The current age is one where people are leading hectic lifestyles. Many people feel overworked, stressed, and tired. And yet, at the end of the working day, many individuals still struggle to get to sleep. 30-35% of people experience brief symptoms of insomnia, whereas 10% have a chronic insomnia disorder. In terms of raw numbers, that’s a lot of people.
30-35% of people experience brief symptoms of insomnia, whereas 10% have a chronic insomnia disorder.
There are a variety of therapeutic sleep aids on the pharmaceutical market, but melatonin has recently become a popular option among adults who wish to use a more natural compound. Since 50-70 million Americans suffer from poor sleep, it’s no wonder the popularity of this supplement is rising.
This article explains melatonin in more detail, including how to take it and how much to use.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormone. The pineal gland, located in the brain, produces it, but it is also found in the eyes, bone marrow, and digestive system. It is known as the sleep hormone; the gland produces it when it’s night-time, letting your body know that it is time to go to sleep. As a result, you begin to relax and unwind.
It may also have some other benefits, covered in the section below.
Although melatonin is natural, there are also manmade versions of this compound. Mass-produced melatonin is sold in the form of melatonin pills, gummies, and other products. As a result, it is no longer just a natural hormone but a pharmaceutical sleep aid.
What Does Melatonin Do?
Alongside sleepiness, there are a few other melatonin benefits. Some research indicates that it may also trigger effects such as:
- Supporting eye health
- Easing tinnitus
- Raising growth hormone levels in men
- Helping with stomach ulcers and heartburn
This is because melatonin is found in multiple parts of the body, including the gut, the eyes, and more. Nevertheless, its main usage as an ingestible supplement is for sleep.
Melatonin and Sleep
Usually, melatonin is used by those aged 55 and older to help with sleep. Doctors typically recommend using it for 1-4 weeks, rather than continuous use. Melatonin is a popular supplement among those with sleep disorders like insomnia, but some users also employ it to combat jet lag and other temporary ailments.
There have been several studies on melatonin and sleep. Additional research can further science’s understanding of how it works, how much is safe to take, and how effective it is. For now, there are a collection of studies that show melatonin can help users to get to sleep.
For example, a 2017 review from researchers at Scottish hospitals found that, in a database of 5030 studies on melatonin and sleep, there is evidence for the benefits of using this supplement. The authors state that first-degree sleep disorders, like delayed sleep phase syndrome and insomnia, can be improved by taking melatonin. They also recommend further double-blind, controlled, large-scale trials to further the understanding of melatonin.
This article includes information on melatonin dosage for sleep in later sections.
How Does Melatonin Work?
The renowned melatonin effects of sleepiness and better-quality sleep arise due to its interaction with the body’s circadian rhythm. In layman’s terms, the circadian rhythm is like the body’s internal clock; it helps you figure out when it is time to go to sleep, wake up, and eat. Part of this is to do with light levels, and our excessive use of electricity and screens may be one factor that puts the circadian rhythm out of sync.
When it is dark outside, the body produces more melatonin. It binds to receptors in the brain, reducing nerve activity, as well as other receptors that induce a feeling of relaxation. It may also reduce levels of dopamine, an energizing hormone that helps you stay awake.
The exact mechanisms by which melatonin works are unclear, but scientists believe that these are some of the processes that help it to make you sleepy.
With manmade melatonin, the same process occurs. However, the difference is that the user ingests synthetic hormones, and these bind to the receptors instead of naturally produced melatonin.
How to Take Melatonin
There are a variety of ways to take melatonin. Supplements often come in the form of pills or gummies. When using any melatonin product, always follow the label’s instructions and consult your doctor if you need advice. Typically, you will need to take it at a certain time of day.
The required melatonin dosage will vary depending on the consumer’s age and problems. It is common to take it for 2-3 weeks, not taking it every night. Again, this will be stated on the label. In extreme cases, a physician may recommend melatonin for up to 13 weeks, but this is rare.
Melatonin Dosage for Kids
Lots of kids have trouble falling asleep, so some parents may be wondering whether they can give them melatonin. It’s possible, but perhaps not recommended, to give melatonin to children. Before resorting to this, try things like limiting screen-time before bed, getting into a better night-time routine, etc.
Before giving a melatonin supplement to a child, make sure to consult a pediatrician. This is not a decision that should be taken lightly.
In terms of the best melatonin dose for kids, most children will respond to 0.5mg taken 30-90 minutes before it’s time to sleep. Even those with issues like ADHD, for which melatonin may be recommended, often don’t need more than 6mg.
Melatonin Dosage for Adults
If adults would like to try melatonin, they should start with an extremely low dose. Usually, this is 0.5mg half an hour before going to bed. If this does not work, they can increase to 3-5mg.
The correct dosage of melatonin for adults may vary wildly depending on their body, so it is a matter of trial and error. A low dose is always best; the goal is to find the lowest dose that will aid sleep, which is why individuals should begin with just 0.5mg.
Regardless, it is advisable to talk with a doctor before use.
Melatonin Side Effects
Research indicates that melatonin is generally safe to use and non-addictive. That said, there are some side effects of melatonin that users should be aware of.
The list includes:
- Stomach ache
- Dry mouth
- Dry or itchy skin
- Night sweats and strange dreams
- Pain in the arms or legs
These side effects are mild and unlikely to produce adverse effects. However, it is still something to be aware of before beginning with melatonin supplements.
Adverse reactions are rare, occurring in less than 1 in 1000 people. That said, they do exist. Consult a physician as soon as possible if you experience one of the following after using melatonin:
- Depressive episodes
- Feeling faint or passing out
- Unexplained bruising
- Blood in the urine
- Blurry vision
Can You Overdose on Melatonin?
A melatonin overdose is technically possible. Taking too much melatonin can cause unwanted side effects such as the ones mentioned above, and prolonged usage may also disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm.
However, a fatal overdose is unlikely. It’s best to bear in mind that the standard dose is between 1-10mg, often on the low end of this spectrum. Further research may be necessary, although some believe that 30mg of melatonin may cause harm.
In children, doses of 1-5 milligrams can cause seizures and other complications, which is why it is vital to talk with a doctor before using melatonin for kids.
There is potential for a melatonin interaction with other medications. However, it can also interact with alcohol and tobacco. Users should be aware that drinking alcohol and smoking while taking melatonin can stop the supplement from working in the way it should. As a result, it’s best to avoid this.
Melatonin Drug Interactions
As for drug interactions with melatonin, there is a possibility for melatonin to cause side effects if taken alongside particular medications. In particular, estrogen, antidepressants, and NSAIDs can cause problems. As a result, consumers need to be extremely careful.
See below for a full list.
Does Melatonin Interact with Any Medications?
The melatonin interactions with other meds include increasing and decreasing the drowsiness users feel after taking it. This is obviously a problem, but other side effects can be worse. If taking any of the following drugs, consult a doctor before using melatonin:
- Blood-pressure medications
- NSAIDs like ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.
- Estrogens in contraceptive and hormone replacement therapy
- Opiate agonists to combat drug addiction
- Psoralens, for skin disorders like psoriasis
- Quinolones or rifampicin (antibiotics)
- Carbamazepine (for epilepsy)
- Thioridazine (for schizophrenia)
- Tryptophan supplements
- Warfarin (blood thinners)
- Insomnia medications
Melatonin Interactions with Antidepressants
The interaction between melatonin and antidepressants can be a little more serious than the hormone not working. The combination can be over-sedating, since antidepressants may cause fatigue by themselves.
The result can be respiratory depression, or hypoventilation, which is a breathing disorder. Sufferers may feel extremely fatigued, depressed, and will exhibit slow breathing. It is not a pleasant effect, and so it is one that is best avoided.
Melatonin Alcohol Interaction
Drinking alcohol can decrease melatonin levels. Those with alcohol use disorder (AUD) may display low levels of melatonin, and melatonin levels in these individuals also increase more slowly.
Contrary to logic, using a melatonin supplement in these instances does not help. Instead, it does almost nothing.
According to the British National Health Service (NHS), the alcohol and melatonin interaction can even be dangerous. Some users enter an extremely deep sleep that can cause breathing problems and difficulty waking up.
Melatonin Supplements: Final Thoughts
The popularity of melatonin supplements is on the rise. Many users experience better quality sleep and more ease in getting to sleep. These supplements are freely available in the USA, but they, unfortunately, come with some dangers. Those using melatonin supplements should do their research and be aware of the complications.
Those using melatonin supplements should do their research and be aware of the complications.
Most people only need a very low dose of melatonin, and individuals should not use it every day nor for prolonged periods. Although it can be a helpful supplement, it is one that should be used with caution.
If you have any questions about melatonin, do not hesitate to contact your physician.