Both my daughter and I recently started taking melatonin. I followed the advice in Smart Drugs and Nutrients II (ref:
Start with 3 mg a day (I recommend doing this when you don't have to go anywhere the next morning!). If you are drowsy the following day, drop the dose until you're not. If you're not sleeping better, raise the dose.
Turns out that the effective dose ranges from person to person from 0.1 mg to 200 mg (Not a typo!). At 3 mg, my daughter (13) slept for 12.5 hours. She has settled at .6-1 mg; I take 1 mg.
Important melatonin facts:
Melatonin is the principal hormone produced by the pineal gland, "a key element in the maintenance of ... endocrine regulation, immune system integrity, and circadian rhythm."
Melatonin production is triggered by low light levels, and turned off when sunlight hits your retina in the morning (which seems pretty cool to me). So it's reasonable to expect that people will screw up their sleep cycles due to artificial lighting. Because of this, it is CRITICAL to take melatonin at night. I take it around 9 or 10 PM. If you take it during the day, it makes things WORSE. For example, taken at night, it inhibits tumor growth in cancer patients; taken during the day, it accelerates tumor growth. (Precisely when you take it in the evening does affect when you fall asleep and how groggy you'll be the next day.)
Production drops as you age. At 41, I produce 80% of what I did at 20. It's a straightline drop for men, and an S-curve for women (due to menopause). Old people don't necessarily sleep less because they don't need the sleep; they may just sleep less because they *can't* sleep.
It's also a great jet-lag treatment. One large dose your first night and you're over it. Also reported to improve mental performance and longevity, and reduce depression and seasonal affective disorder.
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