Studies show that melatonin is not only good for helping you sleep, but it also has been found, in laboratory studies using rats and mice, to be an antioxidant, which can help slow the aging process. However, we do not know the long-term consequences of taking melatonin.
Melatonin is hormone naturally found in brain in the pineal gland, which is affected by the light. When there is an absence of light, the pineal gland secretes the natural melatonin, which may make you sleepy. Studies show that the melatonin is not only good for helping you sleep, but it also has been found, in the laboratory studies using rats and mice, to be antioxidant, which can help slow aging process. However, we do not know long-term consequences of taking melatonin.
The concern with taking melatonin is that it is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), because it is considered to be a food supplement and not a medication. By law, the manufacturers are only required to include the distribution address on the container, not the ingredients or how the melatonin was made.
Research studies on melatonin:
- A 2015 study examined zebrafish with a rare mutation that stopped them from producing melatonin. These fish slept very little, even when researchers ensured that they had adequate exposure to darkness.
These findings suggest that the body depends on melatonin, not just changes in light, to help it get to sleep.
- Research consistently shows that melatonin can help people sleep longer and fall asleep more quickly.
A 2013 meta-analysis that included 1,683 study participants found that melatonin decreased the amount of time that it took the participants to fall asleep compared with a placebo. It also increased the duration of their sleep.
- Other research has suggested that melatonin can improve sleep in people with:jet lag,shift work sleep disorder,delayed sleep phase disorder,sleep disorders relating to blindness,sleep issues due to low melatonin in people with multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Usually the people that get more benefit are the elderly, maybe 70 or older, and young patients. That’s because older patients and young children are less likely to produce sufficient melatonin on their own, though it’s important to consult a medical professional before giving a child melatonin.
- There’s still very little research on the melatonin in kids and some concern about how the melatonin might affect development, especially around the puberty.Because the general cue for body to start releasing melatonin is the change from the daylight to darkness, supplements may be essential for the people with circadian disorders related to blindness. It can also help people who need to fall asleep at a time that’s not in sync with their natural clock, like people working a night shift or anyone experiencing jet lag because they have traveled to a new time zone.
What to Know Before You Take Melatonin
Start small and don’t overdo it. Many of the stores sell the supplements that are packed with far more melatonin than body naturally produces. starting with low dose, between 0.2 and 0.5 mg. The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), a supplement trade group, says that the doses should not exceed 10 mg, even though products with higher doses are available.
Get it from a safe source. Supplements aren’t subjected to the same standards set by Food and Drug Administration for safety and efficacy as are over-the-counter and the prescription drugs. That means the supplement makers don’t have to show that their products work. Certain the supplements may contain a higher or lower dose or may have other potentially very dangerous
How does it work?
Melatonin supplements may improve sleep by boosting melatonin levels in people whose bodies do not produce enough of this hormone.
These supplements may also improve sleep in people who produce enough melatonin but still struggle to sleep for other reasons.
Melatonin changes how the body responds to darkness, helping it enter a rhythm of nighttime drowsiness.
Exposure to light at night — including light from computer and television screens — may suppress the body’s natural melatonin production and disrupt sleep.
Likewise, people who sleep during the day because they work at night may not produce melatonin when it is time to sleep. Melatonin supplements can help counteract this effect.
Dosage of Melatonin
The ideal dosage for melatonin varies from person to person. Various factors, such as body weight, metabolism, and overall health, may also influence the way that the body responds to melatonin.
The National Sleep Foundation recommend a dosage of between 0.2 milligrams (mg) and 5 mg for adults each day, which it is best to take 1 hour before going to bed.
People can try starting with a low dose and looking for any adverse side effects. They can then gradually increase the dose until their sleep improves, if necessary. It is very important not to take more than about 5 mg unless a doctor recommends a higher dose.
Side effects of Melatonin
One of the most common side effects of melatonin is drowsiness. Some people may notice that they feel sleepy or groggy the morning after taking melatonin.
Taking melatonin earlier in the evening or reducing the dose may help a person wake up feeling refreshed.
Other possible side effects include:
- In some people with dementia, melatonin may trigger a bad mood.
Although melatonin is a natural chemical, it is important to treat it the same as any other medication. It is possible for melatonin to interact harmfully with other drugs by reducing their effectiveness, triggering negative side effects, or changing the way that the body metabolizes the drug. People who take other medications should talk to a doctor before trying melatonin.
- As with any medication, an allergic reaction is possible. People with a history of allergic reactions to supplements should avoid melatonin.
- Very limited data suggest that melatonin might increase the risk of seizures, but other studies have found that it may actually lower this risk.
- People with seizure disorders or a family history of seizures should consult a doctor before trying melatonin.
Some research involving children also suggests
that melatonin could alter the function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. In turn, this could change how the body produces or metabolizes hormones, potentially affecting the child’s growth. However, this research is inconclusive.
- Short-term studies of melatonin in children show that it is safe, including in children with autism.
Before trying melatonin, parents and caregivers should help a child adopt good sleep practices, such as:
maintaining a regular, predictable sleep routine
scheduling dinner at least 2 hours before bedtime
avoiding caffeine and other stimulant drugs
keeping the sleep environment quiet, dark, and cool
not using screens for at least an hour before bedtime
Choosing the right melatonin dosage for children can be challenging as the drug is a supplement with no approved dosing guidelines. When in doubt, it is best to consult a doctor.
- The authors of a paperon the use of melatonin in Canada noted that typical doses were 0.75 mg to 1 mg in children younger than 6 years, 1.5 mg to 3 mg in older children, and 5 mg to 10 mg in adolescents. It is best for children to take it between 30 and 60 minutes before bedtime.
They also stated that there was no evidence to support the use of melatonin in children younger than 2 years.
- A small 2011 study of children with autism found that a lower dose could be effective. Just 1 mg or 3 mg of melatonin was beneficial for most children in the study.
Although there is no reason to suspect that melatonin might cause long-term harm, no research has established that it is safe to use for extended periods.
For this reason, parents and caregivers should use melatonin for the shortest possible period and consult a doctor before giving their child melatonin or any other supplement.
How Long Can I Use melatonin
Be cautious about long-term use. Studies have shown that melatonin appears to be safe when used for three months or less, according to reviews of research and the NIH. But a lack of long-term studies means we don’t know if long-term use is safe. Over one-third of respondents in our survey said they’d been taking a supplement for sleep for a year or longer.
Talk to a doctor about sleep problems. Whether melatonin helps you, you should consult your doctor if you’ve had trouble sleeping for three months or longer, according to Rodriguez. “The longer insomnia goes, the more difficult it is to treat,” he says.
Sleep difficulties are common. While some people only experience occasional sleeplessness, others deal with chronic sleep problems. Melatonin offers a natural solution that mimics the hormone that the brain already produces. For many people, melatonin is an effective alternative to prescription medications for sleep. However, people should treat melatonin the same as any other medication and carefully watch for side effects.