Can You Overdose On Melatonin?

Can You Overdose on Melatonin? — PCSI

Can You Overdose On Melatonin?

Expert Insights from Dr. Luis Javier Peña-Hernández, MD, FCCP, a lung health specialist at PCSI, the largest integrated pulmonary and chest specialty group in Palm Beach County.

People who experience sleep problems often turn to some form of aid for help. Melatonin supplements are a popular choice since they are sold over-the-counter and marketed as a natural way to help you get better sleep.

“Many people turn to melatonin as an over-the-counter solution to their sleep problems. Although it is available as an OTC medication, it is wise for people to consult with their doctor before taking melatonin. Your doctor can help you understand dosage guidelines and avoid adverse effects from other medications you’re taking,” says Dr. Peña-Hernández.

But just because the body naturally produces melatonin anyways doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe to administer at your own will. In this article, we’ll review how melatonin works and the potential dangers of overdosing on melatonin.

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced in our bodies by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin production is regulated by exposure to light sources—it is secreted when the sun goes down and causes the feeling of sleepiness. This is how melatonin helps regulate our circadian rhythms otherwise known as our natural body clock.

Melatonin is responsible for maintaining normal sleep-wake cycles in humans. Melatonin levels rise during the night—allowing us to fall asleep. These increased levels of melatonin remain throughout the night to keep you asleep, then drop in the morning with the rising of the sun so that you wake up.

While this hormone is produced naturally in our bodies, melatonin can also be found in small doses in some fruits and vegetables. Aside from this, it’s also available in a dietary supplement form.

Why People Take Melatonin Supplements

Melatonin available in supplement form is made synthetically in a lab and sold as holistic medicine. It can be taken as a pill or quick dissolve tablet, and is used to treat a variety of sleep disorders such as jet lag, shift work sleep disorder, and sleep deprivation.

Melatonin supplements may also be used to treat insomnia related to traumatic brain injuries, ADHD, and sleep issues in children with autism, cerebral palsy, and other developmental disabilities.

Some people even use melatonin supplements to help improve sleep after stopping benzodiazepine use and smoking cigarettes. Some find relief using melatonin supplements when suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and insomnia caused by beta-blocking medications.

While it’s important to always consult with your doctor before taking any new supplements, melatonin can generally be taken by those who have high blood pressure, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), chronic fatigue, migraines, and a variety of other health conditions. Sometimes cancer patients use melatonin to help prevent some of the side effects of chemotherapy.

Melatonin Dosage

The correct dosage of melatonin relies greatly on the age of the person taking it, how healthy they are, and the reason they are taking it. If melatonin is being used to treat insomnia, jet lag, or to adjust a circadian rhythm, the standard dose ranges from 0.3 milligrams up to 5 milligrams.

Since melatonin supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), supplements have various dosages per pill. Sometimes they can have ten times the recommended dose in one pill.

It is also difficult to determine if the amount of melatonin per dose advertised on a bottle is truly what is being ingested since it’s not regulated by the FDA.

One study examined the actual dosage of 31 different melatonin supplements and found that 70% of them contained either more or less melatonin than what was advertised.

They even found variability in melatonin amounts between lots of the same product—the worst case had variation by as much as 465%.

This can be a bit scary, especially if using melatonin for a child. If you are concerned about overdosing on melatonin, it’s recommended that you purchase pharmaceutical-grade melatonin online as the dosage is more ly to be reliable. It’s also recommended that first-time melatonin users take the lowest dose possible, and work their way up to the correct dosage in 0.5-milligram increments.

Can You Overdose on Melatonin?

When it comes to the question concerning whether or not you can overdose on melatonin, the answer is yes and no. There has never been a case reported of anyone dying from too much melatonin, or even becoming seriously ill, so no, you cannot really overdose in the fatal sense.

On the other hand, you can certainly take too much melatonin, which can produce adverse side-effects you ly want to avoid. If you are worried about whether or not you have taken too much melatonin, take a look at the warning signs and symptoms of taking larger doses of melatonin than recommended and adjust your intake accordingly.

“Taking too much melatonin can lead to adverse effects such as headaches, depression, anxiety, pain, irritability, and grogginess,” says Dr. Peña-Hernández.

Signs of Melatonin Overdose

Common side effects of melatonin overdoses include:

  • Daytime grogginess
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Irritability
  • Joint pain
  • Dizziness
  • Low body temperature

Taking too much melatonin can have a wide range of harmful effects. Melatonin overdoses can lower the sperm count and libido of men, and affect estrogen and progesterone hormone levels in women. Some also suggest that melatonin can affect the ovulation and menstrual cycles for women as well.

Taking too much melatonin can cause a person to be more awake than they would be normally—producing the opposite effect of what was originally intended (if taking it as a sleep aid). Excess melatonin may also cause a person to feel incredibly tired during times that they wish to be awake, and may cause intense dreams and/or nightmares.

“Long-term melatonin overdose can cause hormonal imbalances in the body, especially as it relates to women’s levels of estrogen and progesterone,” says Dr. Peña-Hernández.

How to Treat a Melatonin Overdose and When to Talk to a Doctor

Melatonin is relatively safe, but there are some dangers associated with taking too much. Depending on the severity of symptoms, a person may need to call 911 if they’ve taken large amounts of melatonin and are experiencing chest pain, extremely high blood pressure, or shortness of breath.

A melatonin overdose can typically be waited out, or one may find relief from calling their doctor to seek medical advice. If a person is taking other medications, it’s most certainly important to speak with a doctor.

In fact, it’s recommended that you speak with a doctor before taking a melatonin supplement to avoid any unpleasant drug interactions. It’s also recommended that pregnant women discuss the use of melatonin with their doctors before taking it.

The good news is that the effects of melatonin are short-term, and there should be no long-term side effects that result from taking too much. But still, we are not doctors and the only medical advice we can offer is to content licensed healthcare professionals when you are concerned about your health, well-being, and safety.

Melatonin Drug Interactions

Melatonin can react negatively with other medications, so it’s imperative to speak with a doctor before taking melatonin if you are on any sort of prescription medication. The main drugs that melatonin interacts negatively with are sedatives (CNS depressants), blood thinners anticoagulants, birth control pills (contraceptives), steroids, diabetes medications, and immunosuppressants.

Blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants) can be dangerous when paired with melatonin as it has a chance of increasing the risk of bleeding. Melatonin can also make blood pressure and diabetes medications less effective. Melatonin may also make steroids and immunosuppressant drugs less effective, and so it is not recommended that melatonin be taken when on these medications.

Women who are taking birth control pills may not benefit from taking melatonin, as many of these hormonal contraceptives already increase the body’s natural melatonin levels, and so taking a supplement may cause excessive drowsiness.

Other medications, such as those that prevent seizures (anticonvulsants) may also become less effective when taking melatonin. If a person with epilepsy who is on medication to treat it decides to take melatonin, it could actually increase the risk of having a seizure.

Is Melatonin Safe for Children?

If you’re considering giving melatonin to a child, it’s best to speak to a doctor ahead of time to rule out any unwanted side effects or drug interactions that may occur. Melatonin is relatively safe for children so long as the dose is appropriate.

However, the risks of a melatonin overdose are more severe for children, so should a child experience some of the more intense side effects of too much melatonin, medical attention should be sought immediately. It’s also not recommended to give melatonin to a child whose sleep issues are situational.

A trip to the pediatrician is a good idea when your child is having any sort of trouble sleeping in order to rule out any medical conditions, such as an ear infection. It may also help to examine your child’s bedtime habits.

Some studies have suggested that using melatonin during childhood may delay the onset of puberty. These studies have only been conducted on animals thus far, and there is yet to be substantial proof showing this is the case for children. However, you can never be too safe.

Natural Sources of Melatonin

As previously stated, melatonin can be found naturally in a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains. Such natural sources of melatonin include:

  • Tart cherries
  • Corn
  • Asparagus
  • Grapes
  • Olives
  • Pomegranate
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Bananas
  • Ginger
  • Radishes
  • Rice
  • Rolled oats
  • Barley
  • Peanuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseed
  • Mustard seed
  • Red wine

Sourcing your melatonin naturally through the foods you eat may be a safer alternative to unregulated supplements.

Summary: Can you overdose on melatonin?

Because melatonin supplements are not regulated by the FDA and there are no strict guidelines on dosage, taking melatonin can be dangerous. Melatonin can also have adverse interactions with a wide range of medications. Although melatonin is an over-the-counter drug, it’s best to speak with your doctor before taking it to rule out any dangers.

If you have taken too much melatonin, you may notice signs such as excessive daytime grogginess, headaches, dizziness, or mood problems. Anytime you experience adverse reactions to a medication, it’s important to promptly consult with a healthcare professional.

For safer alternatives to melatonin supplements, you can source your melatonin through fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains. You may also be interested in other sleep remedies such as taking a warm bath or using essential oils. If sleep problems persist, speaking with a sleep specialist may help you get to the root of your problems.

If you’re interested in learning more about the best ways to get a better night’s rest, check out our sleep remediesresources or other sleep resources.

It may also be a good time to start considering investing in a new mattress and pillow suited for your own unique sleep preferences and support needs. You can start by taking our mattress quiz to find out the best type of mattress for you, and check out our mattress buying guides to learn more about the best mattresses on the market today that fit your desired firmness, support, and more.

Read more here


Can You Overdose on Melatonin?

Can You Overdose On Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone produced by all mammals that plays a significant role in the regulation of sleep and circadian rhythms. Dubbed the “sleep hormone,” melatonin is formed in the brain’s pineal gland in response to falling light levels to prepare the body for sleep.

In recent years, synthetic melatonin supplements marketed to treat a variety of sleep disorders have become ubiquitous. From 2007 to 2012, melatonin use in the U.S. doubled and it now ranks as one of the nation’s most popular supplements. Its popularity stems in part from its image as a natural alternative to traditional sleep medications, which are known for side effects.

Although melatonin supplements are considered “natural,” this does not necessarily mean they are harmless. Categorized as a dietary supplement by the Food and Drug Administration, melatonin regulation is loose in the U.S. and does not require the extensive research that prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids must undergo to earn access to consumers.

While those struggling to sleep may be desperate to do as much as possible to get shut-eye, more is not always better. It is important to be aware of the safety risks posed by taking too much melatonin.

How Much Melatonin Is Safe to Take?

Melatonin is available to purchase in any quantity, without a prescription in the U.S. However, there is currently no formal consensus on the optimal dosing regimen for this supplement.  Studies frequently use doses ranging from 0.1 to 10 milligrams, but 2 to 3 milligrams is often considered  an appropriate amount to start.

There are many challenges to determining the appropriate amount of melatonin for any one person to take. Individual responses to this supplement can vary considerably due to factors that are not fully understood but can include age, gender, specific sleep issues, other health conditions, and timing of administration.

In addition, not all melatonin supplements are created equal. Differences in preparation can significantly alter melatonin’s impact. Depending on the formulation, taking 1 to 10 milligrams of melatonin can raise the body’s melatonin blood levels anywhere from 3 to 60 times the normal amount.

Melatonin users should also be wary of the dosages listed on supplement labels, which have shown to be alarmingly inaccurate.

A random sampling  of 31 brands of melatonin supplements determined that most did not contain the labeled dose, with the actual amount ranging anywhere from less than 80% to nearly 500% as much.

Additionally, over one quarter of the supplements contained serotonin. Consumers should look for products labeled United States Pharmacopeial Convention Verified for the most reliable formulation.

Despite the lack of data and variability around dosing regimens, with typical use, melatonin is largely considered safe and is generally well-tolerated in healthy adults. The risk of side effects is low, but can include mild headache, dizziness, nausea, and sleepiness.

So far, there is no clinical evidence that short-term melatonin use can cause long-term problems in healthy adults. It is important to note, however, that high-quality studies addressing this topic are lacking. The current body of evidence consists mostly of small studies and case reports.

In one study, 12 adult males were administered intravenous melatonin in doses of 10 milligrams, 100 milligrams, or a placebo.

There were no reported differences in sedation among the groups, and there were no harmful reactions. A second study gave five patients 1,000 milligrams of oral melatonin for approximately four weeks.

  While changes in pituitary hormones were observed, no toxic effects were reported.

Between 2000 and 2001, three case reports documented people who were admitted to emergency rooms for suicide attempts involving melatonin, each taking between 60 to 150 milligrams. Two of the individuals also took pharmaceutical drugs and alcohol with the melatonin. Minimal side effects were reported, and each person was discharged without issue after receiving appropriate care.

What Are the Symptoms of a Melatonin Overdose?

It is important to note that just because a supplement is unly to be lethal, that does not mean that unwanted or troubling side effects cannot occur. Concerning symptoms have been reported with higher doses of melatonin.

Possible symptoms of too much melatonin include:

  • Headache
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Worsening of alopecia areata (an autoimmune disorder causing hair loss)

Because melatonin can affect the cardiovascular, dermatologic, and central nervous systems, those with other conditions may be vulnerable to additional risks.

Evidence suggests that melatonin supplementation may induce depression, particularly in people predisposed to or currently experiencing this malady.

Research on this topic, however, is conflicting, since some studies have demonstrated the potential for melatonin to treat depression.

People taking blood thinners, warfarin, and benzodiazepines should be careful, as there is a possibility for interaction. Those with epilepsy should also exercise caution, as melatonin has been associated with increased seizures.

Research suggests that elderly people, who have lower natural levels of melatonin, may be more sensitive to the effects of melatonin supplements. Therefore, older people are encouraged to check with their doctor before taking melatonin and start with the lowest possible dose.

What Do I Do If I’m Experiencing Symptoms of a Melatonin Overdose?

Compared with most other sleep aids, melatonin clears the body quickly, and its effects are short-lasting.

If you are experiencing unwanted symptoms after taking melatonin, you can most ly just wait it out as your body processes the drug. However, when in doubt, it’s always a good idea to seek professional advice.

Don’t hesitate to contact your doctor or local poison control for guidance on managing worrisome symptoms or determining whether you need medical care.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Taking Melatonin?

Minimal research exists on using melatonin beyond a few months. Therefore, there is much we don’t know about its long-term effects. There is not even agreement on what constitutes long-term melatonin use.

Most of the concern around taking melatonin for extended periods centers around it’s potential to affect reproductive hormones. While the exact mechanism of action is still unclear, some reports indicate that melatonin may inhibit reproductive hormones.

When Should I Talk With a Doctor?

While melatonin is largely viewed as safe, it is not without risk. Perhaps the most significant risk is what we don’t know about this supplement.

While you’re unly to cause any serious damage using melatonin, it’s best to proceed with caution.

Seeing a doctor for an accurate diagnosis of a sleep condition and determining whether melatonin is suitable for your situation can save you precious time and energy.

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What are the Symptoms of a Melatonin Overdose?

People turn to melatonin supplements to promote sleep and keep their sleep-wake cycle intact. However, too much melatonin in your system can make sleep harder to come by and disrupt your natural sleep schedule. Once you do fall asleep, the excess of melatonin in your body can lead tolucid dreaming, which may leave you feeling groggy and unrested in the morning.

Without proper sleep, you will ly feel unfocused and irritable throughout the day. Sleep deprivation can also lead topoor immune function, lack of hand-eye coordination, andslower response times.

In addition to sleep loss, the following are the most commonsymptoms of a melatonin overdose.

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint pain
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Mild tremors

Melatonin and Various Medications

According to theMayo Clinic, a melatonin supplement could interfere with the effectiveness of certain medications and lead to other complications.

  • Blood pressure medications: Blood pressure medications, such as beta-blockers, inhibit the body’s natural ability to produce melatonin. However, taking a melatonin supplement could lead to other complications.
  • Anticonvulsants (antiseizure): Excessive melatonin in the body could render epilepsy drugs ineffective at mitigating seizures.
  • Anticoagulant (blood thinner): Taking melatonin with a blood thinner, such as Coumadin, could put you at risk of excess bleeding.
  • Diabetes medications: High levels of melatonin in the blood could make it difficult for diabetes medications to control blood sugar.
  • Immunosuppressant: Melatonin supplements may block the effects of immune response suppressors, such as corticosteroid, which are used to control symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune diseases, such as lupus.

Caffeine and certain sedatives may also cause adverse effects when combined with a melatonin supplement. Caffeine and high levels of melatonin may interfere with the body’s natural hormone production. Combining sedatives and melatonin supplements has been shown to cause extreme drowsiness and fatigue.

Should I Take Melatonin Supplements?

“Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by our bodies to regulate circadian rhythm. It plays a crucial role in our sleep-wake cycle and induction of sleep.

When sleep is disrupted or irregular our primary approach should be to re-establish sleep hygiene in order to restore melatonin levels.

In the absence of proper sleep hygiene melatonin supplementation can mask or worsen the underlying issue,” says Dr. David Gao, a senior pharmacist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Due to the potential health risks that come with taking melatonin, we suggest avoiding the supplement altogether. In addition to the serious side effects listed above and the potentially harmful drug interactions, melatonin supplementation should also be avoided for the following reasons:

  • Dosage is unregulated: These supplements are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, because melatonin is considered a dietary supplement, dosing is not regulated in the same way prescription or over-the-counter medications are. Therefore, there are no approved dosing guidelines.
  • Risk of an allergic reaction: For those with allergies or other sensitivities, a melatonin supplement, particularly the additives, could cause an allergic reaction.
  • Safety not established in pregnancy: Medical research on the effects of melatonin supplements are still new, and there is not enough evidence to suggest that it is safe for pregnant or nursing women.
  • Precaution in older people advised: Early research shows that melatonin stays active in older people longer than in younger people. Taking melatonin before bed could lead to daytime sleepiness for older individuals. There is also some evidence that suggests melatonin supplementation could be harmful to those with dementia.
  • Long term safety lacking: Although there is very little evidence on the effects of melatonin specifically on children, some experts believe that melatonin supplements can impact natural hormone development, which, in turn, impacts puberty and growth.
  • May contain dangerous additives: Because regulations on dietary supplements are not as strict, they may contain other additives that could interfere with sleep and lead to unwanted side effects.

How To Naturally Increase Melatonin Production

Instead of relying on a melatonin supplement to promote a healthy sleep-wake cycle, it’s much safer and more effective to naturally increase your body’s melatonin production. Below, we offer tips on how to raise melatonin levels and get a good night’s sleep.

Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Our natural melatonin production is linked to the rising and setting of the sun. Sunlight exposure keeps melatonin levels low, while darkness triggers it, so we can relax and find sleep at the end of the day.

Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day will keep you in tune with your circadian rhythm and help you maximize the quality of your sleep. Over time, your body will become accustomed to this routine and you will find sleep much easier to come by.

Research by the National Institute of Health suggests that melatonin production is at its highest in the middle of the night (between 2 and 4 a.m.) and falls in the second half of the night Therefore, sleep is often easier and more natural before 11 p.m. Staying up too late and sleeping in opposition with the natural circadian rhythms can lead to a hormonal imbalance that makes it difficult to fall asleep and experience deep sleep.

You also want to ensure that your wake up time stays consistent and that you are getting at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep. If your work schedule dictates that you need to wake up at 7 a.m., you should aim to be asleep between 9 and 10 p.m. You can also use a sleep calculator to determine your best bedtime your wake-up time.

Sunlight Exposure

Increasing oursunlight exposure can reinforce our sleep schedule. Exposing yourself to sunlight in the morning helps to advance your internal clock and slow melatonin production so you can feel alert and focused.

With more exposure to natural light during the day, the effects of darkness in the evening will be more pronounced. This drastic shift will naturally increase melatonin production in the evening and help you fall asleep much quicker.

Reduce Blue Light Exposure at Night

The blue light from our electronic screens can often mimic sunlight. Using our devices before bed can trick the mind into thinking it is still daytime, causing melatonin to slow and cortisol to increase. When this happens, it can be difficult to sleep. Therefore, it is a good idea to avoid blue light for at least 2 hours before bed.

Reducing the light population in your sleep space and keeping it as dark as possible can also help increase your melatonin levels so you can sleep soundly.

Eat Foods Rich in Melatonin

Foods rich in melatonin can also help improve sleep. Fruits and vegetables such as bananas, spinach, tomatoes, and cherries all contain melatonin. Honey, almonds, and oats also encourage melatonin production in the body. If you need a small snack before bed, reaching for one of these foods will help promote rest and relaxation.

Can melatonin cause depression?

There is someevidence from the NIH to suggest that increased levels of melatonin can lead to depression and anxiety. However, because of the complex relationship between sleep deprivation and anxiety, it is unclear whether the supplements themselves triggered depression or if it was caused by the sleep loss brought on by the supplement.

Does melatonin work for night shift workers?

Somemedical research has been done on the effects of melatonin on those who work night shifts. These early studies do not show an improvement in sleep quality once melatonin is introduced. Although night shift workers are sleeping and working at odd hours, they can benefit from maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.

Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day will help night shift workers get a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep and regulate their melatonin production.

Can melatonin cause you to hallucinate?

There is no research suggesting melatonin supplementation causes hallucinations. However, evidence shows that high doses of melatonin can cause vivid dreams during sleep. This may be an effect of the supplement or the increase in REM sleep.

Does melatonin suppress appetite?

There is someevidence to suggest melatonin supplementation helped balance appetite-related peptides (amino acid chains).

 When melatonin was taken in conjunction with a weight-loss regimen and with a doctor’s guidance, patients experienced fewer hunger spikes throughout the day.

However, research is inconclusive as to whether the melatonin supplement would be able to control appetite without a strict diet and exercise routine. If you are interested in melatonin as an appetite suppressant, we recommend discussing it with your doctor first.

What is the best all-natural sleep aid?

Magnesium is essential for heart health and brain function. However, it can also promote sleep and relaxation.

Some National Library of Medicine studies show that magnesium helps regulate melatonin levels and has a calming effect on the mind and body.

To enjoy the benefits of magnesium, you should first increase your dietary intake of magnesium-rich foods, such as nuts, beans, avocados, and bananas. Supplementation has been shown to be beneficial as well.

Essential oils such as lavender, jasmine, and vanilla have also been shown to promote rest. You can place a few drops of these oils in a diffuser to disperse the scent throughout your bedroom.

You can also place a few drops on the inside of your wrist or rub a small amount on your temples before bed.

Be sure to read your labels to verify the source and quality of essential oils when shopping.


Although melatonin supplements may seem a quick fix for insomnia, they can actually have the opposite effect. With the difficulty in dosing this supplement and the inconsistent results, it’s hard to know how your body will react to even a low dose of melatonin. Therefore, we suggest using safer, more natural ways to promote sleep.


Can You Overdose on Melatonin — Side Effects and Dosages | Tuck Sleep

Can You Overdose On Melatonin?

If you’ve ever gone through a b insomnia, you probably have a bottle of melatonin sitting in your medicine cabinet. It’s available without a prescription, it’s inexpensive, and some studies suggest that it can be an effective sleep aid for some people.

But how much should you take? The truth is, probably a lot less than you think.

And while there’s no evidence that taking large doses of melatonin can be life-threatening, it can definitely cause unwanted side effects.

And taking too much melatonin on a regular basis can cause rebound insomnia, meaning not only doesn’t the melatonin work anymore, but it can actually make your sleep problems worse.

So the short answer to the question is, no, you can’t overdose on melatonin. But you can have some very unpleasant side effects if you take too much.

What’s the correct dose of melatonin?

There’s a lot of variation in what is considered a healthy dose of melatonin, and how much you should take depends on your age, how healthy you are, and what you’re using it for.

If you’re taking it for insomnia, to adjust your circadian rhythm, or to combat jet lag, the standard dose for adults is anywhere from .3 milligrams to 5 milligrams.

The problem is that many melatonin supplements can have 10 times that amount in just one pill.

Another thing to think about: Because melatonin is considered a dietary supplement, it isn’t as strictly regulated by the FDA as prescription and over-the-counter drugs. So there’s no way to be sure that you’re actually getting what the label says you’re getting.

A study that analyzed the melatonin content in 31 melatonin supplements purchased at pharmacies and grocery stores found that 70 percent of the supplements tested had more or less melatonin than what was advertised. One chewable melatonin tablet labeled as 1.5 milligrams actually contained almost 9 milligrams.

That’s a little scary — especially if you’re thinking about giving melatonin to a child. Some experts suggest buying pharmaceutical-grade melatonin online, as the dosage is ly to be more reliable.

Melatonin safety tips

If you’re using melatonin for the first time, it’s always a good idea to start out at the lowest dose and work your way up in .5 milligram increments until you find the dose that works for you. You may find that .3 milligrams is all it takes to improve your sleep.

Because melatonin doesn’t go to work as quickly as prescription sleep aids, you’ll need to take it at least an hour before you want to go to bed. And don’t expect the effects to be as pronounced — it might not make you feel very drowsy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not working.

One advantage of melatonin over other sleep aids is that when taken correctly, it doesn’t cause “sleep inertia” — that groggy, hungover feeling you sometimes get the day after you’ve taken a sleep aid.

Signs you’ve taken too much melatonin

As mentioned above, there haven’t been any reported cases of people dying — or even getting seriously ill — from an overdose of melatonin. But it can have some nasty side effects if you take too much.

Side effects from a too-large dose of melatonin include:

  • Daytime grogginess
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Stomach cramps
  • Irritability

In men, using too much melatonin on a regular basis may decrease libido and lower sperm count. In women, large doses of melatonin can affect reproductive hormone levels, including estrogen and progesterone.

While there hasn’t been much research on the topic, there are some concerns that melatonin use may interfere with menstrual cycles and ovulation.

If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, talk to your doctor before taking melatonin.

Can melatonin interact with other substances?

It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting melatonin if you’re taking any prescription medications.

The following list of medications may interact negatively with melatonin:

  • Blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants): Melatonin may increase risk of bleeding.
  • Blood pressure drugs: Melatonin may make them less effective.
  • Diabetes medications: Melatonin may affect blood sugar and make these drugs less effective.
  • Birth control pills: Hormonal contraceptives increase your body’s natural levels of melatonin, so adding more may cause drowsiness.
  • Steroids and immune-suppressing drugs: Melatonin may make these medications less effective. Do not take melatonin with corticosteroids or other immunosuppressants.
  • Medications to prevent seizures (anticonvulsants): Melatonin might make them less effective, increasing the risk of seizures in some people.

Because melatonin has a sedative effect, it may not be a good idea to take it with other things that can make you sleepy, such as opioid painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, or alcohol.

Is melatonin habit-forming?

One upside to using melatonin is that you’re not ly to become dependent on it, which can happen with prescription sleep aids. However, taking high doses for a long period of time can have the opposite of the desired effect — it will keep you up instead of helping you sleep.

Is melatonin safe for children?

A lot of parents turn to melatonin when their child is having trouble sleeping. But how safe and effective is it really?

Studies have found that melatonin can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep in children with sleep problems — especially children with ADHD, autism, and other neurological disorders. However, there isn’t much evidence that melatonin is helpful for children who wake in the night and can’t get back to sleep.

And melatonin isn’t the best strategy if your child’s sleep problems are situational — i.e. caused by something that’s happening in their life — and haven’t been going on for very long. In these cases, it’s best to start with behavioral changes before you try melatonin.

While it seems not to have any short-term health risks, there just hasn’t been enough research of melatonin use in children to determine whether it has any long-term health risks.

Some animal studies suggest that melatonin may delay puberty.

While there’s currently no evidence that the same thing can happen in human children, we can’t rule out the possibility until more studies have been done.

Before you give your child melatonin, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with their pediatrician to make sure their sleep problems aren’t being caused by illness ( an ear infection) or some other underlying health issue ( sleep apnea). And before using melatonin, first take a look at your child’s bedtime habits. Sometimes a few small tweaks to the bedtime routine can make a big difference.

The bottom line

If you use melatonin to help you sleep, you can rest assured that even if you take way too much, it isn’t going to kill you (although you’ll probably regret it the next day).

It’s generally safe for short-term use, non-habit-forming, and studies show that it does have some benefit as a sleep aid. But as with any medication or supplement, it’s best to take the smallest dose that’s effective for you to minimize side effects.

And if you have a health condition or are taking prescription medications, you should talk to your doctor before you start taking it.

Additional Resources

Melatonin and Sleep
10 Tips to Help You Fall Asleep Faster


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