I Tried Melatonin Gummies to See If They Would Help Me Fall Asleep Faster — Here’s What Happened

published Oct 29, 2021
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Credit: Minette Hand

If you’ve been struggling to fall asleep in the past few months, you’re not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown plenty of people’s sleep schedules for a loop, and a February 2021 study of participants from 13 countries published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that nearly 40 percent of people around the world experienced sleep problems since the pandemic’s onset. While people with active COVID-19 diagnoses were most affected, others also suffered a loss of sleep due to reasons such as sudden changes in routines and growing health anxiety. 

I was one of these people. When education, work, socialization… and pretty much everything else in my life went online, my sleep-wake routine suddenly seemed like it was irrelevant. Since I no longer had to wake up early for my commute, I stayed up later and later, until I got used to staying up well past 3 a.m. That disrupted my circadian rhythm and significantly affected how I showed up emotionally and cognitively the next day. 

As my sleep deteriorated, I started worrying about the long-term effects of sleep deprivation. I read up on some resources, talked to experts, and even considered using sleep aids until I could get my schedule back on track. That’s when I came across the practice of taking melatonin supplements in the quest for better sleep. 

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the body, frequently associated with the sleep-wake cycle. “Melatonin is intimately tied to circadian rhythm and helps to promote sleepiness by signaling the brain to lower our core temperature,” Dr. Peter Polos, a sleep medicine specialist, tells Apartment Therapy. “It is produced at night and its release can be inhibited by bright light in and around bedtime.”

Could melatonin help me fix my patchy sleep? I decided to find out, and started with melatonin gummies from Trulyfe, which contain ingredients like melatonin, passionflower (which is said to reduce stress and promote sleep), and Vitamin B6. Though these claims are not backed by the FDA, the combination has been shown to help with insomnia and improve sleep quality. 

Even so, I felt skeptical at first — and I may have had good reason. “Melatonin is not FDA-regulated,” Dr. Polos says, “so over-the-counter preparations can have inconsistency in quality and dosing.” While the side effects are “relatively rare with low dose during short time use, one can experience daytime drowsiness, headaches, dizziness, and vivid dreams,” he adds. Because any potential side effects of melatonin supplements have not yet been adequately studied, Dr. Polos advised avoiding long-term dosages. As always, it’s important to talk to your doctor before introducing a supplement to your regimen or changing a dosage. If you have chronic sleep issues, it’s smart to talk to your doctor about it in general.

Considering this advice, I decided to try the melatonin gummies every night for two weeks to see if my sleep patterns and quality actually changed. I felt both excited and nervous to see what would happen, and I took two gummies per the dosage instructions and got into my bed early on the first night of the experiment. Surprisingly (or not?), I did fall asleep fairly quickly and woke up well-rested — and this happened again on my second night. In hindsight, I think it could have been a placebo effect, or my act of going to bed early could have primed me for sleep. 

Credit: Sylvie Li

On day three, I decided to change things up and not go to bed early. I took the gummies but stayed up later than usual, and used my smartphone to scroll through social media, read an e-book, and text my friends. I went to bed around 3 a.m., so I made a note to strike a balance between the two extremes on night four. 

That night, I took the two gummies, but instead of going to bed immediately or staying up till near-morning, I decided to do something relaxing (as traditional sleep advice suggests). I spent some time reading a slow, physical book, and slept well. 

After experimenting with this pattern for the next few days, one thing became clear: For me, melatonin gummies were certainly helpful, but they weren’t the be-all-end-all of good quality sleep. On days when I took the gummies, but neglected self-care, my sleep quality suffered. On the other hand, when I practiced habits like relaxing before bed, putting the screens away at night, and meditating before sleep, I experienced quicker and more relaxed sleep. 

Experts agree. “The sleep environment plays a critical role,” Dr. Polos says. “Proper bedtime routine, bedding, temperature, pre-bedtime activities, and avoidance of light and electronic stimulation via phone and computer are important.” 

Following the path of what worked and what didn’t, I set up a more balanced routine by day 12. I started logging out of social media and turning off my electronics a few hours before bedtime. Then, I took the gummies and did relaxing activities like coloring, listening to gentle music, or journaling. 

Was it perfect? No. Sometimes I still had an urge to go online for a few hours at the cost of sacrificing my sleep. No melatonin or any other sleep aids could solve that problem for me; that was something I was going to have to learn to overcome on my own. 

At the end of my two-week trial, I learned melatonin supplements (or any other temporary options) won’t solve my problems if I don’t change my life inside out. I eventually focused more on building better sleep habits — and while things certainly didn’t change overnight, my experiment gave me the building blocks of what does and doesn’t work for me.