According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an estimated 50 – 70 million Americans struggle with chronic sleep disorders. About 1 in 3 adults don’t regularly get enough uninterrupted sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to mental and physical health problems, loss of productivity, and simply feeling unwell. Individuals with sleep issues will often seek out medication or supplements to help them fall asleep or stay asleep. Melatonin is one of the most popular natural sleep aids as many individuals report better quality of sleep when taking it. However, just because it is natural does not necessarily mean it is safe. There are several melatonin side effects you should be aware of.

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What is Melatonin? Understanding Its Uses and Benefits

Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in your body. Production and release of melatonin are connected to the time of day, rising as it gets dark and decreasing when it’s light. It manages the body’s sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythm. It can also be made synthetically in a lab and used as a dietary supplement to help with sleep issues. Melatonin is marketed as a natural supplement and can easily be found as an over-the-counter medication.

Most people use melatonin for insomnia, improving the quality of sleep, and for jet lag. In addition to improving sleep, it can also help manage blood pressure, cortisol levels, and immune function. Melatonin can also be used to treat depression, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), improve eye health, treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and many other uses.

Common Side Effects of Melatonin

melatonin side effects

Short-term use of melatonin supplements appears to be safe for most people. Unlike many sleep medications, melatonin is unlikely to cause dependency, build a tolerance to, or cause a hangover effect. Melatonin side effects are not common, however, some people are much more sensitive to it, regardless of the dosage they take. Some common melatonin side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Other, less common side effects of melatonin include:
  • Digestive upset including stomach cramps, diarrhea, and constipation
  • Urinary incontinence at night
  • Decreased appetite
  • Short-term feelings of depression
  • Vivid dreams or nightmares
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Increased risk of seizures
  • Reduced alertness
  • Increased risk of falls

Melatonin can cause drowsiness, so you should not drive or operate machinery within five hours of taking it.

Potential Risks of Long-Term Melatonin Use

Health risks associated with long-term melatonin use are still unknown due to a lack of high-quality research. Melatonin is intended for short-term use. If you feel you need to take melatonin for longer periods, it may indicate a chronic sleep disorder and you should talk to your healthcare provider to find the root cause. While melatonin does not cause chemical dependency or withdrawal symptoms, you may rely on it psychologically to sleep.

Interactions Between Melatonin and Other Medications

While melatonin is marketed as a natural sleep aid, it can still interact with other medications you may be taking, including:

  • Blood pressure medications. Melatonin can worsen blood pressure in people taking these medications.
  • Anticonvulsants. Melatonin may interact with the effects of anticonvulsants, increasing the frequency of seizures, especially in children.
  • Anticoagulant and anti-platelet medications, supplements, and herbs. Combining melatonin with these medications can reduce blood clotting further, increasing the risk of bleeding.
  • Contraceptives. Hormonal contraceptives may add to the sedative effects of melatonin.
  • Immunosuppressants. Melatonin may stimulate immune function and interfere with immunosuppressive therapy.
  • Diabetes medication. Melatonin can affect sugar levels.
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox). This medication is used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder and can increase melatonin levels, causing more drowsiness than desired.

Recognizing and Managing Melatonin Overdose

The recommended amount of melatonin dosage varies with age. Generally, experts recommend taking between 1 to 5 mg of melatonin for better sleep. Also, a larger dose of melatonin does not always mean better sleep. Some research has found that lower dosages can be more effective. It is important to start with a low dosage as dietary supplements in the U.S. are not tested or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some supplements may contain higher doses of melatonin than labeled. It is also important to note that different formulations of melatonin, such as powder, gummy, liquid, or pill, may be absorbed differently in the body. As mentioned above, there are also certain medications such as contraceptive pills and OCD medications which can increase the effects of melatonin.

A melatonin overdose is rare and is hard to define since there is no official standard safe dosage for everyone. Some people may be more sensitive to the effects of melatonin as well, which may trigger side effects for them but not in another person. Taking too much melatonin can disrupt your circadian rhythm and have the opposite effect.

Some symptoms of melatonin overdose include:

  • Nightmares or dreams disturbed sleep
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint pain
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Daytime tiredness or nausea

Often, taking too much melatonin does not require medical attention. If you have taken melatonin along with medications that interact with it or with alcohol, you may experience extreme drowsiness or difficulty staying awake. The most effective treatment is to remove melatonin from your routine to help the body rid itself of the hormone and ease symptoms.

Alternative to Melatonin for Sleep and Health

Melatonin may not work for everyone. There are other alternatives to melatonin to help you get a restful night’s sleep or in addition to using melatonin. Good sleep habits (sleep hygiene) are sometimes the best option. Some of these habits include:

  • Limiting or not using bright screens at least an hour before bed.
  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
  • Keeping your bedroom dark and cool.
  • Avoid large meals and alcohol before bed.
  • Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
  • Exercising at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Don’t take long naps during the day.
  • Cut down on caffeine in the afternoon and evening.

There are several other alternative supplements to melatonin to help you sleep including magnesium glycinate, lavender tablets, valerian root, and chamomile. You should always seek medical advice before taking any supplements, including melatonin.

If you experience sleep issues for more than two to three weeks, there may be underlying issues. You should talk to your healthcare provider to get to the root cause. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) can also help you manage your sleep issues by identifying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors contributing to symptoms of insomnia

When to Seek Medical Advice for Melatonin Side Effects

Severe melatonin side effects that require immediate medical attention include seizures, loss of consciousness, or difficulty breathing. If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing a melatonin overdose or adverse effects, contact a poison control center. allows you to talk to a poison expert by calling (800) 222-1222. Although melatonin is found to be relatively safe, talk to your doctor before beginning to take it or any other supplement. It is easy to assume that dietary supplements are safe, however, they can interact with certain medications or not be right for everyone. If you feel unwanted melatonin side effects, you should stop using it immediately and talk to your healthcare provider about alternatives for better sleep.

WhiteSands Treatment offers personalized drug and alcohol addiction treatment and co-occurring disorders, including anxiety and depression. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse, please give us a call today at (877) 855-3470 to talk to an addiction specialist.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

Jackie has been involved in the substance abuse and addiction treatment sector for over five years and this is something that she is truly eager about. She has a passion for writing and continuously works to create informative pieces that not only educate and inform the public about the disease of addiction but also provide solutions for those who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.