Melatonin is a hormone your brain produces. It works with your circadian rhythms and can therefore help you sleep. Melatonin levels rise a couple of hours before your natural sleep time, signaling that it’s time to settle down and get ready for bed.
Exposure to too much light at night or too little light in the daytime my interfere with your body’s proper production of melatonin. Taking a melatonin supplement can be a safe solution. It can also help with jet lag, insomnia, and other sleep issues.
However, there are some misconceptions about melatonin.
Do melatonin supplements work like sleeping pills?
Melatonin doesn’t put you to sleep as sleeping pills do. Rather, your body has higher levels of this hormone at night, so it seems to prepare you for sleep.
These supplements are not addictive, they don’t cause hangover symptoms, and they don’t make you too drowsy for regular activities.
Do melatonin supplements make your body dependent on those supplements?
You may have heard (hello, TikTok!) that taking melatonin will cause your brain to quit producing this hormone on its own. The logical conclusion is that once your body quits being able to make its own, you will have to take the supplements for the rest of your life just to achieve normal sleeping and waking cycles.
This may sound plausible, but it’s false. There is no evidence for this claim.
Does it relieve pain?
Some people take melatonin for pain, but there is little evidence in favor of this claim, either. It might work for some people because of the placebo effect, but the evidence is contradictory. Some studies have shown that these supplements can improve sleep for people with chronic pain, but most research in this area has involved animals rather than human subjects.
Talk with your family doctor about pain management.
Should these supplements be taken every night over the long term?
For most people, one week to one month of melatonin supplementation is enough to get regular sleep routines back on track.
Melatonin is generally safe, but there are side effects that can show up with long-term use. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, and anxiety or irritability have been reported. There is little information about its long-term effects, and it could also keep you from talking with your doctor about issues that might indicate more serious concerns.
Since it’s natural, do you need to mention melatonin use to your doctor?
Actually, melatonin can interact with various medications, including diabetes medications, blood thinners, anti-seizure medicine, and contraceptives. It also doesn’t mix well with alcohol and is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
You should make sure to let your family doctor know if you are taking melatonin or any supplements.