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
When Melatonin Can And Can’t Help
Some people with certain kinds of sleep disorders may get some relief from melatonin, research suggests, but theres less evidence for its use with more common forms of insomnia, according to the NIHs National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
A 2013 meta-analysis found that on average, people with insomnia fell asleep about 7 minutes faster with melatonin than with a placebo. While most melatonin side effects are mild, CRs survey showed that people may be taking it in unsafe ways, for example, driving too soon after taking it or taking it long term when theres little data indicating that longer than three months is safe.
Because of the lack of evidence, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends clinicians not use melatonin as a treatment for insomnia.
But that doesnt mean it cant help anyone.
About 5 to 10 percent of people may feel sleepy after taking melatonin, says Alcibiades Rodriguez, MD, the medical director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center-Sleep Center at New York University.
Usually the people that get more benefit are the elderly, maybe 70 or older, and young patients, he says. Thats because older patients and young children are less likely to produce sufficient melatonin on their own, though its important to consult a medical professional before giving a child melatonin. Theres still little research on melatonin in kids and some concern about how it might affect development, especially around puberty.
Melatonin Side Effects In Children
The most common melatonin side effect in children is morning drowsiness. Other common side effects in children include:
- Possible increased risk for seizures in children with severe neurological disorders.
Dietary melatonin supplements can still have drug interactions or health risks if you have certain medical conditions, upcoming surgery, or other health concerns.
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What Are The Forms Of Melatonin
Over-the-counter melatonin supplements are available in doses of 1-10 mg. Melatonin is sold as a dietary supplement and is not regulated by the FDA. So, it is possible for the content of the supplement to differ from what is listed on the product label. Before you take melatonin be sure the brand is reputable and discuss taking this and any supplement with your doctor. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine states that melatonin supplements appear to be safe. There is no evidence of serious risks related to their use, but the long-term effects are unknown.
Snacks and beverages marketed as relaxation or chill out products containing various doses of melatonin along with other ingredients also are available. These products are not regulated by the FDA and are not guaranteed to be effective.
Is It Safe To Take Melatonin Every Day And Are There Any Side Effects
Both Dr. Peters-Mathews and Dr. Malow believe melatonin is generally safe to take every night, but large studies are needed to determine whether its effective and safe for all forms of insomnia and particularly for long-term use. “Melatonin is used safely by most people for years,” says Dr. Peters-Mathews.
Dr. Peters-Mathews recommends sticking to lower doses of melatonin to prevent unwanted side effects, which typically include increased dreaming, nightmares, or morning sleepiness. If you are bothered by these side effects, you should stop taking melatonin and speak to your doctor about alternatives.
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What Happens If I Miss A Dose
If you miss taking a dose there is no cause for concern, but melatonin may impair your thinking and reaction time. If you will be driving or doing any hazardous activity, skip your dose as melatonin can cause drowsiness.
Otherwise, use the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not use extra medicine or double your dose to make up the missed medication.
How Is Melatonin Controlled
In humans and other mammals, the daily rhythm of pineal melatonin production is driven by the ‘master’ circadian clock. This ‘clock’ is in a region of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei, which expresses a series of genes termed clock genes that continuously oscillate throughout the day. This is synchronised to the solar day via light input from the eyes. The suprachiasmatic nuclei link to the pineal gland through a complex pathway in the nervous system, passing through different brain areas, into the spinal cord and then finally reaching the pineal gland. During the day, the suprachiasmatic nuclei stops melatonin production by sending inhibitory messages to the pineal gland. At night however, the suprachiasmatic nuclei are less active, and the inhibition exerted during the day is reduced resulting in melatonin production by the pineal gland.
Light is an important regulator of melatonin production from the pineal gland. Firstly, it can reset a specific area of the brain and, as a result, the timing of the melatonin production. Secondly, exposure to light during the body’s biological night reduces melatonin production and release.
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Is Melatonin Considered Safe For Everyone
Melatonin isnt suitable for everyone. You shouldnt take melatonin at all if youre pregnant or breastfeeding or have an autoimmune disorder, a seizure disorder, or depression. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, talk to your doctor before taking it. And if you are on any medications, check with your physician to make sure melatonin won’t make them less effective or cause more side effects.
Melatonin For Sleep: Does It Work
Melatonin sleep aids are growing in popularity, with 3 million Americansusing them in 2012, according to a nationwide survey from the Centers forDisease Control and Prevention. If youre among them or are consideringmelatonin for sleep, its smart to understand exactly how melatonin works.
Your body produces melatonin naturally. It doesnt make you sleep, but as melatonin levels rise in the evening it puts you into a state of quiet wakefulness that helps promote sleep, explains Johns Hopkins sleep expert Luis F. Buenaver, Ph.D., C.B.S.M.
Most peoples bodies produce enough melatonin for sleep on their own. However, there are steps you can take to make the most of your natural melatonin production, or you can try a supplement on a short-term basis if youre experiencing insomnia, want to overcome jet lag, or are a night owl who needs to get to bed earlier and wake up earlier, such as for work or school.
If youd like to harness melatonins sleep-inducing effects, Buenaver recommends taking these steps.
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Why You Need Melatonin
A lack of sleep negatively impacts your health. It impedes learning and increases insulin resistance, which can progress to diabetes. It can also disrupt hunger hormones, meaning you may end up eating more than you normally would.
Scientists are still learning about the importance of melatonin. Although its best known as a sleep aid, melatonin has a range of other potential health benefits:
Theres little evidence that melatonin is effective against chronic insomnia. But if youre experiencing jet lag, it may help you return to a normal sleeping pattern. It can also help patients sleep before surgery.
Better Sleep Patterns in Adults
People with delayed sleep-wake phase disorder often stay awake until early morning and sleep until around noon. Melatonin may help them maintain a more normal sleeping pattern.
Better Sleep Patterns in Children
Melatonin may also help children with certain conditions that disrupt sleep. These include asthma, dermatitis, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder , and autism spectrum disorder . Because melatonin is a hormone, children should not take it without a doctor’s approval.
Brain Health in Older Adults
Melatonin levels naturally fall with age. Boosting them could help prevent brain disorders later in life. Both animal and human studies have discovered that melatonin could lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.
Make Sure You Are Getting What The Label Says
Before you buy melatonin, its important to make sure you are getting it from a reputable place. The F.D.A. does not regulate supplements, Dr. Kolla said. So youre trusting the manufacturer in terms of the dosing.
A 2017 study in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that the melatonin content of dietary supplements often varies widely from what is listed on the label. The study found that even within the same batch of product, variability of the melatonin varied by as much as 465 percent.
Without governmental oversight, there really isnt a way to ensure the levels of melatonin advertised on the package are accurate. Therefore, Dr. Kolla recommends looking for a GLP or GMP label on the product. Both labels refer to federal regulations designed to affirm a product has the quality and purity that appear on its label. He says this provides some assurance that you are getting close to what the label says youre getting.
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Is Melatonin Safe Forchildren
Its no wonder parents are uncertain about this. If you surfthe web, youre likely to get mixed messages:
- Australian experts called the increase in use among children alarming and warned in 2015 that parents shouldnt give it to their children. WebMD
- Melatonin, according to more than 24 studies, is safe for children and has been used with little to no side effects. NaturalSleep.org
- Currently, we dont have any evidence to say that taking melatonin on a daily basis in that sense is harmful, although there are no large-scale multicenter clinical trials to really test that.Medscape
This last quote is probably closest to where we actuallyare. However, it is clear there has been a dramatic increase in use ofmelatonin in children in the past five years or so. For example, in England, estimates have found a 25percent increase in melatonin prescriptions in children under 18 between2015-16 and 2017-18, and a 40 percent increase in the extended release formsduring the same period. There are no similar statistics in the U.S. forover-the-counter melatonin, but it is now rare in our experience that childrencoming to the Boston Childrens Sleep Clinic with insomnia are not already onmelatonin, usually recommended by their pediatrician.
Bottom Line: Pros And Cons
- Widely available in the U.S. over-the-counter without a prescription
- Short-term use is relatively safe with little evidence of toxicity
- Inexpensive product with generics or store brands available
- Lower dose and orally-dissolvable products for children are available
- Comes in a variety of dosage forms and doses
- Not approved for any uses by the FDA
- Quality of some products cannot always be assured
- Studies for less common uses are not consistent
- Doses tend to vary between patients always ask a medical professional for dosing advice in children
- Effective lower doses are not always commercially available
- Higher doses used over a prolonged period may lead to rebound insomnia and are not well studied.
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It Can Improve Insulin Function
Low night-time secretion of melatonin nearly doubles the risk of developing diabetes. In fact, melatonin improves insulin balance and protects insulin-producing cells in the pancreas from cell death. It can be used as a supporting therapy for treating prediabetes, diabetes type 2, Polycystic ovary syndrome , and insulin resistance.
Can Help In Managing Chronic Pain
Besides its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action, melatonin also has analgesic properties. This makes it useful for managing chronic painful conditions like fibromyalgia, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic back pain, and rheumatoid arthritis. Patients suffering from fibromyalgia a condition that results in chronic widespread pain in muscles and connective tissues with no apparent cause, can benefit from melatonin supplements.
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Melatonin May Make Hot Flashes And Night Sweats Less Intense
Research is mixed as to whether melatonin supplements may have any effect on hot flashes and night sweats. Improvement in these areas is difficult to scientifically gauge. Researchers measure hot flashes by asking women to rate theirs on a scale. Some research shows melatonin can lower these ratings.
A small study that included 250 menopausal women found that after three months of melatonin treatment , women rated their hot flashes as less intense.
What makes the impact of melatonin on hot flashes difficult to quantify with precision is how subjective these ratings are. Theres a difference between number and severity of hot flashes, McQueen explains. Severity is about how bothered a woman is by them. Some women tolerate them better than others. In other words, what one woman would call a 3 another might consider an 11.
That brings us back to the idea of sleep and mood. Does melatonin improve sleep, which improves mood, which in turn makes hot flashes seem like theyre not so bad anymore? Or does melatonin have a direct effect on hot flashes and night sweats? If you are a woman who suffers from intense hot flashes, it probably doesnt matter to you how melatonin works, just whether or not it does.
Who Shouldnt Take Melatonin
When considering all the side effects and possible melatonin interactions with certain medication, the following groups should avoid taking melatonin
- People suffering from inflammatory or autoimmune diseases,
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women,
- Ovulating women trying to get pregnant,
- People who have responsible jobs, where sleepiness and drowsiness can cause possible safety problems,
- People with epilepsy or a history of seizures,
- People with mood, behavior, or personality disorders,
- People with bleeding disorders,
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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.
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.
Melatonin May Improve Mood Swings
Mood swings are another hallmark of the menopausal transition. These may happen in perimenopause as soon as you hit your early 40s. Some research suggests that melatonin may even play a role in alleviating those highs and lows that lead to irritability, teary outbursts, and even depression.
In the Italian study of women ages 42 to 62, for example, those who received daily melatonin reported major improvements in their mood and elimination of morning depressiona complaint many had at the start of the study.
But, its unclearand would be near impossible to figure outwhether melatonin itself boosts mood directly or whether getting a good nights sleep after taking melatonin improves mood.
Improved sleep leads to improved mood and decreased depression, McQueen says, But, is there a separate impact that melatonin itself has on mood? Probably, but theres not enough data yet to tease out exactly how that would work.