Melatonin for Sleep

Many people with ADD/ADHD have problems with sleep. Research shows that about 30-40% of people with ADD/ADHD have sleep problems. Then, some medications can cause insomnia as a side effect which can worsen the sleep problems.

While there are many prescription medications which can help with sleep, people are often reluctant to use another prescription medication to deal with sleep.

Which is why I like to start working on sleep with a natural approach.

Firstly – people need to focus on good ‘sleep hygiene’. Sleep hygiene refers to following good practices around sleep to help to eliminate problems. For example, not having caffeine after mid-day, getting exercise, not watching TV in bed, doing low stimulus activities prior to sleep (i.e. reading) etc. Sleep hygiene can make a difference, but often it’s not enough to help everyone.

The first ‘medicine’ I use to help with insomnia is: Melatonin. Melatonin is a natural supplement that is available ‘over the counter’ – i.e. a prescription is not needed. Our brains naturally make melatonin to help to regulate our sleep-wake cycle.

In the days before electricity, when the sun was up, our brain made no melatonin, and then when it was dark out, our brains made melatonin, telling us that it was time to sleep. Nowadays, it is possible to have artificial light on all the time – with lights, TVs, computer screens, etc. Thus, our brains don’t get a clear message as to when it is night time, and thus many people have sleep wake cycle problems.

Melatonin can be purchased from a pharmacy or health food store. It generally comes in a 3 mg tablets. Sometimes, it comes in liquid, or melt in the mouth forms. Sometimes there are ‘extra strength’ pills that are 5 mg.

I generally recommend that people start the melatonin at 3 mg per night – and take it about 1 hour before going to sleep. If that doesn’t work, I will sometimes increase the dose from there. Talk to your doctor if you are considering using this approach for your health care.

While I haven’t done any formal research, in my experience with ADHD patients – kids, teens and adults, melatonin seems to help around 50-60% of the time.

There are generally very few side effects with Melatonin usage. If you plan to use it for the longer term, talk to your doctor about any possible risks.

Have you tried melatonin? Does melatonin work for you? Please share your thoughts and experiences below.

Best,

Dr. Kenny

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Comments

  1. I have Inattentive ADD, and take Strattera. I was having a lot of trouble sleeping, and took 5mg melatonin every night. My doctor prescribed Valdoxan (melatonin reuptake inhibitor) in February (when it was released here) and since then I haven’t needed to take any melatonin. Furthermore, the Valdoxan has really helped to ease my underlying anxiety. I’d recommend it to anyone who suffers from long term insomnia.

  2. My son (age 5) was diagnosed with ADHD in November. In January we started talking to the Pediatrician about Melatonin, as it was taking us 2 hours to get him to settle at night.
    We’ve been giving him 3mg Melatonin at night, approx 15-30 minutes before bed, and it works wonders.
    I have tried 3mg myself when I have had trouble sleeping..and it works well for me as well.

  3. My son who is now 8 and has been on biphentin for two years could not fall asleep until midnight or later. We started him on melatonin and it worked wonders. Now he falls asleep at more reasonable hour (8 to 8:30pm). Occasionally we forget to give it to him, and he consistently is unable to fall asleep until midnight.

  4. I take Concerta 36mg and I do have a lot of problems sleeping, but mainly when I take it around 12pm. I can’t fall asleep until 5am. I took melatonin 3mg once, and though I did fall asleep, I had a vivid nightmare and haven’t tried it since. I tried going down to 18mg on days I wake up late in hopes the lower dosage would help with the insomnia but it doesn’t really. Now I try to make sure I take it around 10am. I may give melatonin another try.

    • DO try melatonin. This article is right about melatonin production in the brain (day vs night). It is important that you take the pill when you are fully unwound. (i.e. READY to go to sleep) after I take melatonin, (3mg) I just lay in bed with the lights OFF and simply try to relax and sleep. Melatonin kicks in and off to sleep you go.

  5. I never suffered from insomnia or anything like that, but I never felt I had a good restful sleep. Melatonin changed that. I have a pretty restful sleep and can count on being “out” for at least six hours. No side effects. Nothing. Wake up feeling fine.

  6. Im 29, I was diagnosed with ADD at a very young age, and while I do have a comorbid ASD and a few other oddities, I have had sleep problems my entire life. About 4 months ago I started taking 3mg nightly and I can’t even express how much of a lifesaver melatonin has been. I had never been able to simply sleep through the night (often waking every 30-90min or so), but now I can at least get 4-5 hours unbroken rest. I really am thankful for coming across it.

  7. [...] In the days before electricity, when the sun was up, our brain made no melatonin, and then when it was dark out, our brains made melatonin, telling us that it was time to sleep. Nowadays, it is possible to have artificial light on all the time – with lights, TVs, computer screens, etc. Thus, our brains don’t get a clear message as to when it is night time, and thus many people have sleep wake cycle problems. He states: In my experience with ADHD patients – kids, teens and adults, melatonin seems to help around 50-60% of the time. (Dr. Kenny) [...]

  8. It’s ‘one’ of the things I take, It didn’t work before, but since taking Celexia at night with it, it at least appears to be. If it isn’t just the Celexia itself, that is.

    10PM – 40mg Celexia, 5mg Melatonin, B complex 50, 500mg B6, 1000 Omega3 & 1200mg Lecithin.

    If you are on an SSRI or SNRI, Don’t take 5HTP at the same time. I accidently gave myself serotonin syndrome. It wasn’t fun.

  9. Although I have not been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, I have had problems getting to sleep for pretty much as long as I can remember. My mind just never wants to take a break. That being said, I tried taking melatonin, and it didn’t make a difference for me at all unfortunately. I tried the prescrption pill lunesta as well, and it didn’t work either. Still looking for something. I can never fall asleep before one am, and normally wakeup before six am. Do you have any other suggestions?

  10. (Just found your site today as I was seeking more info on meds before age 6. Therefore I don’t know if the following has been addressed; apologies if the following has already been covered in your blogs.)

    I practice as a PA-c in Nevada. Dr. Cummings of the City of Hope notes that some people (probably, I believe, especially those with mind chatter keeping them awake) respond to a small dose of methylphenidate before bed time. I have had a few to find this helpfull. Ostensibly studies are giving collaboration to this including that sleep architecture is restructured in a positive way by taking a small amount of methylphenidate before bed time. It seems that the idea that a stimulant should not be taken prior to sleep should be cast into doubt, at least for some.

    Thanks

    Cal

  11. I am ADD and ADHD and have tried taking melatonin several times and unfortunately it doesnt work for me at all. In fact I think it has the opposite effect on me that it is supposed to. Asside from the fact that it makes me very itchy, every time I have taken it I am wide awake all night and can’t sleep for the life of me. I’m super bummed out that it doesn’t work because I do have very frequent insomnia and don’t want to take any prescription sleeping pills.

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