News from CRIS: Trending - Melatonin

August 21, 2023

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the pineal gland in our brain. It helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle, known as the circadian rhythm, which controls when you feel awake and sleepy.

Melatonin production typically increases in the evening as darkness falls, signaling to our bodies that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep.

Why would I need a melatonin supplement?

Our bodies are sensitive to light and produce melatonin based on our exposure to light.

Artificial light, especially the blue light our devices like televisions, smartphones, computers, etc., emit, can disrupt our bodies' natural signaling that triggers the production and release of the hormone melatonin.

Other factors, like shift work and jet lag, can also disrupt this natural process.

If our bodies are not signaling melatonin production, we will have difficulty feeling sleepy and falling asleep. A melatonin supplement may help folks struggling with insomnia to fall asleep.

Is it safe to take melatonin supplements?

The current literature shows that taking supplements containing 0.3mg-5mg of melatonin is safe for short-term use. However, there are supplements on the market containing up to 200mg of melatonin which has NOT been shown to be safe for long-term use (1,2).

Additionally, the supplement market isn't regulated the same way as pharmaceuticals or over-the-counter medications, so there can be massive variability in the doses found in a supplement product.

One study found that melatonin dosages in the melatonin-containing supplements were between −83% to +478% of that listed on the label. Additionally, there were other ingredients like serotonin (a precursor to melatonin production) found in some supplements, which can cause adverse health effects even at low levels (1,2).

Is it safe to give melatonin supplements to children?

It's not recommended to give children melatonin supplements.

The research shows there could be some benefits of low doses of melatonin for neurodivergent children. However, melatonin supplements should only be given under the recommendation and guidance of a state-licensed medical professional (1,2,3,4,5).

Can I take melatonin if I am pregnant or nursing?

Pregnant or nursing people are not recommended to take melatonin as safety hasn't been established.

What are the side effects of melatonin supplements?

The most common side effects of melatonin include,

  • Headache
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness the next day


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