Blog,  Health

Melatonin is Used Increasingly as a Sleep Aid But It Can Have Side Effects!

As a natural sleep aid, many individuals rely on Melatonin. 

Melatonin is a water-soluble complex supplement derived from serotonin and has been touted as a sleep aid for decades now.  However, it has been known to cause certain side effects and although individuals might take it nightly, this is not recommended.  Only short-term use for assistance in treating insomnia is recommended and even this is not a proven fact. While most individuals do not experience any side effects, the most common ones are headache, dizziness, nausea, and stomach upset.  The most troubling side effects of melatonin seem to revolve around the interactions this supplement can have with other drugs, or other existing conditions.  Anyone suffering from depression can find that melatonin is not recommended as it can cause variations in mood and increase anxiety and depression.  This warning is present on all melatonin supplements bottles right on the back or the side of the bottle. 

Melatonin is used to assist in regulating the Circadian Rhythm which is the sleep/wake body cycle.

A major cause of Circadian Rhythm disruption is lack of a regular pattern of sleep.  The pattern of sleep is determined by the daylight that is experienced.  In simple terms, melatonin levels go down during daylight and rise during the darkness, which then leads to sleep.  In some individuals this pattern is thrown off entirely as they can work nights, or swing shifts, or have a habit of staying up too late. Melatonin is also routinely recommended for travelers that experience jet lag as the time differences do impact the body clock.  The blind in society especially experience severe disruption of sleep/wake cycles, as it is always dark for them no matter the time of day.  Many of the blind and those with erratic schedules either use sleeping pills or natural remedies like melatonin that are recommended by their physician. Without adequate light and dark periods, the body cannot produce enough hormone to adjust on its own to the time of day or night. 

This does not mean that melatonin is without risk or side effects. 

Melatonin can be taken orally or even as an injectable.  It comes in pill form, liquid form, and as chewable gummies.  It can even be applied to the skin in some instances for absorption that way if stomach upset occurs.  There is also an intravenous method used by hospitals.  It is sold almost everywhere without a prescription even in grocery stores and at almost all pharmacies and health food stores.  There is an all-natural or “pure” melatonin, and a synthetic, which is generally cheaper in price.   There are cases where it has been taken routinely for up to two years for mild insomnia, but most physicians would not recommend habitual use.  There was some buzz around melatonin having an impact on Covid-19, but this was and still is not proven.  While taking melatonin, it is advised that an individual not drive for at least four to five hours afterward as it does produce drowsiness.  As with any other type of natural or synthetic product effects may diminish as the body becomes used to it, and efficacy will be impaired if taken too long and too many times per week or month.

Many of the adverse side effects are linked to drug interactions and other pre-existing conditions. 

The pre-existing conditions include but are not limited to depression (as discussed above), diabetes, high or low blood pressure, bleeding disorders, seizure disorders and the recipients of organ transplants.  It is not something that someone undergoing chemotherapy should consider as the effects of all medications and the effects of melatonin on a suppressed immune system (which is what chemotherapy does) are unknown entirely.   It is not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women or children of any age.  Some medications interfere with the absorption of melatonin, while others increase the absorption and this leads to taking a supplement that will not be absorbed or effective at all, or at the opposite end, with too much absorption, a supplement that will be overly absorbed and flood the body with its effects.  There also are dosage requirements and varying dosages available and a good way to establish how much melatonin to take, the amount of time to take it, and the best times to take it, is by having a discussion with a physician prior to starting a melatonin regimen. 

Dosage requirements vary according to the intensity of the insomnia and a person’s health.

The dosage requirements are 2-3 mg to start for up to 24 weeks according to WebMD, with requirements for longer usage and explanations provided on this website that has used verifiable studies on melatonin, the side effects, and the dosages.  2-3 mg is a starting point it seems for intermittent insomnia. Individuals that suffer from more established insomnia will be advised for 12 mg and up, with some blind individuals, because of a lack of wake/sleep cycle ability, will be advised to take melatonin in the amounts of up to 20 mgs, with a duration of up to six years or more.  Of course, being blind is chronic and although this is a heavy amount of melatonin, the side effects are outweighed by the absolute inability of a blind individual to establish a Circadian Rhythm.  If all else fails there are prescription drugs on the market as well and a doctor may very well turn to these in an effort to assist a blind person in living a more normal life as they do already suffer enough.  Overall, starting a melatonin regimen should start with advice from a physician.  (Web MD Dosage).