Melatonin is an excellent sleeping supplement for insomnia. However, how much melatonin can you take every night? Does melatonin have a dosage? If one takes an overdose of melatonin, what happens? And does melatonin as a sleeping aid have any side effects?
How much melatonin can I take?
Melatonin as a sleeping supplement should be taken at least half (½) an hour before going to bed. The right dose is 0.3 to 5 mg tablet or capsule either alone in a combination every night. However, the lesser the amount of melatonin that is taken for insomnia the better for you. In most cases, melatonin is sold as an anti-oxidant.
In some supplements like in Lunar Sleep aid, it is used in combination with other supplements for optimal sleep. The combination of several supplements enables the product to use less amounts of melatonin and other supplements but leveraging on the combination for better effects.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a normal body hormone produced in the pineal gland. This gland which is positioned adjacently to the top of the middle of the human brain. It is normally pea sized. The hormone is very useful in regulating sleep-wakefulness cycle.
The brain therefore produces more melatonin during night time to enable the person to have optimal sleep. The gland produces melatonin depending on the amount of light we get every day. In this regard, the body start producing elevated levels of the hormone as the sun is setting and the amount reduces significantly once the sun rises. The amount of melatonin produced is also regulated by the body sleep-wake clock.
The melatonin used for treatment of insomnia is either derived from the amount produced by pineal gland or is synthetically made. Melatonin for the purpose of treatment is available in liquid, tablet, lozenges, creams and sublingual form. The melatonin supplements are used to increase the levels of the hormone in the blood for good sleep.
How long should I take melatonin for?
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the body. It is recommended for short term purposes. All studies have not found a reason why it should not be used in the long term. However, as in other sleeping supplements, long term use is not recommended.
At low doses of 0.3 mg to 2 mg, the hormone can be used for periods of up to 9 months. However, dependency on the drug for us to get sleep should never be ruled out. This is a situation where we only get a good sleep if we take melatonin supplements.
Increase in doses especially for other causes of lack of sleep means that the medication should be taken for a lesser time. For doses up to 12 mg, melatonin is recommended for short term use. The recommended period is up to 4 weeks.
Melatonin is excellent for most sleep disorders where one cannot get to sleep well. However in jet lag or work shift changes melatonin helps but not as effectively as in other sleeping disorders. It offers excellent results in delayed sleep phase syndrome, most cases of insomnia and in other mental problems leading to lack/ loss of sleep.
For the doses and on the right use of melatonin, I recommend that you see your doctor. A sleep physician always assesses the sleeping problem and also tests the amount of melatonin in the body to be able to recommend the right amount of melatonin for you to use.
Melatonin is however not recommended for pregnant women and nursing mothers not unless the benefits outweigh the potential effects to the baby. The hormone can be taken by these two cohorts only when advised by the doctor.
Can one overdose on melatonin? Can melatonin overdose kill?
There are side effects associated with an overdose of melatonin. However, with melatonin being a normal body hormone, there is no limit to the amount of melatonin above which an overdose occurs. This means that there is no approved safe dose for all people.
Melatonin however, should not be given to children without a prescription. This is because doses ranging even from 1 to 5 mg of melatonin can cause complications in children including seizures.
The common side effects of an overdose as quoted commonly include having a hangover feeling, hypothermia, drowsiness during the day and lower than normal libido. These side effects therefore means that the safe limit should be adhered to and a lower dose is recommended in most people.
Other effects seen in people who have overdosed on melatonin include:
- Dizziness and disorientation
- Anxiety, depression and general irritability
- Joint pains
- Eye problems
- Liver problems
- Speech Impediment
- Psychotic Thought Patterns
Forms in which melatonin is presented
Melatonin is available in several forms. It can be taken as a liquid, tablet, capsule or even sublingual. The different forms have different advantages and disadvantages:
Liquid melatonin is available in the market today for faster onset of the sleep effects. The liquid has the following pros:
- Is easily consumed as compared to the tablets or capsules.
- Is absorbed faster to the blood stream hence reducing the time span between uptake and onset of the effects. This is because it is absorbed by the mouth mucosa thus travelling in a few minutes (3-10 minutes) to the brain.
- It offers a soothing effect during uptake as compared to tablets or capsules.
- Only a small amount of the liquid is required to offer the relief from insomnia. Only 1 to 4 drops of the 1mg dosage is taken.
- It has more side effects because it is absorbed faster. This causes an abrupt increase of the hormone in the body hence increasing the likelihood of side effects.
- It does not remain in the body for long since it is fully absorbed very fast. This fast absorption leads to faster elimination from the body too.
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The tablet/ capsule melatonin
This is the most common form of melatonin sold in the market today. The form has its advantages including:
- It is the most preferred method of drugs uptake.
- Its effects lasts for longer once they start.
- They are portable.
Disadvantages of tablet/ capsule melatonin
- Its effects takes longer to set in. This is because it takes 20 to 30 minutes for the capsule or tablet to be digested. It means that the melatonin is absorbed from the stomach onwards in the gut/ GIT.
- To limit the amount of melatonin taken is a bit hard as a capsule or tablet is harder to consume in smaller quantities (it is not possible to break the capsule into smaller sizes).
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Melatonin is also available in sublingual form.
Why should I take melatonin instead of the sleeping pills?
There are several reasons for you to use melatonin or melatonin natural supplements rather than use sleeping pills. These include:
- Melatonin is non-addictive whereas the sleeping pills are very addictive leaving the users needing an increased dose of sleeping pills in order to sleep.
- It is a natural supplement.
- Melatonin acts by boosting the levels of melatonin produced by the body.
- It does not have many associated side effects.
Why should I prefer sleeping pills as compared to using melatonin supplements?
- Melatonin should sparingly be taken during the day to ensure you do not destabilize the normal body sleeping clock the sleep cycle. Sleeping pills can however be taken during the day.
- Sleeping pills can be taken a few minutes before sleep whereas for maximum benefits of melatonin supplements, they have to be taken at least 30 minutes before sleeping.
Other uses of melatonin in the body
Melatonin is very effective in helping all people get relief from insomnia and other sleep deficiency disorders. It gives people sleep when taken at least 30 minutes before sleep.
In addition to treatment of insomnia and other sleep deficiency disorders, melatonin is very useful in the following body disorders:
- Melatonin helps in the growth of bones.
- It helps in menopause associated irregular sleep patterns
- Alzheimer’s disease induced sleeping disorders
- Bipolar disorder associated sleeping problems
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Useful in managing chemotherapy and radiotherapy effects in people with cancer.
- Depression and stress associated sleeping disorders
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
Can melatonin be used in infants; what is the dose for infants and adults?
As prescribed to me by my physician and after consulting several sleep medicine doctors, melatonin should be taken in the least possible dose as possible. Taking the supplement at least half an hour before sleep to enable it to be absorbed and regulated in the body works well.
The dose however can be increased gradually to the level that offers good sleep. However a dose above 10 mg is never recommended although it is generally safe up to 30mg. The uptake of high doses of melatonin can disrupt the circadian rhythm hence making it harder to sleep.
The general problems treated with melatonin and their doses are as found below:
- To help you fall asleep a dose of between 0.3 to 10 mg should be taken starting with the lowest dose possible.
- For older adults treatment of insomnia a dose of 0.1 to 5 mg is generally enough to relieve the insomnia.
- In people experiencing jet lag a dose of between 0.1 to 8 mg should be taken as proximal as possible to bed time.
- For periodic limb movement induced sleeplessness or restless leg syndrome a dose of 3 mg should be used.
In children and infants the medication should only be taken as guided by the physician.
What are the side effects of melatonin supplements?
Melatonin is generally safe to use because it is produced normally in the body by the pineal glands. This means at the right dosage, melatonin is well tolerated. However some side effects especially with taking of high doses have been found.
The side effects associated melatonin vary from person to person. These side effects are majorly similar to the effects of overdose. It has also been associated with hypotension (lower blood pressure) and reduced estrogen production. Abdominal cramps are also seen in some individuals as well as sleep terrors. In addition some people have reported allergic reactions.
What drugs and other substances should not be taken with melatonin?
Melatonin has interactions with other drugs and substances. Drug interactions are when a drug is taken it amplifies or minimizes the effects of another drug hence either reducing the effectiveness or making it hazardous. That reaction varies from drug to drug and melatonin reacts with a few drugs.
Can you take melatonin with caffeine or alcohol?
Melatonin should not be taken with alcohol or caffeine. These two substances interfere with the sleep-wake cycle and thus reduce the normal production of melatonin in the body.
Can you take melatonin with birth control pills?
Birth control pills interact with melatonin production and thus their uptake simultaneously may cause the body to produce excess melatonin. The increased melatonin production and the supplements taken lead to having elevated levels of melatonin. This level might even be harmful.
Can you take melatonin with blood thinners?
Anti-coagulants such as warfarin if taken with melatonin can increase the risk of bleeding. Melatonin is also a blood thinner and incase of bleeding or bruises the effects are amplified.
Melatonin and other sedatives
Taking melatonin and other sedatives can cause excessive sleepiness. The sedatives including clonazepam, diazepam, lorazepam and others may lead you feeling groggy, disoriented and even confused.
Melatonin and corticosteroids
Melatonin should be avoided if an individual takes corticosteroids used for rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. The immunosuppressants taken for these conditions are contraindicated with melatonin. Sleeping well and adequately boosts the immune system and this reacts negatively to melatonin which works by reducing the immune responses. Therefore it is not recommended to take immunosuppressants with melatonin.
Other drugs that interact with melatonin include:
- Diabetes medication including insulin
- Drugs for narcotic pain
- Stomach drugs including Prilosec (omeprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole) and Zofran (ondansetron)
- Hypertension or hypotension drugs.
- Heart medications
In conclusion here is a summary guide for the uptake of melatonin in pregnant women, infants children, adults and older people.
- Melatonin should only be taken by pregnant women or lactating women if the benefits far outweigh the possible effects. This should be guided by a physician and checks should be done regularly to ascertain the health of the baby.
- Lower doses of melatonin should be taken and increase in dosage should be monitored to avoid side effects or overdose.
- The drug should be used in the short term where possible and up to 9 months of the medication can be taken if low doses are taken.
- Melatonin overdose is possible with general body problems. The uptake of high doses can interfere with the circadian sleep rhythm thus leading to dependency.
- Children and infants in most cases can not tolerate the drugs and if needed their doses should be as low as possible.
- Melatonin interacts with several drugs and thus should be taken with caution or avoided all together when one is taking other medication.
- Alcohol and caffeine affect the efficiency of melatonin and should be avoided when the supplements are taken.
- Melatonin can be used together with other supplements to provide a better quality sleep.