One of my friends is using melatonin as a sleeping aid and she seems to be doing well on it. Since I am on shifting work schedules, sleeping is really a problem especially in the daytime. I am occasionally taking over-the-counter sleeping pills but I have heard that they got nasty side effects, so I am thinking of switching to melatonin supplements. Does it really help with sleeping? Are there melatonin side effects that I should know about?
Melatonin is currently known for its antioxidant and anti-aging effects as well as an immune system booster. But it is also fast becoming a household name as a natural sleeping aid. People clearly prefer “the natural” over “the pharmaceutical” because of the lower risk for side effects.
How common is a melatonin overdose? You can od on melatonin – http://www.sleepingsmart.org/can-you-overdose-on-melatonin.
Melatonin is a hormone, specifically a growth hormone, secreted by the pineal gland, a small endocrine gland located at the center of the brain. Melatonin serves a lot of functions. Aside from being a growth hormone, it regulates our biological clocks, the reproductive hormones in females, prevents cell damage from free radicals, and strengthens the immune system. Not bad, huh?
So, from the above-mentioned melatonin functions, it is not surprising why melatonin food supplements and other products have been sprouting like mushrooms, especially melatonin sleeping aids. But a lot of studies have been conducted for possible melatonin side effects. Being natural does not always mean safe.
Yes, there are melatonin side effects but they are way milder than pharmaceutical sleeping aids’. Most common complaint of melatonin users are vivid dreams and nightmares and drowsiness. Extreme daytime drowsiness would indicate overdose and should be promptly reported to the doctor. Disruption of circadian rhythm and reduced sex drive are also possible with prolonged use of melatonin. Side effects like depression, confusion, headaches, dizziness, irritability, and stomach upset with nausea and vomiting are also not uncommon. But another melatonin side effect which may be helpful rather than harmful is its ability to lower blood pressure.
Major melatonin side effects especially with excessive doses are increased human growth hormone (HGH) and decreased luteinizing hormone levels in the blood. So, when you are planning to have blood tests done and is taking melatonin supplements at the time, inform your physician about it. It has contraceptive effects and should be contraindicated for pregnant moms and those who are planning to have a baby. Allergic reactions may also be encountered with melatonin use but this rarely happens. If itchiness, swelling of the lips, tongue or face, and difficulty breathing is observed while on melatonin supplements, seek medical attention immediately.
Looking at the melatonin side effects versus its uses, the latter clearly outnumbers the previous. But whatever it is we are taking, we should be vigilant and be on the lookout for its untoward effects. The main reason why we take supplements and medications is to make our lives better. If we chose to abuse it or disregard the doctor’s orders or go beyond what is considered safe, then we will suffer the consequences no matter how “natural” it may be.
Check out How Safe Is Melatonin For Children?