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Millions of people around the world are having problems with their sleeps, and melatonin seems to be the key that unlocks the whole issue. But everything has two opposite sides, as this amazing supplement does have its adverse effects. So can you overdose on melatonin? And how much melatonin should you use per day?
There are a lot of confusions about using melatonin, right? We are here to help you get a full view of the whole picture because everything you need to know about melatonin is right here!
What is melatonin and what it does in your body?
An overview of melatonin – Is melatonin a hormone?
The pineal gland inside your brain excretes melatonin – a hormone that controls the daily sleep and wake cycles. Along with the amount of sunlight, it promotes the internal clock (or circadian rhythm) of our body every day. In other words, the level of melatonin starts to rise up after the sunset – when we are about to have a long night sleep. It remains high during most of the night, then gradually drops in the morning. This hormonal change forces you to wake up .
What does melatonin do in your body?
A closer look at the melatonin structure reveals that this hormone is built up from a highly lipid soluble compound. After a complicated process inside the pineal gland, it is released into the blood and the cerebrospinal fluid. The nuclear structure allows melatonin to cross the blood-brain barrier. From that, it connects with the receptors agonist in some particular parts of the body to manage the sleep-wake cycle.
So, how long does it take for melatonin to work?
With the similar mechanisms of our natural hormone, the melatonin supplements cause drowsiness after about 30 minutes taking. However, the effectiveness of artificial melatonin is not the same for everyone, as it may be useless if consumed at the wrong time. You need to consult a doctor or pharmacist for the best way to use melatonin.
How many forms of melatonin that available on the market?
In the US, you can purchase this over the counter supplement in the pharmacy without efforts. They are diverse from dosage to forms, which normally range from 1-10 milligrams per product. If the starting of melatonin dosage that you are about to take is just 0.5 milligrams, you can cut a 1-milligram tablet in half to get the dose needed. But it only works with immediately-release melatonin tablet, not for the time-release one.
Here are some forms of melatonin that can be found on the market:
- Liquid (often used for children)
- Sublingual (which is placed under the tongue)
Hearing about liquid form of melatonin for kids, some people may ask “Can you overdose on liquid melatonin?” In fact, the attention of using liquid melatonin is similar to other forms.
The external factors that affect melatonin level
As mentioned above, the production of melatonin is influenced by the amount of light. So, you may wonder how it changes in different seasons when the light time differs.
The answer is, in the winter, the pineal gland produces more melatonin, as the dark time is lengthened. This change may kick you out of the natural sleep routine and cause several disorders of your mood. As a consequence, you may experience down moods, fatigue, dizzy, or angry without any specific reason.
The “artificial” light from the television or smartphones at night reduces the melatonin function, or in other words, stops the melatonin excretion. This fact explains why many people stay up late surfing Facebook are more likely to have a problem with their sleep. Similarly, the elderly also suffer from insomnia as the level of melatonin is unstable due to ages.
Food and dietary supplement
The thing is, there are many other elements that affect the production of melatonin. The Food and Nutrition Research journal claimed that some food contains different amount of melatonin. That is why consuming this food may increase/reduce the amount of melatonin in your blood. You need to be aware of the external melatonin in these foods below:
- Beef and pork
- Grains and rice
- Wine and beer
An amino acid called tryptophan available in these types of food is essential for the synthesis of melatonin. Therefore, if there is lack of tryptophan intake, the production of melatonin will reduce dramatically thus affect your sleep activity.
Some plant-based foods and supplements also contain this hormone with an acceptable amount, so consuming these foods may increase the melatonin level and make you feel sleepy (ex. coffee, wine, and caffeine capsules) .
What is the indication of melatonin?
The natural source of melatonin is the pineal gland. But for some people who are suffering hormonal disorders or some specific conditions, the melatonin supplements is essential. In these cases, they need to use melatonin from the outside (which is made synthetically in the laboratory).
Your doctor will indicate melatonin supplements if you have :
- Jet lag
- Shift-work sleep disorders
- Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS)
- Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Behavior Sleep Disorder (RBD)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Children with autism
We will discuss the particular indication in each case in some parts below.
Can you overdose on melatonin pills?
Well, it is not easy to answer this question. If “overdose” refers to the excessive amount of drug that can harm your body, each person will have their own response to the dose of melatonin intake. While a few milligrams of melatonin could create unwanted effects in some people, others can take up to 100 milligrams but still be fine.
As the dosage threshold that considered safe remains unclear, many countries do not have safety guidelines or dosage recommendations of melatonin.
Another reason is that melatonin is widely used as a dietary supplement or over the counter remedy in most countries including the US. This fact explains why there haven’t been any strict clinical studies about its maximum dosage. Therefore, it is not approved by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) as an effective and safe supplement.
The most common question is: “Can you overdose on melatonin 5mg?” According to experts and physician doctors, you should only take up to 5 milligrams of melatonin per day, or even less if it works well on your body. In fact, the starting of melatonin dosage is pretty much fewer for the treatment of insomnia and some similar issues.
Depends on the particular sleep disorders, you will take a different amount of this hormonal supplement differently.
Can you overdose on melatonin for different diseases?
There are many forms of melatonin. But the most two common usage is the usual pill that can be swallowed with water, while another form is placed under your tongue for a direct absorption. Whichever way you use, please notice the melatonin dosage intake for each condition.
There are several studies provided evidence about the effectiveness of melatonin in jet lag, shift work disorders, DSPS, and RBD, but the results were varied. Therefore, its benefits, dosage, length of treatment period and safety remains a controversial topic among countries.
So, how much melatonin should I take per day? Here is the answer.
Can you overdose on melatonin for jet lag?
This problem is very common in people who have to travel across different time zones frequently. The symptoms of this disorder include fatigue, drowsy, hard to fall asleep and concentration. The more time zones you cross, the more severe the problem is. Besides, if you fly to the east (when the time goes faster), it is more difficult to get used to the changes than flying to the west (when the time is back).
Can you overdose on melatonin pills if use it for jet lag? The recommended starting dose for jet lag is 0.3-0.5 mg. But the suitable dose for each one varies depends on their toleration.
- For people who are traveling to the east, you need to take melatonin half an hour before the new bedtime within at least five days. This melatonin dosage helps you get used to the new sleep routine. Try a lower dose if you feel sleepy in the next morning.
- If your journey is heading the west, it may be not essential to use melatonin. But you still can apply the similar dose as mentioned above if it is hard to fall asleep.
In case there are no melatonin supplements, jet lag still disappears on its own within 3-5 days. But it is not an optimal option as the drowsiness may intervene your work in the first day traveling.
Can you overdose on melatonin for Shift-work sleep disorders?
This condition is very common in people who have to work for all night long or have rotating shift work. They usually feel alert when they supposed to work, and uncomfortable sleep during the daytime. People with this sleep disorder are more likely to experience some mental health problems (such as stress and anxiety) or have risks of traffic accidents due to lack of sleep.
Melatonin is the key to solve the problem here. But can you overdose on melatonin tablets in this case? Do not worry, experts do recommend you to take 1.8-3 mg of melatonin about 30 minutes before the desired onset of sleep (maybe on the daytime). But it will not take responsibility for the alertness during your work shift at night.
Can you overdose on melatonin for Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS)?
Talking about DSPS, it is characterized by a delayed sleep phase of 2 hours or more compared to the conventional routine. As a consequence, a DSPS person will have difficulties in getting up in the next morning at their desired time. For instance, their bedtime is around 1-2 o’clock so they cannot wake up in time for school. Most of the “night owls” say that they feel more alert in the dark than in the daytime .
Melatonin can help you in this condition. To prevent overdose on melatonin, a starting dose of 1mg is recommended 4-6 hours before bedtime. When the new bedtime is reached, reduce half of the dose and take it 2 hours before you sleep. Besides, some particular therapies can enhance the effectiveness, such as bright light therapy or lifestyle management.
Can you overdose on melatonin for rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder (RBD)?
REM is a unique phase of sleep duration, in which the eyes move rapidly in various directions plus with some changes in breath and brain activities. It is considered normal as other physiology activities of the neurological system. But in people with REM sleep disorders (RBD), it is associated with the dream enactment or potentially dangerous behaviors .
Some research on the Sleep journal proved the beneficial aspect of melatonin in reducing RBD clinical behaviors and decreasing the muscle tones during the patient’s sleep. It showed the safety and well tolerability when combined with Clonazepam – the first line treatment of RBD.
Although more clinical evidence is needed to confirm its effectiveness, scientists recommended using melatonin with the starting dose of three milligrams for RBD. Can you overdose on melatonin in this case? The maximum dosage of 12 milligrams still appears beneficial, but there haven’t been any studies about the larger dosage. So, it is essential to consult your doctor before taking melatonin in this condition.
Can you overdose on melatonin for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?
The most common age that shows up the symptoms of ADHD ranges from 6 to 12 years old (when the kids start studying at school). Inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness are the three typical signs of ADHD .
Until now, they use dietary supplements and foods that contain a high amount of zinc and iron to minimize the symptoms of ADHD, as followed the theory that lacking some specific elements in the patient’s diet may worsen the symptoms.
Using melatonin stimulates the patients to fall asleep more easily than let the kids sleep themselves. Thus, it can shorten the time of hyperactivity and support the effectiveness of other treatments. However, whether melatonin decrease the symptoms of ADHD remains unclear due to the lack of related studies.
What are the side effects of melatonin?
Other sleep-supported medications may cause dependency if used for a long-term but melatonin does not. It is the first-line supplement for almost sleep disorders. But is melatonin safe? In fact, there are still some possible negative effects of melatonin in adults, including :
This side effect ranging from moderate to severe levels depends on the amount of melatonin overdose. It may reduce your ability to concentrate on daily activities and raise the risk of drowsiness or anxiety. If you experience an abnormal headache right after taking melatonin, you need to ask for help from your physician as soon as possible.
There are reports of dizziness after consuming melatonin. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) , many patients treated with melatonin complained about light-headed when they stand up suddenly. To explain this symptom, any sudden movement can reduce the blood pressure and melatonin seems to aggravate the effect that causes dizziness.
Nausea and vomiting
Using melatonin at the recommended dose will not trigger your stomach, but an excessive dose does. So how can you overdose on melatonin in this condition? An irritated stomach may cause nausea and vomiting, sometimes result in loss of appetite. This sign is more common in children who took melatonin overdose than usual.
The primary benefit of melatonin is to stimulate the sleep onset, so consuming this supplement might cause unintended drowsiness. You may feel asleep and hard to focus on your daily works or studies for several hours after taking melatonin.
Besides, there might be some mild and short-lasting experiences while using this supplement, such as depression, abdominal cramp, and mild anxiety. Due to the adverse effect of reducing concentration, you should not drive or use any machines for five hours after taking melatonin.
Sometimes, parents use melatonin for kids to set up a sleep-wake routine for their children. In facts, products contain lower-dose of melatonin are found easily in the US health store. There is still lack of studies about the effectiveness and the side effects of melatonin on children, but some common reports consist of:
- Nightmares and dreams
- Seizures (especially in children with neurological problem before)
Melatonin interactions – Who should be careful of consuming this supplement?
- Melatonin might worsen the symptoms of some chronic diseases as it interacts with some type of medications. You need to consult your doctor or avoid using melatonin in these conditions:
- You are under the treatment of blood clotting prevention, or any other types of drugs that lessen the bleeding (which cure deep vein thrombosis). Melatonin may be a potential risk of bruising and bleeding as it slows the blood clotting process.
- You have diabetes. Melatonin increases the blood sugar levels thus affects the effectiveness of blood-sugar-controlling medications.
- If you have a seizure disorder, you should not take melatonin supplements as they increase the chances of seizures.
People who are taking birth control pills have a higher amount of natural melatonin as well as stronger melatonin function. Thus they do not need another external source of this hormone.
- Melatonin should not be taken along with any immunosuppressant drugs (which decrease the human immune system), as they have the opposite benefits.
- If you have high blood pressure and have to use Calcium-Channel-Blocker (CCB) or Angiotensin-Converting Enzymes (ACE) inhibitors, you should avoid melatonin because it interferes the effectiveness of these medications.
The negative effects of melatonin may increase if combined with other types of drugs (such as benzodiazepines, codeine, alcohol, and barbiturates).
- The list of melatonin interactions does not end here, as there are a few more points that you need to notice before using. But it is too hard to remember all of these things, right? That is why you need to be under a strict supervision of experts while using this hormonal supplement.
Safety guideline of using melatonin
Besides the notices of using melatonin above, there are some points that you need to pay attention to when using this over the counter supplement.
Consult your doctor before using
First and foremost, similar to other drugs and supplements, you need to ask your doctor before taking anything.
Melatonin is not a “panacea” to solve every sleep-related disorders, especially when you have some chronic conditions combining (such as diabetes, seizures, or hemophilia).
Your doctor will help you eliminate the risk factors or other severe conditions before indicating the most suitable solution.
Just use the smallest dose that works
Each condition requires its own dosage of melatonin, but the starting dose that works is usually small. However, the pills and tablets on the market are often ten times larger than the suggestion, which increases the unwanted side effects of melatonin on the next day.
So, how can you handle this? How can you prevent overdose on melatonin tablets? If the one that you purchased is in the liquid form, it is quite easy to measure. But for the instant-release pills and tablets, you need to divide them into portions to make sure you take the proper dose.
One thing to remember, the time-release pills are the must-not-divide ones. They are designed with a protective coat to dissolve slowly in your digestive tract, so the pills start working hours after you consume it. Cutting them in portions cannot delay the effect thus causes unwanted sleep when you are not ready for it.
Do not abuse melatonin
Whatever dosage of melatonin you take, experts recommend using it no more than two weeks. Although there haven’t been any severe side effects reported that can threaten your life, it still affects your body natural melatonin levels.
Not only melatonin but for other drugs and supplements as well, you need to ask experts before thinking about using them for a long period.
Plus: Other solutions for a better sleep
Even when you do not use melatonin supplement, you still need to be aware of the importance of melatonin level, as it is the natural hormone that your body releases. If you have an unhealthy lifestyle (staying up late or using smart devices before going to bed), it will delay the production of melatonin, thus causes some potential sleep disorders.
Do not wait until you have to use drugs or supplements to treat your condition; it is essential to building up a healthy sleep routine right now!
Here are some tips to help you do that:
Sleep and wake up at the right time
People usually delay getting up, so they set up a list of about ten alarms which are five minutes apart. The cycle is: the alarm rings then turns off, then rings, then turns off and keeps repeating until the owner wakes up. Most people prefer this actions every morning because they think it provides time to help them get rid of the drowsiness. But it brings up more harm than good, as you may be late for work or your internal clock will be mixed up!
To get out of this endless process, you need to set up only one alarm and stick with it. Wake up right away when you hear the alarm no matter what happens, and do the similar thing with your bedtime. This change will support the natural production of melatonin thus help you sleep easier.
Avoid sleeping in-even
It often happens when you have a day off or on the weekends. People tend to stay up late and delay their wake up for purposes if they think they have reasons for that. “Thank God, tomorrow is Sunday! I can go to sleep whenever I want!” Does it sound familiar to you?
If you can’t deny staying up late, it is better to take a short nap on daytime rather than waking up late on the next morning. Don’t worry; your body will get back to the usual rhythm quickly.
Avoid long napping
Taking a short nap is beneficial to keep yourself alert for the rest of the day. But it is totally different if you spend hours for it. Especially for people with troublesome sleeping, long napping may interfere you from falling asleep. To avoid using melatonin and other supported things, you should only limit the naps to 20 minutes per day.
Keep yourself awake before bedtime
Vice versa, do not go to sleep too early if you feel drowsy after dinner or you may get up at midnight and find it hard to get back your sleep. Try doing something else to fight against the drowsiness, such as cleaning your desk, prepare your clothes for tomorrow, or talking with a friend.
Stay away from light before bedtime
You know why, right? To stimulate the production of melatonin naturally, it is essential to avoid the light from your smartphones, TV, or tablets at least one hour before going to sleep. Besides, make sure to turn off all lamps and use curtains to prevent unwanted light from disturbing your sleep.
Keep a healthy diet
Last but not least, be smart about what you consume every day, especially before going to bed. Avoid these foods before bedtime, or you may have problems with you sleeping: caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, excessive meals and drinks. If hungry, you can eat a few spoons of cereal, yogurt, or low-carbohydrate snack for at least 30 minutes before going to sleep.
FAQs – Frequently Ask Questions
Can you take melatonin while pregnant?
The safety of melatonin, as well as many dietary supplements, has not been studied in pregnant or breastfeeding women. If you have problems with your sleep, it is better to ask your doctors before taking any kinds of supplements.
Which brands of melatonin should I choose?
If you are living in the US, many popular brands provide melatonin products, such as Natural Made, NOW Foods, SleepMate, Nature’s Bounty, or Vitafusion. You can consider the budget and preferred forms of melatonin to pick your favorite.
What if I miss a dose of melatonin?
Well, there is nothing to be worried about. You may experience drowsiness a little bit as before taking this supplement. What you should do is skip the missed dose and continue taking the next dose as usual. Do not double the dose on the next time because it is not necessary to do that.
What if I experience the side effects of melatonin severely?
No matter what you are taking, if there are any suspected symptoms, stop using it immediately and call the Poison Help Line at 1 800 222 1222. It may be not melatonin that caused the severe reaction, but you need medical cares before finding out what is the real reason.
Is melatonin addictive?
Fortunately, unlike other drugs that support sleeping, melatonin does not cause drug dependence because it is a natural hormone of our body
How long does melatonin stay in your system?
There is no exact answer to this question, as there is lack of studies about the lasting effect of melatonin in the human body. But according to some experts, the half-life of melatonin varies from 30 minutes to 2 hours depends on many factors including how long you have used it.
How much does melatonin cost?
Well, the price varies depending on the brands and form of uses. For example, it costs ten dollars for a 120-count bottle. Melatonin has not been covered by the health insurance, so you need to pay on your own.
Here is everything you need to know about melatonin as well as its benefits for some sleep-related disorders. So, can you overdose on melatonin? We hope that you have had your answer after reading this far. In our point of view, melatonin with a proper amount brings up many health benefits not just for sleep issues, but do not abuse it. The less, the better, right?
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