While overall use among the US adult population remains “relatively low,” the study “documents a marked multi-fold increase in melatonin use in the past few years,” said sleep specialist Rebecca Robbins, a trainer in the Department of Sleep. Medicine for Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the study.
“Taking a sleep aid has been associated in future studies with the development of dementia and early death. Melatonin is one such sleep aid,” she said.
Bigger dose, less regulation
The study found that since 2006, a small but growing subgroup of adults has taken amounts of melatonin well in excess of the 5 milligrams per day dose normally used as a short-term treatment.
However, pills for sale may contain much higher levels of melatonin than what is stated on the label. Unlike drugs and food, melatonin is not fully regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so there are no federal requirements that companies test birth control pills to make sure they contain the amount of melatonin they are advertised.
“We can’t be certain of the purity of over-the-counter melatonin,” Robbins said.
Taking too much serotonin by combining medications such as antidepressants, migraine medications, and melatonin can cause a dangerous drug interaction. Mild symptoms include shivering and diarrhea, while a more severe reaction can lead to muscle stiffness, fever, seizures, and even death if not treated.
It’s a hormone, not a herb
Because it’s bought without a prescription, experts say that many people consider melatonin to be an herbal or vitamin supplement. In fact, melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland, located deep in the brain, and released into the bloodstream to regulate the body’s sleep cycles.
Another fact: Studies have found that while using melatonin it can be helpful in inducing sleep if used correctly – take it at least two hours before bed – but the actual benefit is minimal.
“When the adults took melatonin, they reduced the time it took them to fall asleep by four to eight minutes,” Dr. Cora Collette Brunner, MD, a professor in the department of pediatrics at Seattle Children’s Hospital at the University of Washington, told CNN. last March.
“So for someone It takes hours to fall asleep, and probably the best thing for them to do is turn off their screens, do 20 to 40 minutes of exercise each day, or not drink any caffeinated products at all.”
“These are all effective sleep aids for sleep, but people are very reticent to do them. They’d rather take the pill, right?”
Train your brain to sleep
Experts say there are other proven sleep tips that work just as well, if not better than aiding sleep. The body begins to secrete melatonin in the dark. What do we do in our modern culture? Use artificial light to keep us awake, often long after the body’s usual bedtime.
Research has found that the body will slow or stop the production of melatonin if it is exposed to light, including blue light from smartphones, laptops, and the like.
“Digital light will discourage everyday driving,” Polotsky said, while “a dim reading light will not.”
Other tips include keeping your bedroom temperature cool, around 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 20 degrees Celsius). Experts say we sleep better if we feel a little cold.
Set up a bedtime ritual by taking a warm bath, reading a book, or listening to soothing music. Or you can try deep breathing, yoga, meditation, or gentle stretching. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends or days off, experts say. The body loves routine.
If your doctor prescribes melatonin to help with jet lag or other minor sleep problems, continue with “short-term” use, Robbins says.