Melatonin Side Effects – Melatonin is a hormone that the pineal gland, which is found in the brain, produces at night. It is responsible for putting our bodies to sleep and is often referred to as “hormone of darkness” or “hormone of sleep.” Melatonin’s function is not limited to putting you to sleep at night. It regulates blood pressure levels and cortisol levels and raises antioxidant and immune defenses.
Melatonin supplements are available over-the-counter in the United States, but in Australia and some European countries, a prescription is required. Some health practitioners recommend melatonin supplements to help initiate sleep and improve sleep quality, but studies show this type of supplement is not as effective as other available sleeping medications.
Using melatonin to address sleep problems is growing popular which raises concerns about the possible side effects .
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is created in the brain by the pineal glands, which are not affected by the blood-brain barrier. This particular hormone has a wide range of functions; its primary role is regulating the circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle. More melatonin is produced at night to prepare the body for sleep. When the sun rises, melatonin levels lessen to signal the body that it is time to awaken .
The release of endogenous melatonin, or natural melatonin, in our bodies is at is peak from 11:00 PM to 3:00 AM. As morning arrives, melatonin production slows down.
The secretion of this hormone begins with tryptophan, a type of amino acid, while serotonin works as an intermediary. When melatonin is released it affects the melatonin receptors that control how we fall asleep .
Benefits Of Melatonin
There are actually a variety of uses for melatonin when used properly. Melatonin may reduce the effects of jet lag, including daytime sleepiness, and improves movement coordination and alertness. However, it is important to note that this supplement may not be effective in reducing the time it takes to fall asleep. Studies show that melatonin may aid in regulating blood pressure with the controlled-release form of this dietary supplement. Melatonin acts as an anti-inflammatory to reduce inflammation that causes blood pressure to heighten.
Though research is ongoing, Ingesting high doses of melatonin with other cancer treatments such as chemotherapy may help reduce the size of the tumors while improving survival rates in those who have breast cancer and other similar illnesses based on a random-effects model .
Melatonin’s Effect On The Human Body
Our sleep patterns are regulated when the body is introduced to light or darkness.
Light triggers a response from the retinas of our eyes to the hypothalamus, where the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) signals the rest of the body whether to feel wide awake or sleepy. This also changes how much melatonin is produced in the morning and at night.
When the sun sets, the SCN causes the pineal gland to produce melatonin which is then released into our blood. This usually happens at 9:00 PM causing a sleepy feeling. Human brains function as better during the day as darkness causes the body to go into sleep mode. Melatonin levels remain high for 12 hours but go down when morning arrives .
Melatonin For Toddlers And Children
Administering melatonin supplements to children with sleep disorders can help them sleep better at night.
Without the recommended amount of sleep, kids are vulnerable to greater health disorders. Consider whether it is appropriate to give this type of sleep aid to a young child and always consult your doctor before adding any supplements or medications to your child’s diet.
If your baby can sleep within 30 minutes after being put to bed, their melatonin levels are good, and medications are not required .
Melatonin Side Effects In Children
There are long-term effects from taking melatonin as children can become dependent .
Another possible side effect of melatonin in toddlers is that their sleep cycles are disrupted. This can make it difficult for them to sleep or wake at the right time which can lead to sleep disorders and wreak havoc on the whole family.
If you want to avoid the side effects of melatonin, address what is causing your child’s sleep disruption in the first place. Adjusting their sleeping hours may be all that is required to help them get their much-needed rest.
Melatonin For Teens
Parents sometimes give melatonin supplements to their teens because they are not getting the required hours of sleep.
According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, not many doctors advise parents to give their teenagers melatonin supplements to help them sleep better at night. He also said there are not enough studies to prove that taking several doses of melatonin is effective in improving sleep.
If you are still planning on giving your teen this dietary supplement, the recommended melatonin dosage is 3 mg or less used for a short period only .
Melatonin Side Effects In Teens
It is unclear how severe melatonin side effects are in teenagers . Children may experience headaches, daytime sleepiness, and dizziness when given high doses of melatonin. There is also the possibility that taking melatonin regularly can affect sexual development, although this claim requires further proof.
Melatonin For Adults
Adults who experience jet lag and sleep disorders often turn to melatonin to restore some of their lost sleep. Short-term use of this hormone is generally safe in adults though it can pose some risks.
Melatonin Side Effects In Adults
Drowsiness caused by melatonin may feel similar to a hangover. One of the side effects of melatonin is the onset of headaches which can cause discomfort. This is quite common, especially when taking new medications since our bodies react to these changes .
Another side effect of melatonin is that it disrupts the circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle. This puts you at risk of sleep disorders which can affect your overall health. Melatonin causes dependency on the usage of this sleep aid. This can be dangerous when there is no available product in your area .
Nightmares can be triggered by melatonin. Scientists point to this occurrence of rapid REM-sleep marked by higher brain activity due to melatonin use resulting in nightmares. If you experience this melatonin side effect, it is highly likely that these dreams are because of rapid REM sleep, also known as “REM Rebound .”
Hormone fluctuation has been recorded in those taking this supplement which can trigger other problems such as mood swings, weight gain, and more. Melatonin can make you accident prone because you feel groggy or sleepy a few hours after taking the pills. This is something you should take into account when considering using this dietary supplement .
Melatonin In The Elderly
Older people often experience insomnia because of changes in their circadian rhythms due to age.
Although studies show that melatonin production does not reduce as we age, it is possible that the elderly do not get enough sunlight. This affects their sleep-wake cycles .
Melatonin Side Effects In The Elderly
Melatonin may trigger complications in the elderly. This is especially true for those who have dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or Lewy body disease. Any complications while taking other medications can be risky .
Always check with your doctor to avoid any interactions with other drugs.
Melatonin Side Effects Resources:
 Healthline; Side Effects of Melatonin: What Are the Risks?.
 Medical News Today; Melatonin: What does it do?, Tim Newman, October 01, 2017.
 Drugs.com; Melatonin, L. Anderson, PharmD, September 13, 2018.
 National Sleep Foundation; Melatonin and Sleep.
 US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health; Melatonin, human aging, and age-related diseases., Karasek, December 2004.
 Seattle Children’s; Using Melatonin To Help Children Fall Asleep, Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE, September 14, 2015.
 The Baby Sleep Site; Should You Give Your Baby or Toddler Melatonin to Sleep?, Emily DeJeu.
 CNN; Should your teen take melatonin for help with sleep?, December 22, 2008.
 Mayo Clinic; Melatonin Not Recommended for Children or Teens as Sleep Aid, Shawn Bishop, December 7, 2012.
 Live Science; What Is Melatonin? Lauren Cox, December 18, 2013.
 Women’s Health Magazine; The Melatonin Side Effects You Should Know About, Ashley Mateo, March 28, 2018.
 Live Strong; Dementia, Melatonin & Insomnia in the Elderly, Erica Jaques, August 14, 2017.
 Self; Melatonin Dosage And Side Effects: What You Need To Know Before Taking Melatonin For Sleep, Korin Miller, December 30, 2016.
 Huffington Post; Is There Really A Connection Between Melatonin And Crazy Dreams?, Krithika Varagur, April 12, 2016.
 Doctor OZ; Melatonin: Not a Magic Bullet for Sleep, Dr. Michael Breus, PhD.