Is It Bad to Take Melatonin Every Night? A Sleep Expert Weighs In
If you struggle to fall (and stay) asleep, you’ve probably tried a myriad of things to help solve this problem from bedtime meditation to diffusing lavender essential oil, using acupressure, and even wearing socks.
But if every one of these remedies has failed, you’ve probably also dipped your toes in, or you're maybe currently considering, the sleep-inducing supplement melatonin. But is it OK to take it every night so you get good quality snooze and wake up feeling well-rested? We reveal everything you need to know about using melatonin supplements for sleep here.
Disclaimer: It’s important to talk to your GP before taking melatonin supplements.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the body's pineal gland, which is located in the brain, and is responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycle. The presence of melatonin in the body indicates preparedness for sleep - we have more melatonin in our system at night than during the day. This is because melatonin is released in response to darkness and is suppressed by light (explaining why electronics and bright lights can trick the brain into thinking that it's daytime).
As the sun sets, the pineal gland begins to secrete melatonin, which usually occurs after 9pm. Secretion usually peaks in the middle of the night - around 2 to 4am - and gradually decreases during the second half of the night, alerting you to wake up in the morning.
Are melatonin supplements good for sleep?
Because of melatonin’s sleep-inducing effects, melatonin supplements are used to treat a variety of sleep problems, including:
- Jet lag
- Shift work sleep disorder
- Delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWD)
- Sleep problems in children with autism or ADHD
Research has found that taking melatonin in low doses is the most effective way to promote sleep if you’re experiencing restlessness or insomnia, sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo tells Bed Threads Journal.
“Studies show low doses of 0.3-1mg two to four hours before sleep can reduce sleep latency,” Arezzolo notes. “Another study found those with DSWD who typically fall asleep around 3-6am, experienced improved sleep by 53 per cent with melatonin supplementation. Importantly, the supplement didn’t have adverse side effects - it didn’t alter sleep architecture during the night, nor did it impairing alertness or mood the following day.”
How much melatonin should I take to sleep?
As mentioned above, a dose of between 0.3-1mg is a good place to start. When used in higher doses, it can increase daytime sleepiness.
However, your doctor will be able to recommend a safe dose for you to take, depending on your situation and needs.
Is it bad to take melatonin every night?
It’s safe to take melatonin supplements every night, but only in the short term.
“While it doesn’t lead to dependency like benzodiazepines (sleeping pills), the research studies support short-term implementation, rather than long-term use,” Arezzolo explains.
According to Healthline, side effects can sometimes occur, especially if it’s taken in higher doses or for long periods of time. Mild side effects include:
- Daytime drowsiness
- Increased urination
There are also less common side effects of melatonin, which include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Mild tremors
- Feelings of depression or anxiety
- Confusion or disorientation
- Low blood pressure
Moreover, if you find you’re taking a second dose of melatonin at night because you still can’t fall asleep, stop using it and alert your doctor who might be able to suggest a different solution to helping you sleep.
What are other alternatives to melatonin supplements for sleep?
You can also add magnesium-rich foods into your diet. Some magnesium-rich foods include:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Dark chocolate
Melatonin supplements can be used to induce sleep, however, talk to your doctor who will be able to advise whether it’s the best solution for you and if it is then how much to take and when.
If you are concerned about your health, wellbeing, or sleep, you can also speak to your GP, who will advise a correct treatment plan.