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Does melatonin make you groggy? Here's why it can, and what to use instead

Melatonin doesn't work for everyone, but there are ways to avoid that "hungover" feeling. A nutrition pro explains.

woman in bed

Melatonin can make some people feel groggy and "hungover" the next day.

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I'm super sensitive to melatonin. Even though millions of people take the supplement almost every night, the few times I've taken any amount, I feel groggy and "hungover" for hours the next morning. 

At first, I chalked it up to just being tired or getting a crappy night's sleep (hence, needing the melatonin). But after a while, I realized I felt the same way each time I took it, and I decided melatonin's not for me. In the meantime, I found some sleep supplements that work better for me overall -- but more on those later.

Below, Dr. Josh Axe, a clinical nutritionist and co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, shares why melatonin can make you feel hungover and how to prevent that effect. Plus, he'll share the best melatonin alternatives if you decide it's not for you. 

Melatonin supplement on bedside table

Melatonin takes about 1 hour to work and lasts for about 5 hours, according to Axe.

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Behind the melatonin hangover

Melatonin is a hormone that's produced naturally in the body, and it helps tell you when to sleep and when to wake up. Taking melatonin is thought to improve sleep because it can help your body produce more of the hormone. 

"Melatonin is generally thought to be safer to use than other sleep medications and less likely to cause side effects such as daytime grogginess the next day. That being said, taking too much and taking it too late at night or in the middle of the night might cause its effects to linger into the next day," says Axe. "Continuous release melatonin tablets might also linger in someone's system and lead to side effects in some cases." 

Even though melatonin is different from sleep medications and considered generally safe, some people simply may not be able to tolerate it well. "For reasons related to people's metabolisms and possibly genetics, some might be more prone to experiencing side effects from melatonin, such as nausea or low energy," says Axe.

How to prevent a melatonin hangover (besides not taking it)

If you experience side effects like next-day drowsiness when you take melatonin, does that mean you should never take it? According to Axe, you might be able to try a few adjustments first. To start, he says to avoid taking it in the middle of the night. "After you take melatonin it starts working within about an hour and lasts for about 5 hours in your body, so taking it in the middle of the night isn't the best idea if you want to wake up with energy," Axe explains.

"Try taking a low dose to start, taking it about 60 minutes before sleep and skipping continuous release melatonin if this seems to apply to you," he advises. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a low dose is generally considered 0.5 mg and 5mg is on the higher side. 

For those who do take melatonin daily, Axe says it doesn't hurt to take a break from it every now and then. "It's typically intended to be taken for short periods of time, such as several weeks or months, but not continuously forever (unless you're working with a doctor)," says Axe.  

"That being said, it isn't known to cause dependency, so taking it for longer may not be a problem unless you experience side effects," he says.

Melatonin alternatives to try instead

If you decide that melatonin isn't working for you, how do you find a natural sleep aid that doesn't make you feel groggy? Dr. Axe recommends the following sleep supplements next time you want help catching z's.   

Adaptogenic herbs: "Adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha and kava help your body cope with stress and support your nervous system. They can also lower cortisol release, which is a stress hormone that can disrupt sleep," says Axe.

Magnesium: "Magnesium is an electrolyte mineral that can have calming effects and can reduce muscle tension and headaches," says Axe.

CBD or CBN: "CBD oil, made from the hemp plant, is nonpsychoactive but has calming and pain-soothing effects," says Axe. CBN is a type of cannabinoid that is being used in more sleep supplements since it's the most sedative compound found in cannabis, according to Sandland Sleep.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.