Melatonin: A Popular Sleep Aid with a Potential Downside
We’ve all been there… the restless nights where your mind is racing, you can’t get comfortable, and sleep feels a million miles away.
If this is only an occasional event, you're usually able to recover from it by the time the next evening rolls around. But for some of us, lack of quality sleep is a regular occurrence.
Recent data shares that 1 in 3 adults around the world suffer from symptoms of insomnia (1), which can look like:
- Having trouble getting to sleep
- Disrupted sleep patterns or cycles
- Having trouble staying asleep
- Slower thought-processing
- Having trouble remembering information
- Feeling irritable or having other abnormal mood behavior
- Slowed reflexes
While a minor inconvenience for some, if it happens often enough it can be a major life disruptor for others. And because sleep is important to normal biological processes (2), getting enough sleep is part of taking your health into your own hands.
Melatonin for Sleep – Does it Work?
Because sleep is vital to good health, many are looking for ways to help their body transition to a drowsy, sleep state as they wind down for the evening.
One way to do that is with melatonin. Melatonin is actually a hormone your brain naturally produces as it’s exposed to prolonged darkness, such as nighttime (3). This process is part of your normal circadian rhythm, but being exposed to light makes it harder for melatonin to be produced. This can wreak havoc on your sleep patterns.
We’re still understanding the impacts of how our busy lives affect our bodies. Screen time is increasing, and many find themselves unable to sleep as smartphones and other technological devices go with them to bed (4).
Many people prefer to try natural sleep solutions first, which is why melatonin supplements are very popular. Like other sleep aids, melatonin supplements promise to naturally induce drowsiness, so you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
And for many, it can work quite well. A 2016 study showed that when shift workers took 3 mg of melatonin each night before bed, their sleep efficiency and sleep latency both improved (5).
The key is to only use it short-term, such as in cases of:
- Jet lag
- The occasional sleepless night (or two)
- Calming an anxious mind before surgery
- Mild sleep disorders
For chronic insomnia, there is not enough research to support that long-term use of a melatonin supplement can help.
Melatonin Side Effects & Risks
Since melatonin is naturally made by your own body, supplements should be safe too, right?
That depends on a few things. First, it’s important to understand that not all melanin supplements are created equal. While some supplements are made using animal-derived ingredients or other microorganisms, many melatonin supplements are completely synthetic (6).
Whatever form you use, a common question is how much melatonin you should take. Standard doses range between 1 – 3 mg, taken by mouth a couple of hours before you go to bed (7).
While generally considered safe, there is a potential downside. The risks and side effects associated with melatonin aren’t common. Still, some of them include (8):
- Nightmares or vivid dreaming
- Increased risk for bedwetting
- Loss of appetite
- Digestive discomforts such as cramps, nausea, diarrhea, or constipation
- Feelings of depression or anxiety
- Feeling dizzy
- Lingering drowsiness the next day
Keep in mind that allergic reactions are possible. Talk with your doctor if you’re currently taking medications, are pregnant, breastfeeding, or are considering it for a child.
Other Ways to Encourage a Good Night’s Sleep
While natural sleep aids like melatonin can help, there are other things (9, 10) you can do to set yourself up for a great night’s sleep.
- Avoiding caffeine before bedtime
- Playing soothing music that helps you meditate on peaceful things
- Keeping dinners light, avoiding fried or fatty foods
- Exercising for at least 15 minutes a day
- Diffusing quality essential oils like lavender, geranium, and chamomile
- Keeping daytime naps short, ideally under 30 minutes
- Taking a warm bath with Epsom salts in it before bed
- Drinking chamomile tea before bed
Settling down for the evening can be a relaxing practice that calms your mind and body, encouraging a restful night’s sleep. Spend time experimenting with different things --- your health is worth it!
Back to You
Sleep is crucial for a healthy and happy life. Your body undergoes a lot of repair and maintenance during sleep, and when you aren’t getting enough you run the risk of experiencing brain fog, irritability, slowed thinking, and poor reflexes.
Melatonin can be a way to encourage your body to sleep naturally, but it has its potential downsides. Be aware of the possible side effects, and always talk with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
We understand the power of plants, so we created a special formulation that helps people drift into a peaceful sleep that refreshes and prepares them for the next day! Made with an all-natural proprietary herbal blend, KaraMD’s Sleep Guard has helped so many people regain the quality sleep they need to live life to the fullest.
See what others are saying about Sleep Guard here (11).
✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author