Medically reviewed by: Dr. Areti Vassilopoulos, Yale School of Medicine
If you’ve struggled with sleep issues, you’ve likely been told to take melatonin as an over-the-counter sleep aid. Unfortunately, even if it helps you get to sleep at night, melatonin could produce some unpleasant lingering side effects that affect your quality of life the next day.
Melatonin is a helpful sleep aid and it’s generally safe for short-term use. However, it can also cause undesirable side effects like headache, nausea, dizziness, and drowsiness. Although melatonin is a hormone that naturally occurs in your body, taking too much of it could make you feel excessively groggy or drowsy the next morning.
Before you start taking melatonin for sleep issues, you should talk with a sleep doctor about its potential side effects and explore other treatment options. That way, you can find a solution for your sleep issues that doesn’t leave you struggling with other problems like grogginess or excessive sleepiness. So, before you settle for a less-than-ideal sleep solution, here’s what you need to know about melatonin and its side effects.
Melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness. It helps your body regulate your circadian rhythm (your natural sleep and wake cycles). Darkness increases your natural melatonin production, which tells your body that it’s time to go to sleep. In contrast, light decreases melatonin production, which signals to your body that it’s time to wake up.
If you have trouble sleeping, you could have low levels of melatonin, or there may be other things that are affecting your body’s melatonin levels. Overexposure to bright or blue light can disrupt your body’s natural melatonin production and disrupt your normal sleep patterns. Other factors, like a lack of exercise, working night shifts, or even just getting older can also affect your body’s melatonin production process.In these cases adding a melatonin supplement to your daily routine might help you get more sleep and function better during the day.
Many people take melatonin for various reasons. Although the most common reason people take it is to alleviate sleep issues, melatonin can also be helpful for people who:
Even though melatonin is a hormone that your body naturally produces, taking too much of a melatonin supplement can cause harmful side effects. Generally, it’s safe to take small doses of melatonin daily for a short time, but researchers and health experts don’t recommend long-term use of melatonin.
If you take more than the recommended amount, you could potentially overdose and experience negative side effects. Although a melatonin overdose is highly unlikely to cause death or serious health problems, the effects will still have a negative impact on your quality of life, so it’s best to take no more than the recommended dose. And if you need a long-term solution for sleep issues, talk to your doctor about alternatives, like the Sleep Reset.
Melatonin can be very helpful and effective when you use it appropriately and in the right dosage. Regardless, if you accidentally or intentionally take too much melatonin, you could experience some of the following negative side effects.
If you experience any of these side effects, call your doctor and speak with them about alternative sleep solutions, or ask for recommendations for a more appropriate dosage.
Most doctors recommend taking anywhere from 1 to 3 milligrams of melatonin per dose. Melatonin manufacturers generally provide dosage and usage instructions on the back of the label, which can help you determine how much you should take before bed.
In the United States, melatonin is sold as a dietary supplement, not a medication, so it’s not as closely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Although it’s easy and convenient to buy at your local pharmacy, grocery store, or online, you should be cautious about the brand of melatonin you buy and do your homework first. Some less reputable brands may list the dosage incorrectly on the label, while others may contain ingredients you don’t want to consume. When in doubt, your doctor should be able to provide trustworthy recommendations for high-quality melatonin brands.
Melatonin can also affect people differently, so it may take some time to determine the dosage that works best for you and has the fewest side effects. If you’re unsure of how much you should take, it’s always best to talk with your primary physician or consult with an experienced sleep doctor who can help you use melatonin safely and avoid overdose.
If you’re not comfortable taking melatonin or it makes you groggy the next day, you’ll be happy to know there are several natural and effective alternatives. The following are some of the best natural alternatives to melatonin you may want to try.
Research indicates that some of the best essential oils for better sleep are:
If you’re not comfortable taking any supplements or teas as sleep aids, you may want to invest in a high-quality sleep mask. When worn over your eyes at night, these can block out light and help boost your body’s natural production of melatonin. You can also pop in your earbuds to block out any distracting noises and create an ideal bedroom environment that’s conducive to sleep.
Like all sleep aids, even natural alternatives to melatonin can have some side effects and risks. Additionally, dietary supplements and herbal products don’t require FDA approval, so you’ll need to do a great deal of research before you purchase any products. Unfortunately, some products may not provide accurate dosage information, which could lead to harmful side effects.
As always, be sure to consult with your doctor before trying any of the above-mentioned natural sleep aids. They can help you understand the benefits, side effects, and risks of using natural sleep aids like these.
Fortunately, melatonin isn’t the only treatment option for sleep issues. Sleep Reset is a science-backed program that combines expert individualized sleep coaching and proven and effective sleep methods to help you overcome whatever sleep problems you may be facing.
Whether you always feel tired, you have trouble falling asleep, or you suffer from restless legs syndrome, Sleep Reset offers a natural, no-pills solution with a customized treatment plan designed for your lifestyle and sleep preferences. All you have to do is tell us about your sleep issues, and one of our sleep coaches will partner with you to create a uniquely tailored program that will help you sleep and feel better.
No more tossing and turning throughout the night. Get started with Sleep Reset by taking our thorough, expert-designed sleep quiz today!
Disclaimer: The information provided on this page should not be taken as medical advice and should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Always consult your physician before taking any new medication(s) or altering your current dosage.