Sleep Resources

Can You Overdose on Melatonin?

Melatonin is a popular, natural supplement that can aid in getting a good night's sleep. This guide outlines how to use it safely!

By Madison Muire

You may be used to thinking of prescription sleep aids when you have trouble falling asleep. Maybe even sedatives!

However, you may not need to go to such extremes. There is a natural hormone called melatonin produced in the body that helps you go to sleep a night. It is an all-natural and often very effective, many people gravitate to melatonin supplements to help them fall asleep. 

Melatonin has become particularly popular among people who have trouble sleeping, such as those who suffer from jet lag or work shifts at night. The hormone can help them to fall asleep and stay asleep. It also often works on people with circadian rhythm disorders, such as night owls or the blind. 

Is Melatonin Safe For Me?

It bodes well that melatonin is a natural hormone. However, that doesn’t mean that it is always safe. There is an old saying that “the dose makes the poison.” What this means is that a substance may be safe for you at one dose but be toxic at a higher one. This is true for melatonin, although there are no reports of anyone dying from this sleep aid. 

Technically, you can overdose on melatonin. Unwanted side effects are normally mild and can include irritability, headache, upset stomach, low blood pressure, dizziness, and depression and anxiety. You can also feel hungover in the morning if you took too much.

Melatonin Can Be Dangerous Mixed with Prescription Drugs

Side effects can be much more severe when prescription drugs come into the mix. The Mayo Clinic provides an extensive list of prescriptions that can interact with melatonin.

It is always a good idea to talk to your doctor before you start taking a new supplement. This is especially true if you take prescription drugs. Birth control pills can cause your body to make more melatonin, so you can reach unsafe levels more quickly if you take it as a supplement. Melatonin can also affect blood pressure medication and cause your blood pressure to spike. It can increase the effects of blood thinners like Coumadin and cause you to bleed excessively. You should also avoid melatonin if you take steroids for lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

You should seek medical help if you take melatonin and experience sudden chest pain, shortness of breath, or blood pressure that is extremely high (180/120 or higher).

Is Melatonin Safe for Children?

The jury is still out on whether it’s a good idea to routinely give melatonin to young children. It has been reported that children can suffer from seizures if given too high a dose. However, some children, such as those who are autistic or suffer from certain neuromuscular disorders, can benefit from taking melatonin. If you do give your child melatonin, be extremely careful with the dose and closely follow your pediatrician’s recommendation.

What are Safe Doses of Melatonin?

Since melatonin affects people differently, it can be hard to predict the perfect dose for you. In addition to differences in metabolism, weight and age can also be factors that can affect how much of a drug you need. Doctors always advise starting at the lowest possible dose of melatonin to see if it is effective and only transitioning to a higher dose if the lower dose doesn’t work. Three-milligrams are often considered to be an effective dose. However, adult doses range between 0.2 mg and 5 mg.

You should take the dose an hour before you want to go to sleep. If you are treating jet lag, you should take the melatonin an hour before you want to go to sleep for up to 4 days after your flight.

What Should I Look for When Buying Melatonin?

In the US, supplements are woefully under-regulated. There is no law that supplements have to be the dosage state on the bottle or even contain what they say they do on the label! It is common that brands of melatonin contain levels up to 10-times higher than what is stated on the label. 

However, there is a way to make sure that you are getting the amounts of melatonin that the bottle promises. Look for the USP gold seal on the bottle. These are the initials of an organization that tests supplements to make sure that their labels say what they are.

Does Melatonin Work for You?

If this supplement works for you, great! However, if you are still having sleep problems, you may need to see a sleep specialist. They may be able to solve your problems by reducing your caffeine or alcohol intake. 

While sleep problems may seem impossible to cure, melatonin has helped many people to sleep well and is considered a wonder drug by those it helps.


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