Melatonin: Benefits, Side Effects, Dosages, and Interactions

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Melatonin is a chemical made by the brain when it gets dark. It is known as a sleep hormone because it tells you when to go to bed and when to wake up.

You can also buy melatonin supplements at almost any supermarket or pharmacy. Research shows that the supplements are safe and have fewer side effects than many prescription sleeping pills.

Read on to learn more about how melatonin can help reset your sleep-wake cycle and other medical uses.

Get Medication Information / Joshua Son

Health benefits

Hundreds of studies have concluded that melatonin is safe and effective as a sleep aid. Although many drugs are only tested in healthy adults, researchers have tested melatonin in a wider population, including children. Here are some sleep-related results and other potential health benefits.

To sleep

The researchers tested melatonin in people with insomnia , jet lag, shift workers, military personnel, the elderly, and children. Most of the research focuses on short-term use. This is from a few days to a little over three months. These studies have shown the following benefits:

  • Fall asleep faster: People who took melatonin fell asleep 22 to 34 minutes earlier than people who took pacifiers.
  • To get better   Sleep efficiency: This is the time you spend asleep compared to the time you were in bed.
  • Help children fall asleep and get more sleep. Researchers have found this to be true even for children with sleep disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder and ADHD.
  • Reset the sleep-wake cycle: This is called the circadian rhythm.

Most research results suggest moderate benefits, such as falling asleep 20 minutes earlier. Higher quality studies are needed with larger sample sizes that closely follow people over a longer period of time.

Macular degeneration associated with age

Some small studies have shown that melatonin can be helpful in treating certain eye conditions caused by inflammation and aging.

One review reviewed experimental studies and clinical trials conducted between January 1990 and September 2017. It was concluded that melatonin may be helpful in treating:

  • Uveitis – An eye disorder that causes sudden redness, swelling, and pain in the eye.
  • Glaucoma : a group of eye diseases generally caused by intraocular pressure. If left untreated, it can damage the optic nerve, which sends signals from the eye to the brain.
  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) : An eye disease that causes loss of direct central vision in people 65 years of age or older.

Researchers don't fully understand why melatonin is protective. They believe that it can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress caused by free radicals. These are unstable molecules that can damage cells and tissues.

Most of the eye research has been done at AMD. In one study, 100 AMD patients received 3 milligrams (mg) of melatonin per day for up to two years. Researchers have found that melatonin helps protect the retina from further damage. However, this was only one study and it was small.

Autism

Many people with autism do not make enough melatonin and have trouble sleeping.

A 2014 survey study found that melatonin helps people with autism fall asleep faster. They also slept longer and better. The authors added that better sleep improves behavior during the day. More research is needed to determine the ideal dosage and timing for sleeping pills.

Jet lag

Time zone change occurs when you travel across time zones. Your internal biological clock is still tuned to where you came from, not where you came from. This can tire you out and cause trouble concentrating. Several studies have shown that melatonin can help relieve jet lag symptoms.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine supports the use of melatonin to reduce jet lag symptoms and improve sleep after traveling in more than one time zone.

Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a persistent ringing in the ears. Melatonin can provide some relief.

In a small study, 61 tinnitus patients received 3 mg of melatonin before bedtime. The researchers found that it reduced noise in the inner ear and improved sleep quality after one month.

Possible side effects.

Melatonin does not cause serious side effects, only minor effects. These include drowsiness, headache, dizziness, and nausea. In children, possible side effects include agitation and bed-wetting.

If you take too much melatonin, you may have a hangover. This usually clears up fairly quickly. Melatonin can stay active longer in older adults. This can cause daytime sleepiness. There are no reports of fatal overdoses of melatonin alone.

The lack of long-term research means that it is not known if melatonin is safe for long-term use.

Interactions and Warnings

Although melatonin is available without a prescription, you may want to speak with your doctor before taking it. This is especially true if you are already taking medications for other health problems. Melatonin can interfere with the way certain medications are processed, increasing or decreasing their effect. This includes:

  • Blood thinners: Taking medicine to prevent blood clots can increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Anticonvulsants: If you are taking medications for epilepsy , they can affect your ability to prevent seizures.
  • Sedatives, tranquilizers: can enhance the sedative effect of these drugs.
  • Blood pressure medications: If you have hypertension , this can raise your blood pressure.
  • Medications for diabetes: People with diabetes may have high blood sugar levels.
  • Immunosuppressants: People with autoimmune diseases take medications that weaken the immune system response. People who have received organ transplants take medications to prevent their bodies from rejecting their new organs. Melatonin can reduce the effectiveness of these medications.
  • Birth Control – Some birth control pills can increase melatonin levels and cause drowsiness.
  • Luvox (fluvoxamine): People with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) can take Luvox to prevent unwanted thoughts or do certain things repeatedly, such as washing their hands. The drug can raise melatonin levels, causing drowsiness.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not take melatonin because there is not enough evidence to know if it is safe.

Dosage and drugs

Melatonin is sold in tablets, lozenges, and gummies.

There is no official dosage recommendation for melatonin. It is generally available in doses ranging from 1mg to 10mg.

It is best to start with the lowest dose. Slowly increase the amount until you find one that works for you. In the studies, the typical dose was 3 mg of melatonin.

Summary

Melatonin is available without a prescription in most grocery stores and drug stores. It is a food supplement. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require the same evidence for the safety and efficacy of supplements as prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

When to take melatonin

Melatonin plays a fundamental role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Therefore, it is important to take it at the right time of day. Your brain produces melatonin naturally from dusk to dawn. Food supplements take about 30 minutes to reach peak blood levels.

Most people take melatonin about an hour before going to bed. However, there are certain conditions under which it is beneficial to take it at a different time.

  • For trouble falling asleep: Take melatonin 30 minutes before bed.
  • For night owls: People with late sleep syndrome may want to take melatonin a few hours before their desired bedtime. For example, if you normally fall asleep at 2 a.m. but want to go to bed at 11 p.m., try taking melatonin at 9 p.m.
  • For early risers: If you have advanced sleep symptoms when you wake up a few hours earlier, try taking it in the morning. This condition is very rare. Consult a sleep specialist before doing this.

What to look for

The FDA does not control how companies make food additives or their quality. Therefore, the purchased dosage may differ from what is written on the label.

A 2017 study looked at 31 melatonin supplements. Melatonin levels range from 83% lower to 478% higher than indicated on product labels. Furthermore, in some cases, different bottles of the same product varied greatly.

That is why it is recommended that you purchase a brand certified by the Consumer Lab or USP.

Summary

Melatonin can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Researchers have tested the supplements on a wide range of people, including children. Research shows that the supplement can help you restore your natural sleep-wake cycle.

Taking melatonin does not cause serious side effects. This is important to healthcare professionals because many prescription sleep medications can cause serious or unpleasant side effects.

Melatonin is sold without a prescription in most supermarkets and pharmacies. However, it is best to speak with your doctor before trying it. This is especially true if you are already taking medications for certain health problems. Melatonin can interfere with the way other medications work in your body.

Get the word of drug information

Lack of sleep can affect your work, school, and your behavior with other people. It can affect your physical and mental health, increasing your risk for depression, obesity, and heart disease.

Melatonin is considered effective and safe for short-term use. Research shows it can help you get the rest you need to stay healthy. If the problem persists, see a sleep specialist.

Frequently asked questions

  • Most of the studies only looked at short-term use. This is from a few days to 13 weeks. There is not enough evidence to know if long-term use of melatonin is safe.

  • There is little research to suggest that melatonin overdose is possible even at very high doses. although some people may be particularly sensitive to it. For example, older adults who naturally have lower levels of melatonin should check with their healthcare professional before taking melatonin. It may be better to stick to relatively low doses.

  • The half-life of melatonin is 20 to 40 minutes. Research has shown that the effects of melatonin peak after one hour.

  • This is possible since caffeine affects natural melatonin. It's best to stick to decaffeinated beverages when taking melatonin to improve sleep.

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