Can You Overdose On Melatonin?

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Sometimes it can be hard to get good sleep. Family, work, money – they can all make it difficult to fall asleep and catch those much-needed Zzzs.

When we can’t sleep, many of us turn to sleep supplements such as melatonin. But, how safe is melatonin? More specifically, can you overdose on melatonin? Read on to learn more about melatonin and how to use it safely and effectively.

[Editor’s Note: This article was written for informational purposes and should not be considered medical advice. You should consult a doctor before using any sleep medications.]

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the brain that regulates our sleep cycles and circadian rhythms. Melatonin production is affected by light, so it is lower during the daylight hours and higher during the nighttime hours. As you get closer to bedtime, the increased melatonin helps signal to your body that it is time to sleep.

However, sleep disorders can confuse our circadian rhythms, which in turn negatively affect our ability to get good, healthy sleep. Because of this, melatonin is also available as an over-the-counter sleep supplement.

A close shot of a pill bottle with melatonin pills next to it

Melatonin vs Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that you find in rice, peanuts, avocados, and many other types of food. Maintaining a healthy magnesium level can promote bone health, heart health, and good sleep.

While melatonin is naturally produced, you have to ingest magnesium. If your magnesium levels are low, you may consider taking a magnesium supplement.

Both melatonin and magnesium can help improve and regulate your sleep, but less is known about the long-term use of melatonin. At the same time, more studies have shown that long-term use of magnesium can be safe. Experts still recommend consulting a doctor if you are going to use magnesium supplements.

Melatonin Pros and Cons

Melatonin has its upsides and its downsides. Melatonin can benefit your sleep, but it does have its drawbacks.

Melatonin Benefits

According to the Mayo Clinic, melatonin supplements are used as a possible treatment for shift work disorders, insomnia, and even jet lag. In addition, it can be used to cure circadian rhythm disorders for the blind and help treat sleep disorders for children.

While not all studies are conclusive, melatonin is often more effective than a placebo.

Negative Effects of Melatonin

At the same time, there are some major drawbacks to using melatonin. First off, you may experience nightmares and find yourself feeling tired throughout the day. You may also feel slightly dizzy, irritable, or even a bit nauseous. As you will see below, extreme nausea or fatigue could also be signs of a melatonin overdose.

Is Melatonin Addictive?

According to many experts, you cannot become addicted to melatonin. However, after extended use, melatonin can lose its efficacy, causing you to take more for the desired effect.

How Much Melatonin Is Safe?

If you are going to try melatonin, how much should you take? First off, in over-the-counter melatonin supplements, it can be difficult to know exactly how much melatonin you’re taking into your system. Melatonin is not regulated by the FDA, and studies have shown that melatonin levels in the medicine don’t always match what is on the label. So, it’s always a good idea to do your research and make sure you know what the exact melatonin dosage is.

A woman sleeps with a water glass and pills on her bedside table

Once you find that the dosage, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic recommend beginning with just 1 mg of melatonin. You can increase the dosage by 1 mg every week until your sleep improves. Most doctors recommend 5 mg as the maximum dose.

Is It Bad to Take Melatonin Every Night?

Most doctors don’t recommend taking melatonin every night, namely because there could be a more serious underlying sleep condition. Dr. Rashad Ramkissoon from Houston Methodist Hospital says, “If you think you need to take melatonin every night to get to sleep, we need to understand why that’s the case. Melatonin isn’t a long-term fix for sleep issues. If you’re consistently suffering from insomnia, we need to determine why and find an effective solution for it.”

Can You Overdose on Melatonin?

Melatonin works differently for everyone, and you should check with your own doctor before beginning a melatonin regimen for yourself or your child. Melatonin can cause allergic reactions and can have negative effects when combined with other medications.

What Happens If You Take Too Much Melatonin?

Melatonin can cause many problems if you take too much, and there is the possibility of a melatonin overdose.

According to Poison Control, in 2020, melatonin was the main cause of concern for those using the webPOISONCONTROL online tool. Melatonin was also the reason for over 59,300 calls to the Poison Control hotline. Another study found that melatonin poisoning calls were six times higher in 2021 when compared with 2015. And, many of these cases were children: 4000 children and teenagers had to receive medical treatment, and two died.

Symptoms of a Melatonin Overdose

What are the signs you or your child have overdosed on melatonin? The main three symptoms are excessive sleepiness, vomiting,and trouble breathing.

When to Seek Medical Help

It is never too early to seek medical attention. If you or your child have these symptoms, get medical assistance immediately. In addition, ensure that children and teenagers don’t have easy access to melatonin.

How to Sleep Without Melatonin

A man falls asleep at his table

If the side effects or chances of overdose frighten you, there are a few other sleep supplements you can try to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

 

  • Chamomile tea. This natural drink has mild sedative effects and can help relax you before bed.
  • Tart cherry juice. This has also been shown to improve sleep if you drink tart cherry juice two times a day.

And, of course, you should always practice good sleep hygiene. That means turning off TVs and other electronic devices a few hours before bed. In addition, keep your bedroom cold, quiet, and dark to promote the best sleep possible.

RELATED: What to Do If You Can’t Sleep

[Editor’s Note: This article was written for informational purposes and should not be considered medical advice. You should consult a doctor before using any sleep medications.]

FAQs

Can you take melatonin while pregnant?

Further study is needed as it is unclear whether melatonin is 100% safe for pregnant women to take.

How fast does melatonin work?

Melatonin can take as little as minutes or as long as a few hours to take effect. It depends on the dosage and the person using it.

Is melatonin a hormone?

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that helps regulate the sleep wake cycle.

Is melatonin natural?

Melatonin is a natural hormone found in our brains. However, the majority of melatonin supplements are synthetic and not natural.

Does melatonin counteract caffeine?

Melatonin and caffeine can counteract one another, but you shouldn’t take both too close together. Mixing depressants and stimulants can be dangerous.

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Marten Carlson

Marten is the Lead Reviewer at Mattress Clarity. He is a Certified Sleep Science Coach and covers the mattress industry as well as sleep science news. He is specifically interested in the connection between sleep and overall health. Marten has written for media publications like Consequence of Sound and received a master’s degree in Film Studies from Emory University. He comes from Franklin, Indiana, and spends all the time he can writing, directing, and acting in films.