Tossing and turning for what feels like hours. Staring at the ceiling surrounded by darkness. Getting up and lying down time and time again. Not being able to sleep is exhausting and irritating, and you don’t quite feel like yourself in the morning. Sluggish and irritable you move through the day being yet another victim of having trouble falling asleep.
Sleep-related problems have seen several solutions including over-the-counter and prescription sleeping pills, but more and more people are looking for a more natural approach to fixing their sleep, like melatonin supplements.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in your brain that is gradually released into the bloodstream that acts like the biological clock. The production of melatonin creates and follows a daily cycle called the circadian rhythm.
When your body is in the light, melatonin production decreases and it signals your body to wake up and stay awake. When your body is in the dark, melatonin production increases and signals to your body that it's time to go to bed. If you don’t produce enough melatonin then you might have difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Technology Messed Up Sleep
With many of the inventions of the modern era have come the sacrifice of sleep and sleep quality. Since the development of the light bulb we have seen an incredible spike in light and light pollution which has had many negative effects for the sleep of individuals living in developed nations.
Other new technologies have led to the destruction of typical melatonin regulation too, like jet lag for example. For thousands of years humans have used the light from the sun to regulate sleep tendencies, but now that light has a lower correlation with sleep tendencies so quickly our biology has yet to adapt.
Our bodies might think that light tells us when to sleep, but our world does not and we are reaping the consequences.
Restoring the Cycle
One way that people are combating the negative effects of the light ridden world on their biology is by restoring their melatonin to a proper level. Melatonin is generally made synthetically in a laboratory and has been made publicly available to use in pills or other forms. Taking melatonin by mouth 30-60 minutes before sleep has been shown to improve sleep quality and give your body the extra nudge to adjust your sleep-wake cycle in the right direction.
Can You Overdose?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring compound in the body. It has been shown to have very little risk of side effects when taken in the proper amount and is generally considered safe for human use and consumption. Some mild symptoms you might have in the case of a minor overdose are nausea, headache, or daytime drowsiness.
Daytime drowsiness can lead to the possibility of rebound insomnia, where there is too much melatonin in your system during the day and it changes the threshold for quality sleep. Continued overuse may cause melatonin to stop working for a while, possibly increasing the symptoms of trouble falling asleep in the short term.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms then reducing your dose or stopping supplementation will remove the symptoms. If you are having extreme or severe symptoms like abnormally low blood pressure then it would be best to discontinue supplementation and see a doctor right away.
What Affects Proper Dose
Bio-Individuality and environmental factors are the biggest things at play in determining how much melatonin is right for you. The threshold for the amount of melatonin needed to produce quality sleep will vary from person to person due to their genetics and other factors.
Meanwhile, lifestyle choices like sun exposure, light pollution, and night time light habits will also have an impact on the amount of melatonin you may need to get quality sleep each night.
Determining What’s Right For You
Melatonin is a chemical and its direct influence on your body should be considered. Like with other natural remedies and drugs, taking the lowest dose possible is going to be the best thing you can do for your body in the long term.
So, start with a small amount. If you still have trouble falling or staying asleep, bump up your dose until you find what works best for you.
Melatonin supplements can contain up to 10 milligrams per serving, but for the average individual several studies have shown that 3 milligrams will probably do the trick. However, others might find that a dose much smaller like 0.3 milligrams is what works best for them.
Like with other compounds Melatonin does interact with other compounds that you may already be putting into your body. Many of these interactions occur because they directly oppose each other, not because they are chemically dangerous.
To best retain the effectiveness of melatonin you may want to avoid these other drugs:
- Sedatives (Central Nervous System Depressants and Benzodiazepines)
This can cause severe drowsiness. Do not take together.
- Contraceptive Drugs (Birth Control Pills)
Birth control pills tend to upregulate the melatonin production in the body, supplementing with melatonin will likely be too much and cause negative symptoms.
Caffeine and Melatonin have opposite effects and using them in combination will reduce the impact and cause unneeded oxidative stress to your body.
This drug can increase the absorption of melatonin which may cause overdose-like symptoms.
- Anticoagulant/Antiplatelet drugs
Melatonin also acts as an anticoagulant - slowing blood clotting - so using in tandem will make bruises and bleeding more abundant.
- Metabolic medications
Melatonin might increase blood sugar and therefore be counter productive to any metabolic medication.
Melatonin might upregulate immune responses.
- Nifedipine GITS
Melatonin might reduce the effectiveness of this medication.
This drug increases how quickly your body breaks down melatonin, which may reduce its effectiveness.
Getting a proper night’s sleep is very important to your overall health and wellbeing - physically and emotionally. If you suffer from insomnia then getting a little dose of melatonin before bedtime might be the difference maker in ensuring that you get quality sleep.
Melatonin is natural and hard to overdose on, but if you are experiencing negative symptoms then consider switching to another sleep aid without the melatonin and those symptoms should go away quite quickly.
Our complete calm sleep system is one of the most advanced anti-anxiety and sleep gummies out there with a melatonin free option you should be able to get to sleep better and wake up refreshed no matter your melatonin sensitivity or other factors.
Meet our Experts
This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.
Dr. Jay Cowin, Nutrition Expert
Founder of Functional U, a Nutrition, Performance & Optimal Health practice.