Can I take Melatonin on an Empty Stomach?

Sleep comes to some people easily, to others not so much. You must have often thought of taking sleeping medication or melatonin supplements. What effect does this have on your stomach? What precautions do you need to take? Read on for more!

If you live with sleep disorders like insomnia, you may have heard about melatonin. Although melatonin is a sleep-related hormone, it is not considered a medication. Melatonin is naturally released in your body, mostly during the night. But sometimes a low dose of melatonin can be helpful in treating jet lag and insomnia.

But do you know what will happen if you can take melatonin on an empty stomach? Melatonin is a hormone that aids in determining the appropriate time to sleep and wake up. Many people take it before bed hoping it will help them fall asleep faster. While melatonin itself is not dangerous, there are some cautions to be aware of when taking it. If you want to get the restful sleep you desire, keep reading to learn when to take melatonin and much more.

Let’s come back to one of the most common questions “Whether people can take melatonin on an empty stomach?” Melatonin can be taken on an empty stomach 2-3 hours before bedtime. This is so that the hormone supplements have enough time to induce sleep in a human being

Further, In this article, we will talk about Melatonin, Sleep, and how the intake of food makes a difference to melatonin intake. We will address questions like — Is Melatonin good for me? Should melatonin be taken with or without food? Can I take Melatonin on an empty stomach? Can Melatonin cause stomach problems?

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted by the pineal gland. It is connected to the body’s day and night or sleep-wake cycle and induces sleep. The production of melatonin in our body is triggered by darkness and this signals our body to sleep. 80% of the melatonin produced by your body is produced at night. [1]

Sometimes, the melatonin produced by our bodies is just not enough. People turn to melatonin supplements to regulate sleep, treat sleep disorders, insomnia, jetlag, and more. 

People might also just need a good night’s sleep after a stressful day or week, and might choose to take melatonin for the same.

How much melatonin dosage is needed depends on various factors like “Who is taking melatonin?”, “Why are they taking melatonin?”, etc. How long melatonin lasts also depends from person to person and for what reason they used melatonin.

How does Melatonin Work?

Did you know that the circadian clock controls the sleep-wake cycle and hormone release? Photosensitive cells in the retina send photoperiodic (day-night) cues via the nervous system to the suprachiasmatic nucleus, (also called the master clock) which further transmits it to the pineal gland. The pineal gland then synthesizes and releases melatonin, distributing the time signal to the rest of the body. [2]

Because melatonin has both water-soluble and fat-soluble properties (called amphiphilicity) it is not stored in the pineal cells. Melatonin is released into the cerebrospinal fluid and bloodstream as and when it is synthesized. [3]

Due to its amphiphilicity, Melatonin also has another way to act on the human body. It can directly cross cellular membranes and interact with other molecules. 

Like other hormones, it can act via receptor-mediated actions. [3] [4] 

Melatonin reduces the levels of dopamine, which is related to wakefulness. It also reduces nerve activity by binding itself to the brain and helps you relax. [5]

  • The immediate effects of melatonin are seen during the night when melatonin is released into the cerebrospinal fluid and the bloodstream. It depends on several factors like the concentration of the hormone, the target organs, etc. [4]
  • The prospective actions of melatonin are primed during nighttime but are only expressed the next day when melatonin is no longer present. [4]

Who generally takes Melatonin supplements?

Melatonin is usually taken by adults over the age of 55 to help with sleep problems. This does not mean that those under 55 cannot take melatonin. Younger people, even children can take melatonin as prescribed by their doctor. 

Melatonin is usually taken for a period of 1 to 4 weeks to show good results. The decision should be made only by a medical professional or doctor.

Following is a small list of people who may take Melatonin supplements*:

  • People over the age of 55 who may have trouble sleeping may take melatonin supplements.
  • Night-shift workers who are unable to sleep in the day may take melatonin supplements.
  • People with insomnia may take melatonin supplements.
  • People that cannot sleep due to stress or other conditions may take melatonin supplements.

Below is a list of people that should not be taking Melatonin supplements*:

  • People under the age of 55 should not take melatonin supplements without a doctor’s consultation.
  • People who smoke or drink should not indulge in those practices while on Melatonin supplements as there may be adverse effects.
  • People who have liver or kidney problems should not take Melatonin supplements.
  • People who have had an allergic reaction to melatonin should not take melatonin supplements.
  • People who are breastfeeding should not take Melatonin supplements.
  • People with rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or lupus should not take Melatonin supplements. 

Melatonin may cause stomach problems like abdominal irritation and cramps, so always check with your doctor before taking any supplements.                                                                                                                                              *with consultation from a doctor

When should I take Melatonin?

Melatonin supplements are available in various forms like slow-release tablets, gels, etc. 

Melatonin, when taken after a heavy meal, does not make a lot of difference to the sleepiness in an individual. So should melatonin be taken with or without food?

 When taken after a light meal or on an empty stomach, it is absorbed faster and sleep is induced quicker. 

When melatonin is taken before a meal or after a light meal, it is necessary to ensure only small amounts of melatonin are taken. This is because the rate of absorption is higher when the stomach is moderately empty. A full stomach on the other hand will not allow the melatonin supplement to be effective to its full potential.

If a doctor’s prescription or medical professional’s advice requires you to increase your melatonin dosage, do it gradually over the period of a couple of weeks or days.

Melatonin is suggested to be taken 1.5-2 hours before your bedtime so that there is time for the supplements to kick in and induce sleep by your preferred bedtime. 


Q: Does melatonin need to be taken with food?

A: No. Melatonin does not have to be taken with food. In fact, it is suggested that melatonin is taken on an empty stomach or after a light dinner, 2-3 hours before bedtime.

Q: Can melatonin cause stomach problems?

A: Melatonin may have some side effects like mild abdominal irritation or stomach cramps.

Q: What is the proper way to take melatonin?

A: Slow-release melatonin supplements are to be taken 2-3 hours before bedtime on a moderately empty stomach for a high rate of absorption.

Q: Is it bad to take melatonin in the morning?

A: Taking melatonin supplements in the morning makes you drowsy and groggy for the entire day, and there are also chances for you to have depressive tendencies because of the same.

Wrapping Up

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the body that induces sleep in an individual. When due to external stressors or other conditions one has trouble sleeping, they can use external help like melatonin supplements.

Melatonin supplements are medications that have to be taken carefully. One must take melatonin supplements 2-3 hours before bedtime.

The question arises- should I take melatonin with or without food? Melatonin can be taken on an empty stomach for increased absorption.


  1. Tordjman, Sylvie et al. “Melatonin: Pharmacology, Functions and Therapeutic Benefits.” Current neuropharmacology vol. 15,3 (2017): 434-443. doi:10.2174/1570159X14666161228122115
  2. Salehi, Bahare et al. “Melatonin in Medicinal and Food Plants: Occurrence, Bioavailability, and Health Potential for Humans.” Cells vol. 8,7 681. 5 Jul. 2019, doi:10.3390/cells8070681
  3. Amaral, Fernanda Gaspar do, and José Cipolla-Neto. “A brief review about melatonin, a pineal hormone.” Archives of endocrinology and metabolism vol. 62,4 (2018): 472-479. doi:10.20945/2359-3997000000066
  4. Cipolla-Neto, José, and Fernanda Gaspar do Amaral. “Melatonin as a Hormone: New Physiological and Clinical Insights.” Endocrine reviews vol. 39,6 (2018): 990-1028. doi:10.1210/er.2018-00084
  5. Emet, Mucahit et al. “A Review of Melatonin, Its Receptors, and Drugs.” The Eurasian journal of medicine vol. 48,2 (2016): 135-41. doi:10.5152/eurasianjmed.2015.0267
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