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Should You Take Melatonin the Night Before an Exam?

  • Sean 

Melatonin use among university students is common1 and may be increasing over time.2 But should you be taking melatonin the night before an exam?

In general, if you are not already using melatonin or another sleeping aid, then trying one the next before your exam is not a good idea. A potential side effect of melatonin is daytime drowsiness, which could make your exam performance worse.

Good Sleep Before an Exam Matters

Getting good sleep does help you with an exam. Sleep improves memory consolidation, meaning that your new memories are strengthened and stabilized after sleep.3 Beyond this stabilizing, there is even evidence that your memories could be enhanced through sleep. This goes a step beyond maintaining memory and actually could be considered as additional learning without extra practice!4

Finally, research shows that students who get higher exam scores sleep between 6-10 hours the night of their exam.5 Because of this, you should take 6 hours to be the minimum sleep before your exam to be well rested.

So, Is melatonin a good way to get the sleep you need?

Should You Take Melatonin the Night Before an Exam?

What If you can’t sleep? Can you take melatonin before your exam to get a good night’s rest?

Taking melatonin the night before your exam might seem like a good idea. Sleep supplements when used will ideally shorten the time to fall asleep, reduce waking up, prolong the total duration of sleep, and give restorative high-quality sleep.6

On top of this, there are numerous studies that find positive impacts on sleep quality from melatonin7. However, getting the dose just right is very hard because this is due to a number of factors that are different for everybody6.

The high-quality sleep that you could get from just the right amount of melatonin could improve your exam performance. Although there isn’t any direct research on this I can find, there are studies that link high-quality sleep to exam performance5 and, as previously mentioned, melatonin to high-quality sleep.6

But there are issues with using melatonin. If you take too much the positive effects that you get at night might be outweighed by feeling drowsy the next. Additionally, it’s even possible to feel drowsy if you get the perfect dose, although less likely.6

If you want to use melatonin before an exam you will likely need to determine the perfect dose that works for you. Finding that perfect amount is unlikely to happen the night before your exam on your first use. You should save the experimentation for another time, put away the melatonin, and consult a professional on how much you should take in the future.


  1. Lehne, G., Zeeb, H., Pischke, C. R., Mikolajczyk, R., Bewick, B. M., McAlaney, J., Dempsey, R. C., Van Hal, G., Stock, C., Akvardar, Y., Kalina, O., Orosova, O., Aguinaga-Ontoso, I., Guillen-Grima, F., & Helmer, S. M. (2018). Personal and perceived peer use and attitudes towards use of non-prescribed prescription sedatives and sleeping pills among university students in seven European countries. Addictive Behaviors, 87, 17–23.
  3. Diekelmann, S. (2014). Sleep for cognitive enhancement. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, 8, 46–46.
  4. Walker, M. P., & Stickgold, R. (2004). Sleep-Dependent Learning and Memory Consolidation. Neuron, 44(1), 121–133.
  5. Fakhari, A., Kheradmand, N., & Dolatkhah, N. (2016). Sleep Duration the Night before an Exam and Its Relationship to Students’ Exam Scores. British Journal of Medicine and Medical Research, 15, 1–6.
  6. Greenblatt, D. J. (2014). Sleep-promoting medications: Weighing the hazards of use versus non-use. Clinical Pharmacology in Drug Development, 3(3), 167–169.
  7. Costello, R. B., Lentino, C. V., Boyd, C. C., O’Connell, M. L., Crawford, C. C., Sprengel, M. L., & Deuster, P. A. (2014). effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature. Nutrition Journal, 13(1), 106–106.