightly improving your total sleep time, sleep quality and how long it takes you to fall asleep.
  • Jet lag. Evidence shows that melatonin can modestly improve jet lag symptoms, such as alertness.
  • Shift work disorder. Some research suggests that melatonin might improve daytime sleep quality and duration in people whose jobs require them to work outside the traditional morning to evening schedule.
  • Sleep-wake cycle disturbances. Melatonin can help treat these disturbances in children with a number of disabilities.

Recent research is also exploring whether melatonin might improve cognitive impairment in people with Alzheimer’s disease and prevent cell damage associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).