Side Effects Of Melatonin: What Are The Risks
Melatonin is a hormone and dietary supplement commonly used as a sleep aid.
Although it has an outstanding safety profile, melatonins growing popularity has raised some concerns.
These concerns are mainly due to a lack of research on its long-term effects, as well as its wide-ranging effects as a hormone.
This article reviews the potential side effects of melatonin supplements.
Is Melatonin Safe For Kids
While plenty of studies shows that melatonin is safe for adults to take on a short-term basis, the safety of long-term use isnt quite clear. And not much research has been done on whether its safe for children to take. However, recently, there has been some promising research showing that short-term use of melatonin is effective and well-tolerated in treating difficulty falling asleep in children and adolescents.3 Other research shows that melatonin may be especially helpful for children with conditions that can impact their ability to fall asleep, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism.4 Melatonins use in these circumstances should be discussed and carefully monitored by your childs pediatrician.4
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that melatonin should only be used after talking with your childs pediatrician and after using already established healthy sleep habits and routines that dont include medication.4
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Is Melatonin Safe For Children
Nearly 25% of children have difficulty sleeping, and parents increasingly turn to melatonin for help. Between 2007 and 2012, pediatric melatonin use rose seven-fold and is now the second most common natural supplement in this age group. However, further research is needed regarding the safety of melatonin for children.
There are reasons for parents to be cautious about the patchy data on melatonin in kids. It appears that children may be particularly vulnerable to the possible effects of this supplement on reproductive hormones. Melatonin has been associated with puberty delays, irregular menstruation, and overproduction of the hormone prolactin. It is important to note, however, that research on this topic is conflicting, and experts agree that the topic is understudied.
Parents should also be aware that melatonin may . Children taking other medications or who have illnesses affecting these systems should consult their doctor before starting melatonin.
Melatonin should only be used for children under the guidance of a doctor. Most pediatric sleep disorders can be managed with behavioral changes, such as proper sleep hygiene and cognitive therapy. Melatonin should not be used before trying other measures.
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How Does Melatonin Work
Natural melatonin is predominantly made in your pineal gland, which is located in your brain. Light exposure inhibits the production of melatonin, but darkness stimulates it.
Melatonin levels in your brain begin to increase at dusk as the sun goes down and darkness falls. They reach their peak levels in the middle of the night and start decreasing as dawn gets closer.
The action of melatonin inhibits signals in your brain that promote wakefulness. This helps encourage sleep by making you feel tired or drowsy as you get closer to bedtime.
Because of melatonins sleep-promoting effects, melatonin supplements are used to treat a variety of sleep problems. These can include:
Melatonin typically takes 1 to 2 hours to work, so its often taken up to 2 hours before bedtime.
If youre looking to try melatonin for the first time, it may be best to begin with a lower dose. Your doctor can help recommend a safe dose for you to start with.
Is Melatonin Safe To Take Every Night
Americans arent sleeping well. Roughly 80% of U.S. adults say they struggle to fall asleep at least one night a week, according to a recent Consumer Reports survey. And research has found that sleep problems are also on the rise among adolescents.
While the causes of Americas sleep woes are up for debate, theres little disagreement about Americas favorite remedy: Melatonin, the countrys most-used sleep aid.
How Much Melatonin Is Safe For Kids The Proper Dosage For Your Child
Quick Health Scoop
- Melatonin is a hormone that the body naturally produces.
- Melatonin helps regulate your circadian rhythmyour internal clock that regulates the sleep/wake cycle.
- Melatonin is a 100% drug-free sleep supplement and can help you fall asleep faster and may help you stay asleep longer.
- The proper melatonin dosage depends on your age and specific sleep issue.
When your childs bedtime hits, you might dim the lights, read a book, give a big hug and say goodnightall cues that its time for your little one to fall asleep. But what if they struggle to fall asleep? You might be considering giving them melatonin, a 100% drug-free sleep aid. After all, plenty of adults turn to melatonin supplements to help normalize their sleep. If you are considering this for your little one, you are likely wondering, is melatonin safe for kids? If so, whats the right melatonin dosage for children? Should they take the same melatonin sleep aid made for adults, or is there a children’s melatonin?
What Does A Melatonin Overdose Look Like
A melatonin overdose is most likely to come in the form of unwanted side effects. If you experience any of the following, stop taking the supplement and make an appointment with your doctor to discuss melatonin alternatives:
- Unwanted sleepiness that interferes with day-to-day activities
- Increased restlessness
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Why Do People Take Melatonin
Melatonin is the hormone released by our brains once we fall asleep and it is actively used to handle a range of different conditions. Apart from the regular sleep-related ones, melatonin is also known for being particularly useful in various cancer treatments as an additional ingredient to use through chemotherapy, for instance.
How Much Melatonin Is Too Much Is Melatonin Safe Are There Melatonin Risks
In general, it is typically best to take the lowest effective melatonin dosage. In rare cases you may experience uncomfortable and unwanted side effects with melatonin supplementation. If youâre thinking of adding melatonin to your nighttime routine, hereâs what you should know before you begin:
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With any type of medication, there are possible side effectsespecially when consuming large amounts. Very high doses of melatonin can cause us to feel excessively sleepy in the daytime, says Nguyen. It can cause hypothermia, which is a lowering of the body temperature, and it can also cause some impairment of mental and physical performance in the short termweighing people down and feeling a little slow the next day, in terms of exercise and energy level, and some mental slowing as well.
Reduce Blue Light Exposure At Night
The blue light from our electronic screens can often mimic sunlight. Using our devices before bed can trick the mind into thinking it is still daytime, causing melatonin to slow and cortisol to increase. When this happens, it can be difficult to sleep. Therefore, it is a good idea to avoid blue light for at least 2 hours before bed.
Reducing the light population in your sleep space and keeping it as dark as possible can also help increase your melatonin levels so you can sleep soundly.
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How To Increase Melatonin Levels Naturally
Luckily, you can increase your melatonin levels without supplementing.
A few hours before bedtime, simply dim all lights at home and avoid watching TV and using your computer or smartphone.
Too much artificial light can reduce the production of melatonin in the brain, making it harder for you to fall asleep .
You can also strengthen your sleep-wake cycle by exposing yourself to plenty of natural light during the day, especially in the morning .
Other factors that have been associated with lower natural melatonin levels include stress and shift work.
Summary Fortunately, you can increase your natural melatonin production naturally by sticking to a regular sleep schedule and avoiding artificial light late in the evening.
How Much Is Too Much Melatonin
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What Is The Usual Prognosis For A Melatonin Overdose
Melatonin is generally safe for most people, and many people wont experience major complications when taking too much. Even so, an overdose can cause unpleasant side effects.
Keep your dose to no more than 1 to 3 mg per night. See your doctor for any serious side effects or if sleep problems dont improve after a few weeks. You may need to consult a sleep specialist.
A sleep specialist can help diagnose a sleep disorder, as well as make other suggestions to help you get a better nights sleep.
What Are Melatonins Side Effects On Kids
Potential, though mild, side effects of melatonin use in children include agitation, headache, dizziness and drowsiness. While it is not known for sure and more research on the long term use of melatonin in children is needed, its important to remember that melatonin is a hormone, and, as such, there is a possibility that it may affect hormonal development, including puberty and menstrual cycles.2
The Bottom Line
If your child occasionally has trouble falling asleep, instilling better sleep habits and routines might be in order. But if your child experiences significant difficulty falling asleep, melatonin might benefit, especially when its used in combination with behavioral interventions and healthy sleep practices.5
Most importantly, talk with your childs pediatrician before giving them melatonin to make sure its right for them, to understand the proper dosage, and to rule out any underlying health issues.
This information is only for educational purposes and is not medical advice or intended as a recommendation of any specific products. Consult your health care provider for more information.
1 Mayo Clinic. Melatonin. March 30, 2018. Accessed on: September 23, 2020.
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Symptoms Of A Melatonin Overdose
The symptoms of a melatonin overdose will vary from person to person. Some people may find that too much melatonin may actually cause them to be more awake, which is the opposite of its intended purpose.
Others find that taking too much melatonin causes them to feel extremely sleepy during unintended times or cause intense dreams or nightmares.
Some additional symptoms of a melatonin overdose may include:
A typical dose of melatonin is between 1 mg and 5 mg . An adult typically takes a lower dose at first, and if this is well-tolerated but not effective, the person can slowly increase the dose until they get the desired results.
The same dose may cause unwanted side effects in one individual while not making a noticeable difference in another adult. Age, weight, and overall sensitivity to the supplement affect how much melatonin a person should take.
Melatonin is not recommended for children unless they have a neurodevelopmental disorder that makes it difficult for them to sleep. If a doctor prescribes melatonin for a child, it is important to follow the exact dosage prescribed. Even small amounts of melatonin can cause seizures or other serious side effects.
The United States Food and Drug Administration do not regulate melatonin. Supplements may vary in strength between manufacturers, so a person should research consumer reports before choosing a brand of melatonin.
Whats The Correct Dose Of Melatonin
Theres a lot of variation in what is considered a healthy dose of melatonin, and how much you should take depends on your age, how healthy you are, and what youre using it for. If youre taking it for insomnia, to adjust your circadian rhythm, or to combat jet lag, the standard dose for adults is anywhere from .3 milligrams to 5 milligrams. The problem is that many melatonin supplements can have 10 times that amount in just one pill.
Another thing to think about: Because melatonin is considered a dietary supplement, it isnt as strictly regulated by the FDA as prescription and over-the-counter drugs. So theres no way to be sure that youre actually getting what the label says youre getting. A study that analyzed the melatonin content in 31 melatonin supplements purchased at pharmacies and grocery stores found that 70 percent of the supplements tested had more or less melatonin than what was advertised. One chewable melatonin tablet labeled as 1.5 milligrams actually contained almost 9 milligrams. Thats a little scary especially if youre thinking about giving melatonin to a child. Some experts suggest buying pharmaceutical-grade melatonin online, as the dosage is likely to be more reliable.
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What Are The Benefits Of Melatonin For Sleep
Studies consistently show that melatonin can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more effectively but not necessarily increase total sleep time.
Melatonin has also been used effectively to shift sleep schedules, which can be beneficial for people with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome and jet lag .
For REM sleep behavior disorder which is characterized by abnormal, often violent body movements during sleep scientists reported major benefits from taking melatonin. This included a marked decrease in muscle tension during REM cycles .
Omega Restore users have frequently commented on similar body-calming effects, even in people without RBD. Partners often report their significant other tends to sleep with less movement and tossing around, as well as snore less and breathe more quietly.
How Much Melatonin Should I Take
Its best to start with the lowest recommended dosage of melatonin for your age. From there, you can gradually increase your dosage until you find a dose that helps you fall asleep without causing any side effects. A safe starting dose for adults is between 0.5 milligram and 5 milligrams of melatonin. Older adults may find lower doses, starting with 0.1 milligram, to be safe and effective. Children should not take melatonin unless recommended by a doctor.
Over-the-counter melatonin may come in standard amounts like 1 milligram, 3 milligrams, or 5 milligrams. You can use a pill-cutter to cut the tablets in half or quarters to create a smaller starting dose.
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What Is The Right Dosage For You
As a general recommendation regarding melatonin dosage, you should stay with the least possible dose that proves to be effective in your case. However, there are more detailed instructions on how much you should take depending on your symptoms.
Of course, melatonin supplements can be bought over-the-counter as a fruity drink or in a gummy form, but this doesnt mean you should take them lightly. The following information I will provide, regarding the right dosage for different melatonin-related problems, comes from scientific research which means you can rely on it.
How Much Melatonin Can Children Take
Few studies look at the use of melatonin in healthy children, including research into appropriate dose levels, so it’s challenging to come up with an exact amount. If you’re concerned about your child or infant’s sleep habits, it’s best to speak with your pediatrician before attempting any at-home dosing.
Some kids, such as children with immune disorders or those taking immunosuppressants, should not take melatonin at all. While melatonin is generally well-tolerated in adults, further studies are needed to confirm its safety and efficacy in children.
Anatomical and physiological differences give rise to differences in the bodily absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of drugs in children compared with adults. Many medicines, including melatonin, have only been tested for safety and efficacy in adults.
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Does Melatonin Have Any Side Effects
A few studies have investigated the safety of melatonin, but none have revealed any serious side effects. It also doesnt seem to cause any dependence or withdrawal symptoms .
Nonetheless, some medical practitioners are concerned that it may reduce the natural production of melatonin in the body, but short-term studies suggest no such effects .
Several studies have reported general symptoms, including dizziness, headache, nausea or agitation. However, these were equally common in the treatment and placebo groups and couldnt be attributed to melatonin .
Melatonin supplements are generally considered safe in the short-term, even when taken in very high doses. However, more research on its long-term safety is needed, especially in children .
A few mild side effects and drug interactions are discussed in the chapters below.
Summary Melatonin supplements are considered safe, and no studies have revealed any serious side effects to date. Yet, more research is needed to evaluate its long-term effects.
Is It Possible To Overdose On Melatonin
Yes, even though it is rare and not really dangerous, melatonin overdose is still something you should be aware of. Unfortunately, the timed release of melatonin, combined with other drugs can lead to interactions that can be harmful to your health and in some cases, even cause death.
The math is quite simple. Your body naturally produces about 0.1mg of melatonin each day. The usual dosage that most supplements contain is 3-5 mg of melatonin per tablet. Ingesting over 20-50mg is considered an overdose.
You would have to take between five and ten tablets at once to hit that limit, which means you are not really in any danger if you control your daily intake.
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