Melatonin Uses, Side Effects, Dosage, Benefits

by Kelly R. Smith

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Waking after a restful melatonin sleep
Waking after a restful melatonin sleep

Melatonin (5-Methoxy-N-Acetyltryptamine, MEL, Melatonina, Mélatonine, MLT, N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine, etc.) is a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness. It helps with the timing of your circadian rhythms (24-hour internal clock) and with sleep. Being exposed to light at night can block melatonin production. It’s hard to experience lucid dreaming if you’re busy counting sheep.

It is most commonly bandied about a cure for insomnia although other benefits are also being investigated. Although we would all like to think that melatonin is a panacea for all number of things, it is a bit more complicated, like using UV light to kill COVID-19 virus is.

Common Uses for Melatonin

  • Promoting regular, satisfying sleep. As mentioned above, some people take melatonin in pill form by mouth seeking to adjust their body’s internal clock. It is most commonly used for insomnia and improving sleep in different situations. For example, it is used for jet lag, for adjusting sleep-wake cycles in people whose daily work schedule changes (shift-work disorder), and for helping people establish a day and night cycle.
  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): At this time there is no research-based evidence to support using melatonin for COVID-19. That being said, people will latch onto rumors of efficacy.
  • Non-24-hour sleep wake disorder. Taking melatonin just at bedtime is reputed through anecdotal evidence to improve sleep in persons who are blind. We’ve all seen that commercial on TV.
  • Combating medications that lower melatonin levels. Some prescriptive drugs such as beta-blocker drugs for high-blood pressure, such as atenolol and propranolol, are a class of drugs that seem to lower melatonin levels. Supplementing is thought to replace them.
  • Relief for painful uterine disorder (endometriosis). There is anecdotal evidence that taking melatonin daily over an 8 week period seems to reduce the pain and associated painkiller use in women experiencing endometriosis. It also reduces pain during menstruation, intercourse, and while going to the bathroom.
  • Jet lag. Some research reveals that melatonin can significantly improve certain symptoms of jet lag including alertness and movement coordination. It also seems to slightly improve other jet lag symptoms like daytime sleepiness and tiredness. However, melatonin might not be as effective for lowering the time it takes for people with jet lag to fall asleep.

Side Effects

  • Interfering with pregnancy. A melatonin supplement may be unsafe for women when taken by mouth or injected into her body frequently and/or in high doses when she is trying to become pregnant. Melatonin might have effects similar to birth control. This might make it more difficult to become pregnant.
  • Breast-feeding. The jury is still out. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.
  • Interactions with prescription medication. Always consult with your doctor if you are taking medications such as blood pressure medication.
  • Daytime sleepiness. There’s a reason it’s for sleep. Some might take it during the day as a “calm-down” measure but this is not recommended. But even when taking it at bedtime, Healthline.com says, “sleepiness is a possible problem in people who have reduced melatonin clearance rates, which is the rate at which a drug is removed from the body.”
  • Decreased body temperature. Melatonin causes a slight drop in body temperature. While this is generally not a problem, it could make a difference in people who have difficulty keeping warm.
  • Blood thinning. It may also cause a reduction in blood coagulation. Because of that, you should speak with your doctor prior to taking high doses of it with warfarin or other blood thinners.

Dosage

With regards to adults, the standard dosage used in studies ranges between 1 and 10 mg, but there isn’t currently a definitive “best-case” dosage. It’s widely believed that doses in the 30-mg range may be harmful. As an example, I take just 10 mg and sleep like a baby.

In fact, taking too much supplementary melatonin can actually disrupt your circadian rhythm (also called your sleep-wake cycle), and further disrupt what you are trying to deal with.

Bottom line? Melatonin uses, side effects, dosage recommendations, and benefits are important to know about before you go tinkering with your sleep patterns. Its use can be a Godsend in the right situation.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

One Reply to “Melatonin Uses, Side Effects, Dosage, Benefits”

  1. This stuff has got me through many sleepless nights. I tried some prescription stuff but it left me groggy all the next morning.

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