Melatonin: An Over the Counter (OTC) Sleep Aid in the USA

July 1, 2021
7 min read

Trouble sleeping? Over-the-counter sleep aids might help you get proper sleep without affecting your sleep cycle.

Insomnia is a common disorder that nearly 60 million Americans suffer from, in which 30% of people are experiencing short-term insomnia, and 10% of people have long-term insomnia. We have seen cases where teenagers feel sleepy during their practical’s in the university.

To get a solution for your sleep problem, various sleep aids are available over-the-counter, out of which Melatonin is considered the most popular sleep aid. Many studies have proven that Melatonin can support better sleep. To know how this sleep aid works in the body with precautions and warnings. Keep reading!

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone that is made by the pineal gland found naturally in the body. It’s a pea-sized gland found just above your brain, which helps your body know when to sleep and when to wake up.


Studies have shown that usually Melatonin is made more at night in your body. Initially, levels generally start to go up in the evening once the sunsets and drops in the morning when the sun goes up. This is because the amount of hormone production in your body depends upon how much light you get each day.


There are melatonin supplements available for better sleep that you could buy, which comes in liquids, chewable, and pills. You may also find them synthetic and natural; synthetically, it is usually made in a laboratory. 


The pills and chewable available allow the Melatonin to absorb directly into your body to have a better impact on your problems. It is seen that some people prefer to take Melatonin orally to adjust the body’s internal clock. 


For issues like improving sleep in different conditions and insomnia, the most commonly used drug is Melatonin. Further, we will see how this hormone works in our bodies. For example, it is used to adjust sleep-wake cycles for people working in three shifts and for jet lag.

How does Melatonin work in the body?

In the human body, more than 200 hormones have been discovered. The three primary hormones include lipid-derived, peptide, and amino acid-derived, structurally similar to cholesterol, and include steroid hormones like testosterone and estradiol. 


Similarly, Melatonin’s leading work in your body is to regulate day and night sleep cycles or sleep-wake cycles. Research and studies have shown that Melatonin is produced more during the darkness, and light decreases hormone production and signals the body to be awake. It is commonly seen that people who have trouble sleeping have low levels of Melatonin in their body, and it is thought that intake of melatonin supplements might help them fall asleep. 

The various routes Melatonin can be taken

Melatonin is mainly preferred and administrated orally, but the other alternative forms that are used such as intranasal, transbucal, transdermal, and intravenous. Further, we are going to see how we can take melatonin orally, topically, and intravenously. 


As we know, the available form of melatonin comes in pill form, but it is also available in the form that can be placed under the tongue. If you are using the chewable form, then chew it thoroughly before swallowing for proper affection.


If you are using a liquid form, carefully take your dose with the measurement as provided with a spoon; for proper proportion, use the same spoon for every dose that will have consistency in your medicine intake. Oral intake helps the melatonin to get directly absorbed into your body, working effectively. 


Topical administration means application to the surface of your skin to treat any problem via an extensive range of classes like foams, lotions, creams, and gels. 

Unlike oral medication, topically applied melatonin is considered adequate, as it protects our skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation.


In addition, it is seen that melatonin penetrates the skin and activates the antioxidant enzymes that work to block free radicals and leads to the repair of damaged skin.  Topical treatment is recommended for alopecia and atopic dermatitis, leading to a significant reduction in skin wrinkles and roughness. 

Intravenously (IV)

Intravenous IV means giving any fluids or medicines through a catheter (tube) or needle directly going into the vein. The intravenous melatonin consists of 25ml ethanol/saline solution (2ml 99.9% ethanol & 23ml 0.9% saline) containing 10mg of melatonin. It was first directed as a short IV infusion in the left antecubital vein.

Special precautions and warnings

While considering any medication, the primary step must be to go through its warnings and precautions before using the drug. Below we have shown what precautions must be taken and get informed about the warnings before using melatonin.

During Pregnancy

Research has shown that, for women during pregnancy or when trying to get pregnant, melatonin could be unsafe when injected into the body or taken by mouth. It has the same side effects similar to birth control which might make it harder to get pregnant. 


Some studies suggest taking low doses like 2-3 mg daily, which is safe, but additional research is still yet to be done. Until every research is completed, it is suggested not to use melatonin when becoming pregnant or pregnant. 

While Breast Feeding

As melatonin is made synthetically and naturally both, breastfeeding the chances of getting the molecules into the baby is high. So avoid using it as the studies are incomplete, which may risk the health of the baby. 

Bleeding Disorders

Hemophilia A and hemophilia B is a common bleeding disorder, and it is studied that using melatonin might make the bleeding worse in such conditions.


Depression can be a cause of anxiety and panic attacks, so using melatonin might increase the level of depression that leads to making the symptoms of depression worse. 

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a common problem that people suffer, and many medications are available and used by individuals to control it. 

But it can be a risk factor to use melatonin when suffering from high blood pressure, as it might increase the blood pressure in some people on different medications. 


The studies have shown that the baseline levels of melatonin must be low in some patients with uncontrolled epilepsy, and using melatonin might increase the risk of having a seizure.

Transplant Recipients

Many research has shown that melatonin intake during transplant recipients can increase immune function and interfere with the immunosuppressive therapy that people use. 


This blog has acknowledged information about how disorders like insomnia can be treated by taking melatonin. 

Almost 60% of users didn’t know what precautions and warnings must be considered before using this medicine, but now as we have mentioned all the possible information regarding melatonin and its usage, we hope many individuals can consume this medication according to their doctor.


Barnett, A.A., 1996. Growing melatonin use in USA brings warning. The Lancet, 348(9026), p.539. Available at: Accessed on 24/06/2021

Ejaz, H., Figaro, J. K., Woolner, A., Thottakam, B., & Galley, H. F. (2021). Maternal Serum Melatonin Increases During Pregnancy and Falls Immediately After Delivery Implicating the Placenta as a Major Source of Melatonin. Frontiers in endocrinology11, 623038. Accessed on 24/06/2021

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