Sleep is a vital component of healing. It also helps you maintain your mental health, which is vital for keeping your immune system in shape. If you have difficulties falling asleep, you could be at risk for a range of chronic conditions. Fortunately, the body has ways of repairing itself. For instance, it produces melatonin, a hormone that helps promote sleep.
What Is Melatonin?
The pineal gland is responsible for producing melatonin, also known as the “hormone of sleep” or the “hormone of darkness.” Melatonin helps improve sleep quality and increase sleep duration, but it appears that there are more potent sleep medications. Also, melatonin plays a role in other body functions. Aside from the immune system, it also helps regulate blood pressure, cortisol levels, and sexual functions.
In the U.S., you do not need a prescription to purchase melatonin. However, it is a prescription drug in most European countries and in Australia. Only older adults with sleep disorders receive a prescription for it in these countries.
People take melatonin supplements to stabilize the body’s circadian rhythm. People who are blind, shift workers, those with jet lag, and children on the autism spectrum benefit from these supplements. Here is a closer look at this sleep aid.
Is Melatonin Addictive?
In short, melatonin is not considered to be addictive. Though it is considered to be addictive, overuse of melatonin can cause your body to produce less melatonin which could lead you to rely on this supplement.
The pineal gland is responsible for releasing melatonin into your brain. It releases more of the hormone when it is dark and slows down production during the daytime. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, can regulate blood pressure, lower your body temperature, and aid in various immune functions.
To determine if something is addictive, medical professionals look at several hallmarks. These include withdrawal or dependence, drug tolerance, or, in the case of sleep supplements, sleep “hangovers.” Since it does not cause any of these, it is unlikely to be addicting. However, there needs to be more long-term research on its effects.
Something labeled “natural” is not automatically safe. There are no reports of melatonin’s addictiveness at present, but it helps to know what its possible side effects are. If your family has a history of substance addiction, you should talk to a doctor before using melatonin.
What Are The Side Effects Of Melatonin?
Since melatonin is a sleep aid, one of its main side effects is drowsiness. When you take this supplement correctly, you won’t experience too many side effects, but there is still a chance of them occurring. Aside from sleepiness, a person taking this medication can experience nausea, headache, or dizziness.
There is also a chance of developing mild tremors, stomach cramps, and low blood pressure. People also report feeling irritable as well as temporarily feeling symptoms of depression.
If you observe side effects from taking it, you should speak with your doctor. They could recommend that you take a different dosage or an alternative sleep aid. It is also possible that other drugs you are taking are causing an adverse interaction, so make sure you inform them of your other supplements or medications.
Though it is safe for short-term use, there are not enough long-term studies into its side effects. Since it is considered an over-the-counter drug in the U.S., the FDA regulations for it are different from prescription drugs and are often less strict. These are things to consider if you’re thinking of purchasing melatonin as a sleep supplement.
Can You Overdose On Melatonin?
Although the body naturally produces melatonin, taking too much of it could disrupt your sleep-wake cycle. It may also cause other unwanted side effects, as mentioned above—so, technically, it is possible to overdose on melatonin if you think of “overdosing” as having unwanted, serious, and harmful side effects on the body.
It is difficult to define what a melatonin overdose looks like, though. For one, there aren’t standard, safe dosages for the drug. Some people are sensitive to it’s effects and could experience side effects from a dose that others might consider small.
Generally speaking, young children should not use melatonin unless otherwise directed by a doctor. Even doses as small as one to five milligrams could cause seizures or other complications. It is better to find other sleep aids for children who are having difficulties in sleeping.
For adults, the standard dose ranges from one to ten milligrams. However, there isn’t a dosage that the FDA or medical professionals recommend as the average or the “best.” Furthermore, they consider doses in the 30-mg range as harmful. It is best to start with a low dose and move up carefully if you see success. Also, speak to a medical professional before you attempt to increase your dose.
Melatonin And Alcohol
Since melatonin is a hormone the body produces, many people are comfortable using it over extended periods. Unlike sleeping pills, which contain synthetic compounds, it is “natural,” so it is “safe.” However, like anything you ingest for medical reasons, you must understand how to use it safely.
For instance, if you drink alcohol regularly or are a recovering addict, it could weaken or strengthen the supplement’s potency. Alcohol and melatonin, when taken at the same time, causes various side effects. Some of these include redness in the face, increased irritability, and swelling of the hands or feet.
When you mix these substances, you could also experience confusion, “brain fog,” or an inability to think correctly, and poor sleep quality. Beyond these disorienting symptoms, there are more serious ones. When taken together, alcohol and melatonin can cause elevated heart rates, fatigue, drowsiness, difficulties in breathing, and sudden unconsciousness.
Being susceptible to passing out could put you in extreme danger, especially if you operate heavy machinery, are driving, or are walking outside or in potentially hazardous situations. You might find yourself in a collision or another serious accident.
Deciding The Amount Of Melatonin To Take
The safest dose for this sleep aid is the lowest one effective in helping you fall asleep. If you take the lowest effective dose, you probably won’t experience side effects. Start with a dose between 0.2 to five milligrams. Dose strength depends on your age, your sensitivity to the supplement, and your body weight.
Symptoms To Watch For In Melatonin Use
Too much melatonin is counterproductive since it produces the opposite effect to its intended purpose. Using too much could make sleeping more difficult since it could disrupt your circadian rhythms. Overdosing could also cause you to feel groggy during the day and cause you to experience vivid dreams or nightmares.
Aside from feeling the side effects mentioned above, you could also develop joint pain and feelings of anxiety from too much melatonin. Furthermore, if you take medications that lower your blood pressure, like calcium channel blockers or beta-blockers, you might also see lower effectivity from the supplement.
Be sure to speak with your doctor about the specific combination of supplements and medications you use. Sometimes, taking a supplement for lower levels is not the most advisable way to get more sleep, especially if you take medicine for other chronic ailments.
Melatonin is a sleep supplement that helps the body realign its sleep cycle and follow natural circadian rhythms. Since it is a hormone that the body produces, people think of melatonin supplements as a “safer” alternative to sleeping pills. As with anything you take for health, it is best to consult your doctor before taking this sleep aid.