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Are Melatonin Sleep Patches Effective?

Melatonin is a hormone that is produced in the pineal gland1, and among its many other functions, melatonin helps facilitate sleepiness once it starts to get dark outside.

In the 1990s, synthetic melatonin2 first became available in supplement form. Usually, melatonin supplements are available as capsules, tablets, liquids, and gummies; however, you can now also buy melatonin sleep patches.

What Are Melatonin Patches?

Melatonin patches are adhesive patches3 that look similar to a square bandaid. Typically, you’ll apply this patch to an area with limited hair, like your forearm or shoulder, about one hour before bed. Just like melatonin supplements, the patch increases melatonin levels in your system to help facilitate sleep.3 

In general, these sorts of transdermal patches4 work by delivering a drug (or hormone) through the skin. The benefit of using a patch rather than ingesting something like a pill or gummy is that the patch bypasses the liver and gastrointestinal system, which means that none of the melatonin will be lost through the metabolization process.4 

The melatonin patch also has the benefit of being delivered more slowly throughout the night5, rather than all at once at the beginning of the night, which is more common with oral melatonin.

Do Melatonin Patches Help You Fall Asleep?

Because other types of melatonin supplements are more popular and have been around longer, there are more studies on their efficacy. So, the studies that we do have on melatonin patches are limited, but they do show promise. 

For example, one study from 2009 determined that melatonin patches were particularly effective at delivering melatonin during the daytime.3 This would be most beneficial to people like shift workers, who must work through the night and sleep during the day, and those experiencing jet lag during travel. 

The research team also concluded that melatonin patches may be a good fit for older adults who tend to wake up early in the morning due to a low level of melatonin production.3 In general, melatonin is considered to have a positive effect on sleep quality6 overall.

Melatonin Patches vs. Other Forms of Melatonin

Patches vs. Pills (Capsules and Tablets)

Julia Forbes testing Ritual Melatonin
Lead Product Tester, Julia, testing Melatonin supplements

A capsule is a pill7 that’s a shell encapsulating either liquid or powder. Capsules can’t be split in half, so whatever dose is inside the capsule is the dose you’ll have to take. 

A tablet is also a pill but is made up entirely of the medication. These are hard and comprised of compressed powder medication. You can usually split tablets in half when needed, so with these, you can tweak your melatonin dosage more precisely.7 

Capsules tend to have a higher bioavailability than tablets, meaning more melatonin will enter your bloodstream.7 However, because pills must pass through the digestive system, some of the melatonin will be lost in the process, meaning both of these have a lower bioavailability than patches.7

Patches vs. Liquids

Just like pills, liquid melatonin must move through the gastrointestinal tract and the liver before it takes effect.4 However, liquid is often chosen over pills because it absorbs slightly faster8 than tablets and marginally faster than capsules. Plus, liquids may be easier to take for children. 

Liquid melatonin is also more “adjustable” in terms of dose. Let’s say you purchased a bottle that was 1 milligram per dropper-full. If you found after trying it that you did better with about 1.5 milligrams, you could adjust to 1.5 drops. Conversely, when using a melatonin patch, you won’t be able to customize your dose. 

However, liquid melatonin often contains sugar or some sort of sweetener for taste. This may not be an issue for you, but if you’re sensitive to sugar before bed or are avoiding sweeteners, a patch or pill might be better.

Patches vs. Gummies

Melatonin gummies are often marketed for children and adults as they are usually sweet and easier to consume. This means that, yes, gummies will contain some sort of sweetener, which may be a drawback for some. They also must pass through the digestive system, which means some melatonin will be lost along the way.

More often, melatonin gummies are immediate-release, though you can find some extended-release options. With immediate-release gummies, they may help you fall asleep but may not help you stay asleep. Patches, on the other hand, typically release melatonin more slowly, so they may help you stay asleep through the night.5

Who Should Use Melatonin Patches?

  • Those uncomfortable swallowing pills – If you’re uncomfortable or unable to swallow capsules or tablets, you might benefit from a melatonin patch. 
  • Those with sensitive stomachs – If you’ve tried oral melatonin before and had an upset stomach, you might try a melatonin patch. Since it bypasses the digestive system, going directly into the skin, it may help alleviate this side effect.
  • Shift workers – Melatonin patches seem to be especially effective at delivering melatonin during the day, which could make them a good fit for shift workers.3 
  • Those with jet lag – Melatonin patches also seem to be especially effective for those with jet lag.3
  • Extremely early risers – If you tend to wake up way too early in the morning, melatonin patches may help you stay asleep longer.3  

Who Should Use Other Forms of Melatonin?

  • Those who want more control over their dosage – Unlike liquids, powders, or tablets, you won’t be able to tweak your dosage with a melatonin patch. Instead, the patch will slowly deliver the amount of melatonin it says on the label.
  • Those who have trouble going to sleep – If you’re only struggling to fall asleep rather than stay asleep, you might benefit from an instant-release form of melatonin. Examples include capsules, tablets, liquids, and gummies that are not labeled “extended release.” 
  • People with sensitive skin – Some people might get contact dermatitis when using various types of transdermal patches9. If this happens to you, the skin irritation should go away upon discontinuation.

Who Should Avoid Melatonin?

According to England’s National Health Service (NHS), certain people should avoid melatonin entirely10

  • Those with liver or kidney issues – The NHS advises against taking melatonin if you have liver or kidney issues at this time.
  • People with autoimmune disorders – Autoimmune disorders including lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and more, could be made worse by supplemental melatonin as it may stimulate inflammation in some people.
  • Anyone who has a melatonin allergy – If you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to melatonin, you should avoid taking this supplement.

Always speak to your doctor before adding any supplements to your regimen. 

How Long Should I Use Melatonin Patches?

There is no specific information about how long you should use melatonin patches specifically. However, experts recommend that adults use melatonin, in general, for a maximum of 13 weeks11. Children are advised to use melatonin for up to three weeks12

Frequently Asked Questions

Do melatonin patches work?

Research suggests that melatonin patches do work, and seem particularly effective at inducing sleepiness during the day, potentially making them beneficial for shift workers and those with jet lag.3 

The melatonin from patches is released more slowly, which also means they may be a good fit for those who tend to wake throughout the night or wake up extremely early in the morning.3

What is the best place to put a melatonin patch on your body?

Your particular melatonin patch may come with placement instructions, depending on its size and shape. If it doesn’t, it is generally recommended that you place any transdermal patch on an area with limited hair. The wrist, forearm, and shoulder are good examples.

Are melatonin patches safe?

Melatonin is generally considered safe for use up to 13 weeks, with limited side effects.11 This applies to melatonin patches, as well as oral melatonin supplements. 

If you have an autoimmune disorder, issues with your liver or kidneys, or have ever had an allergic reaction to melatonin, you should avoid supplemental melatonin entirely.10

However, you should always consult your healthcare provider before taking any melatonin or sleep supplements.

Natalie Grigson

Natalie Grigson


About Author

Natalie is a content writer for Sleep Advisor with a deep passion for all things health and a fascination with the mysterious activity that is sleep. Outside of writing about sleep, she is a bestselling author, improviser, and creative writing teacher based out of Austin.

Side Sleeper


  1. Arendt PhD, Josephine., Aulinas MD PhD, Anna. “Physiology of the Pineal Gland and Melatonin”. Endotext. Last modified October 30, 2022. 
  2. Cox, Lauren. “What Is Melatonin?”. LiveScience. 2013. 
  3. Aeschbach, D., et al. “Use of transdermal melatonin delivery to improve sleep maintenance during daytime”. National Library of Medicine. 2009. 
  4. Khan, Samara., Sharman, Tariq. “Transdermal Medications”. StatPearls. Last modified February 6, 2023. 
  5. Zetner, D., Andersen, L.P.H., Rosenberg, J. “Pharmacokinetics of Alternative Administration Routes of Melatonin: A Systematic Review”. National Library of Medicine. 2015.  
  6. Fatemeh, Gholami., et al. “Effect of melatonin supplementation on sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials”. National Library of Medicine. 2022. 
  7. Orrange MD, Sharon. “Capsule or Tablet? Pros, Cons, and Prices Explained”. GoodRx Health. Last modified February 23, 2022. 
  8. Jones, Erin., et. al. “No, liquid medication is not more effective than capsules”. WCNC Charlotte. 2023. 
  9. Paolo, Romita., et al. “Contact dermatitis due to transdermal therapeutic systems: a clinical update”. National Library of Medicine. 2019. 
  10. “Who can and cannot take melatonin”. National Health Service. Last modified February 13, 2023.  
  11. “How and when to take melatonin”. National Health Service. Last modified February 13, 2023.
  12. “Do’s and Don’ts of Giving Melatonin to Kids”. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Last modified April 5, 2021.