Melatonin is a naturally produced hormone that is gradually released from the pineal gland into the bloodstream. This hormone helps induce sleep and is influenced by light exposure. During the day when we are exposed to sunlight, melatonin production is low, so we can stay alert and active. In the evening, when we are exposed to less light, melatonin increases and we become sleepy.
In recent years, melatonin has become a popular supplement for combating various sleep problems, such as insomnia and jet lag. However, too much melatonin can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle and cause other unpleasant side effects. Therefore, you can experience a melatonin overdose.
Since there are no guidelines set for safe dosing of melatonin, it is easy to take too much. Plus, each person reacts differently to this supplement. A small dose may cause harmful effects for one person, but have little to no effect on someone else.
Throughout this article, we outline some of the effects of a melatonin overdose. We also explain how to naturally increase your melatonin production to avoid the possible unpleasant side effects of this supplement.
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 to lucid dreaming, which may leave you feeling groggy and unrested in the morning.
Without proper sleep, you will likely feel unfocused and irritable throughout the day. Sleep deprivation can also lead to poor immune function, lack of hand-eye coordination, and slower response times.
In addition to sleep loss, the following are the most common symptoms of a melatonin overdose:
- Anxiety and depression
- Joint pain
- Abdominal cramps
- Mild tremors
Melatonin and Various Medications
According to the Mayo 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?
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.
- Unsafe for pregnant women: 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.
- Unsafe for older people: 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.
- Unsafe for young children: 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 suggests that melatonin production is at its highest between 11 p.m. and midnight. After midnight, melatonin production slows. 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 based on your wake-up time.
Increasing our sunlight 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can melatonin cause depression?
There is some evidence 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?
Some medical 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 some evidence 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. 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 can take a supplement or increase your intake of magnesium-rich foods, such as nuts, beans, avocados, and bananas.
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.
Although melatonin supplements may seem like 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.
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.