The Melatonin Side Effects You Should Know About
Yes, it could cause insomnia.
If youre like the 88 percent of women regularly not sleeping through the night , youve probably found yourself looking for alternatives to counting sheep.
Last year, the National Institutes of Health reported that 3.1 million Americans used melatonin supplements to fall asleep. Melatonin is a natural hormone secreted by your brain that helps regulate your circadian rhythm, or when your body wants to wake up and go to sleep, says Jocelyn Cheng, M.D., a neurologist at NYU Langone Health.
Studies have actually shown that melatonin can help people with sleep disorders fall asleep anywhere between 27 and 50 minutes faster.
But before you go buy out your local vitamin shop’s stock, remember: A supplement is not a regulated drug, so theres always a question as to whether youre getting what it claims to be, warns Rachel Salas, M.D., a neurologist with a focus on sleep disorders and sleep medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
One study actually found that 71 percent of melatonin supplements did not meet the claims on the label, with some listing up to five times the amount of the hormone than it actually contained. Look for supplements displaying seals from the United States Pharmacopeial Convention or NSF International so you know the manufacturers are legit.
Of course, like any drug or supplement, melatonin can come with some side effects.
Adverse Effects Of Melatonin Intake: Overview
Consumption of food supplements that contain melatonin or mainly contain melatonin has shown adverse effects in numerous studies. The most frequently reported side effects include headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, tremors, migraine, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, nightmares, vivid dreams, and irritability. There were even cases of supplement abuse for suicide attempts through melatonin overdose.
The reason for such adverse effects was traced to an incorrect presentation of the amount of melatonin a bottle of supplements truly contains. Investigation shows that melatonin supplement bottles can have 4 times more melatonin than indicated. This can affect ones health significantly, because of the higher the dose, the serious and more frequent side effects.
However, this is not the only reason side effects occur. Sometimes, doctors do NOT prescribe a suitable dosage, or the patients decide to dose themselves as they want. Some people even tend to drink alcohol with melatonin, hoping to emphasize the sedative effects. But, they just cause even more serious side effects.
When To Talk To Your Doctor About Melatonin
To ensure safe usage, it is always a good idea to consult your doctor before taking any over-the-counter sleep aid, including melatonin. They know your personal medical history and can best advise you on the appropriate melatonin dosage for your needs. They will also know whether melatonin might interact with any other medications you may currently be taking.
Certain health conditions and medications may increase your risk of side effects when taking melatonin. If you take any of the following medications, be sure to talk to your doctor before taking melatonin:
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- Shift workers
The research into melatonins potential benefits and use cases is still evolving, and its long-term effects are still unknown. For many people, melatonin offers mild improvements to sleep problems when used on a short-term basis. For others, it may cause side effects or not impact sleep at all.
If you find your sleep problems persist after trying melatonin, it may be time to talk to a doctor. They can recommend other strategies for improving your sleep, such as better sleep hygiene, changes to diet and exercise, or cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia. They can also evaluate other possible causes for your sleep problems.
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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.
What Is The Correct Melatonin Dosage For Me
The recommended dose of melatonin is the lowest dose that can help your sleep quantity and quality without causing side effects. While the right dose varies from one person to another, between 0.5 milligrams and 5 milligrams once daily is the typical starting dose for adults. Research indicates that taking doses of 10 milligrams or higher may cause side effects. The maximum recommended dose of melatonin is 10 milligrams.
Several factors, such as age, body weight, and sensitivity to melatonin may affect the recommended dosage. The dose also depends on the type and severity of the sleep problem. Certain drugs may also affect the way melatonin is metabolized. Speak to your physician if you are taking other medications before starting melatonin.
When using melatonin for the first time, begin at a low dose and adjust in increments of 1 milligram, depending on response. Generally, the optimum time to take melatonin is one to two hours before bedtime. There’s some evidence of tolerance with melatonin use, so it’s not recommended to increase the dose over time after reaching the lowest effective dose.
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How Long Does It Take For Melatonin To Wear Off
Melatonin takes between four to eight hours to wear off, but the amount of melatonin you take can cause this number to vary significantly. Generally, Buenaver suggests taking the lowest dose possible and advises starting at around one to three milligrams.
At a lower dosage, the melatonin will wear off quicker, and youll be less likely to experience any side effects.
Yes You Can Overdose On Melatonin
Low doses of melatonin cause relatively few side effects, but it is possible to take too much, says Nicole Avena, PhD, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
Melatonin supplements are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration and therefore have no standardized dose. The typical dosage found in stores ranges from about one to five mg but can be found in doses as high as 10 mg.
Overdosing on melatonin can lead to side effects, including:
- Daytime sleepiness
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Can Melatonin Help Mychild Sleep
There is good scientific evidence melatonin can shorten thetime to fall asleep in children with insomnia, including children with ADHD,autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. While melatonin can be aneffective short-term solution to address bedtime problems, children withneurodevelopmental disorders may benefit from longer-term use in some cases. Itshould be noted that the immediate release formulation does not help withdifficulty staying asleep . There is some evidence to suggest that extended-releasemelatonin may help with night awakenings in children, but there are far fewerstudies to support this use, and the extended release formulations require theability to swallow capsules.
There are many reasons why children may have trouble fallingasleep: anxiety, restless legs symptoms or a too-earlybedtime are just a few. Before considering melatonin, have your pediatricianconduct a thorough evaluation for other potential causes.
In general, melatonin should not be given to healthy,typically developing children under age 3, as difficulties falling and stayingasleep in these children are almost always behavioral in nature.
Does Food Contain Melatonin
A study published in Food and Nutrition Research notes that certain food products do contain various amounts of melatonin as measured by immunological and chromatographic laboratory techniques. How consumption of these various foods might affect endogenous production sleep or was not evaluated:
- Wine, beer
- Cows milk
Research finds that melatonin synthesis depends upon availability of the essential amino acid tryptophan, a needed component of the diet. If intake of tryptophan is severely restricted, synthesis of melatonin is significantly reduced in humans.
In the Nurses Health Study, no link was found between the consumption of various nutrients, such as folate, vitamin B6 and zinc and increased urinary excretion.
Diets rich in vegetables, fruits and grain products will contain considerable levels of dietary melatonin. The overall effect of dietary consumption on nighttime levels of melatonin is very limited. Melatonin production is primarily driven by the effects of light and darkness and by age, declining as we get older.
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Melatonin Side Effects And Safety 101
Before you take melatonin for better sleep, make sure you understand the potential side effects.
Cant sleep and looking for a non-habit-forming sleep aid?
Its not unusual to deal with insomnia from time to time. You may have difficulty falling asleep. Or if youre able to fall asleep quickly, you may wake up after two or three hours. This can cause daytime sleepiness, irritability, and decreased productivity.
One night of bad sleep might not wreak too much havoc on your body. But when the problem goes on for days, weeks, or months, supplementing with melatonin can get your sleep back on track.
Melatonin is a hormone that your body makes naturally. Your melatonin level increases a couple of hours before bedtime, which signals your body to prepare for rest. Its important to note, however, that melatonin isnt a sleep initiator but rather a sleep regulator, explains Carolyn Dean, MD, a sleep expert and author of 365 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power: Tips, Exercise, Advice.
Some people, however, dont produce enough melatonin. And as a result, sleep doesnt come easily. But while melatonin is a natural hormone that can help reset your circadian clock, oral melatonin isnt right for everyone.
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What Is The Dosage For Melatonin
Researchers arent certain which dose of melatonin is most effective. It has been studied at doses ranging from 0.3 mg to 10 mg. It is possible for a small dose to work better than a large dose. A dose of about 0.3 mg closely resembles the level of your bodys natural melatonin production. Larger doses cause the melatonin in your blood to peak at a much higher level.
Studies show that timing may be more important than dose. The most effective time to take melatonin is different for everyone and can vary depending on your sleep problem. In certain cases, melatonin may be even more effective when used as part of a treatment plan that also includes bright light therapy.
Do Electronic Devices Alter Melatonin Levels
Light at night blocks the production of melatonin, and this has been shown to cause sleep disturbances in people who use electronics that emit light at night. Researchers have found that light from electronic devices can block the release of natural hormone melatonin at night. The effect was most significant for younger children, with nighttime levels reduced by up to 37 percent in certain cases. This can also be problematic for children between ages 9 and 16.
Studies show that light after dark lowers melatonin levels which may lead to difficulty in initiating sleep. Electronic light-emitting devices such as the television, laptops, smartphones and tablets often find their way into the bedroom at night, or are used after dark. Children should not have electronics, including TVs, in their bedroom at bedtime and everyone should avoid use of light-emitting devices and screen time at least one hour before bedtime.
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How To Use Melatonin For Jet Lag
Jet lag is an air travel problem that causes difficulty in sleeping, fatigue, trouble concentrating, constipation, and other symptoms. Jet lag is much more likely if you cross over several time zones, and can worsen the more time zones you cross.
Effective starting doses for jet lag range from 0.3 to 0.5 mg. Smaller doses may work for some while others may need a higher dose. It may be more difficult to fly east, when time is lost, rather than to fly west, when you gain it back. High doses, such as 20 mg pills are available for purchase on the Internet, but such high doses are not normally recommended or needed, and may greatly increase side effects.
- Eastbound: If you are traveling east, say from the US to Europe, take melatonin after dark, 30 minutes before bedtime in the new time zone or if you are on the plane. Then take it for the next 4 nights in the new time zone, after dark, 30 minutes before bedtime. If you are still feeling drowsy the day after using this medication, try a lower dose.
- Westbound: If you are heading west, for example, from the US to Australia, a dose is not needed for your first travel night, but you then may take it for the next 4 nights in the new time zone, after dark, 30 minutes before bedtime. Melatonin may not always be needed for westbound travel.
Given enough time , jet lag will usually resolve on its own, but this is not always optimal when traveling.
Health Benefits Of Melatonin
Heres a closer look at the use of melatonin in alternative medicine and the possible health benefits:
1) Jet Lag
Travel across time zones disrupts the circadian rhythm. Preliminary evidence suggests that melatonin supplements can reduce certain jet-lag symptoms, particularly in people traveling eastward and/or crossing five or more time zones. Melatonin may improve alertness during the day, movement coordination, and to a lesser extent, daytime tiredness.
The best results seem to occur when melatonin supplements are started on the day of travel and taken at the desired bedtime at the destination. It is usually taken for several days.
Melatonin appears to lessen the time it takes to fall asleep, but only by about 12 minutes . A number of studies suggest that the optimal time to take melatonin supplements is between half an hour and two hours prior to the desired bedtime. There is some evidence that suggests that melatonin may be more helpful for older adults, possibly because they may have less melatonin in their bodies. Most studies have been small and short in duration, so further research is needed.
3) Shift Work
Although night shift work disrupts the circadian rhythm, there is little evidence supporting the notion that melatonin can adjust the sleep schedule in people who work at night and sleep during the day. It doesn’t appear to improve sleep after shift work or improve alertness during shift work.
4) Sleeping Problems Associated With Blindness
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Is It Safe To Take Melatonin
For melatonin supplements, particularly at doses higher than what the body normally produces, thereâs not enough information yet about possible side effects to have a clear picture of overall safety. Short-term use of melatonin supplements appears to be safe for most people, but information on the long-term safety of supplementing with melatonin is lacking.
Also keep in mind:
Interactions with medicines
- As with all dietary supplements, people who are taking medicine should consult their health care providers before using melatonin. In particular, people with epilepsy and those taking blood thinner medications need to be under medical supervision when taking melatonin supplements.
Possible allergic reaction risk
Safety concerns for pregnant and breastfeeding women
Safety concerns for older people
Melatonin is regulated as a dietary supplement
Products may not contain whatâs listed on the label
What Happens If You Give Your Dog Too Much Melatonin
The longer duration of action is the reason why it is mostly used to ensure that dogs have a good night sleep. Melatonin overdose in dogs occurs when the prescribed dosage is not adhered to or when you accidentally give more drugs than expected. This is common to liquid and powder formulations of melatonin.
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Can Melatonin Help With Insomnia
People with insomnia have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. When symptoms last a month or longer, itâs called chronic insomnia.
According to practice guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American College of Physicians , thereâs not enough strong evidence on the effectiveness or safety of melatonin supplementation for chronic insomnia to recommend its use. The American College of Physicians guidelines strongly recommend the use of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia as an initial treatment for insomnia.