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Jacksonville sleep doctor says melatonin doesn't do what you think it does

Millions of Americans are taking melatonin to fall asleep. Let's verify if it works and how.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Those nights you can't fall asleep are miserable. Maybe you need a little help falling asleep so you reach for the melatonin

A study by Mayo Clinic Rochester shows millions of Americans are trying melatonin to help them sleep. It often comes in a small gummy or pill.

It's an easy access over-the-counter supplement, but experts have concerns.  

QUESTION: Does melatonin actually work? 

ANSWER: At times, but not in the way you might think and often not at the dose you think you are taking.

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“Studies don’t show that there is an actual benefit from taking melatonin and it may actually be harmful," said Dr. Louis.

Louis explained that melatonin doesn’t improve the duration of your sleep. If your goal is to fall asleep faster, Louis says the supplement doesn’t do all that much.

“It decreases that it takes you to fall asleep only by about 4 to 7 minutes. So it is really not a very efficacious sleep aid," Louis said. 

So what is melatonin? It is something we have naturally. 

“Melatonin is the hormone in the body that alerts you as to when you should be going to sleep," said Louis. 

But even if we have it naturally, there are dangers. 

The Everyday Health journal says unlike in the European Union, melatonin in the US is not regulated. 

Louis agreed and said studies have shown that the dose on the outside of the bottle isn’t always what you’re getting. It can be half of that or up to four times more. 

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says the chewable tablets can vary the most those are the ones kids often take.

If you have melatonin at your home, keep away from your kids. Dr. Louis says data shows an increase in accidental overdoses from kids ingesting too much melatonin. 

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