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VERIFY: Having trouble sleeping? Melatonin can work, doctor says

More than half of Americans say they've experienced trouble sleeping since the start of the pandemic. Many have turned to melatonin to get that rest.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — More than half of Americans, 56%, say they've experienced trouble sleeping since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Some people have tried everything from changing their diet to ditching electronics before bedtime. Others have tried over-the-counter sleep aids, like melatonin. 

A WCNC Charlotte viewer wrote in asking if these supplements are effective or a waste of money. Let's VERIFY. 

THE QUESTION

Do melatonin supplements help you sleep better?

THE SOURCES

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Dr. Nancy Behrens, a sleep physician and director of Novant Health Sleep Services

THE ANSWER

Yes, melatonin does work, but you should always consult your physician. 

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WHAT WE FOUND

Melatonin is a hormone that our brains produce to help regulate our sleep cycles. It helps us feel drowsy. Behrens said taking over-the-counter supplements containing melatonin is effective for some people. 

A 2013 analysis found that, on average, people with insomnia fell asleep about seven minutes faster with melatonin than with a placebo. 

"So, who's a good candidate for melatonin?" WCNC Charlotte's Sarah French asked. 

RELATED: Study: Parents’ sleep doesn’t recover until 6 years after having a baby

"People who are having trouble sleeping," Behrens said. "Some older people do not make their own. Their brains do not make as much melatonin as they need. People who are doing shift work might find that taking melatonin helps."

The melatonin industry is a booming business. According to the Nutrition Business Journal, sales grew 42.5% last year, raking in a whopping $687 million. 

If you aren't sure if melatonin is right for you, Behrens has a few tips for people who are having trouble sleeping. 

"Definitely making sure to have a routine as much as possible helps. Making sure that things are very dark and quiet overnight," Behrens said. "We don't want the television on overnight, we don't want you to be looking at your phone or screens in the hour before bed or overnight. Because the screens are bright and they actually inhibit your own production of melatonin."

Another important thing to keep in mind is that supplements like melatonin aren't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

"We don't have the same testing or quality control that we do for our prescription medications," Behrens said. 

Dr. Behrens recommends visiting consumerlab.com to check the quality of whatever supplement you are taking.

RELATED: Charlotte doctor: Over-the-counter supplements linked to liver failure, death

VERIFY is dedicated to helping the public distinguish between true and false information. The VERIFY team, with help from questions submitted by the audience, tracks the spread of stories or claims that need clarification or correction. Have something you want VERIFIED? Text us at 704-329-3600 or visit /verify.