Disclaimer: Zach Davis is not a trained doctor, sleep counsellor, or medical professional. The information on this post is based on facts, and research. This information is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat or cure any disease. Never dismiss any advice your health physician gives. The author shall in no event be held liable for any loss or other damages including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or any other damages.
Melatonin supplements have become widely available in recent years, and one of the most common concerns over their use as a sleep aid is the risk of melatonin overdose. To understand the proper melatonin dosage, it's necessary to first know what it is, as well as how it is used in the body.
The body contains an intricate system for causing sleepiness called the Circadian Rhythm. Light and dark cycles are important for both getting to sleep and for a wakeful state of consciousness during the day.
The primary mechanism of the cycle happens before bedtime, which is a trigger for the pineal gland to produce a melatonin dose ranging from 5-25 micrograms.
Insomnia and problems managing the sleep-wake cycle are more common in older populations, because the body decreases the production of this hormone with age.
Problems in sleeping for younger people can be associated to medical conditions, artificial light, and schedules demanding sleep during the day.
On the other hand, melatonin supplements are utilized to boost its level in the body and are available in different forms such as tablets, liquid, creams, capsules and sub-lingual tablets. Before we dig deep in the right melatonin dosage, let us first define it.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin (also known as MEL or Pineal Hormone) is a naturally occurring hormone whose main purpose is to help regulate the sleep and wake cycle (Circadian Rhythm). The pineal gland, a small gland located in the center of the brain, produces this hormone. The levels of this hormone fluctuate during the day. Generally, they go up through the evening and remain elevated at night thus allowing you to sleep.
It is understood that in the morning, melatonin levels drop and you wake up. Different factors can impair its balance preventing you from getting enough sleep. That explains why some of the best sleep aids if not all contain this hormone as an active ingredient to address sleep problems such as insomnia.
Besides treatment of insomnia, MEL is also used in delayed sleep phase syndrome, attention deficit-hyperactivity, rapid eye movement sleep disorder, insomnia due to beta-blockers (blood pressure medications) and sleep problems in kids with autism, intellectual disabilities and cerebral palsy.
Melatonin is also used as a sleep aid after discontinuing the use of benzodiazepine drugs.
Studies have shown that you can safely use it for short term purposes, as the long term side effects of using pineal hormone are well documented.
The most commonly reported melatonin side effects include nausea, drowsiness, dizziness and reduced sex drive. Drowsiness is the most frequently reported of all side effects. Though experts argue that none of the side effects are serious enough to disrupt daily activities.
How Effective is Melatonin as a Sleep Aid?
Before finding out whether you can OD on melatonin it is important to address its efficacy. Pills and supplements containing this hormone have become incredibly popular, but are they effective?
Melatonin works together with the body’s circadian rhythm, a term that refers to physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle. Basically, circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock.
Evidence shows that it helps regulate body’s temperature, hormone levels, and blood pressure. A growing body of studies confirms that melatonin supplementation is, indeed, an effective way to fall asleep. For example, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a research which showed that taking melatonin significantly increases sleep duration, excessive daytime sleepiness, and fatigue, unlike placebo.
A meta-analysis of 19 studies on subjects with sleep disorders found that melatonin aid in the reduction of the time it took to fall asleep by seven minutes on average. In addition, subjects reported the quality of their sleep has also improved.
As seen above, science supports the idea that taking melatonin can help you improve sleep. A common misconception is that the more you take, the better the results you can expect. It doesn’t work like that! To experience desired results you need to take an adequate melatonin dosage.
Apart from being an effective treatment for insomnia, melatonin supplements have also been used for treating menopause due to irregular sleeping patterns, bone growth, and treating jet lag. Other uses of this hormone include medical conditions such as:
- Insomnia in older people
- Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS)
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cancer(in treating side effects of chemotherapy)
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Chronic fatigue syndrome and
- Sleep disorders due to Bipolar disorder
Most people who are prone to melatonin side effects include pregnant women or those hoping to conceive, emotionally or mentally disturbed patients, people who suffer from depression, children, cancer patients, people with severe allergies, and those who regularly use steroids.
People who fall into the above categories should carefully monitor their melatonin usage and take caution not to use it too frequently or in large doses.
As discussed earlier, MEL supplements are available in different forms including creams, tablets and liquid.
Liquid melatonin is a pretty good substitute for those people who find it hard to swallow tablets. It also works pretty fast as it is quickly absorbed to the body's blood stream.
Personally, I've had fast results using liquid form for insomnia. This form of melatonin is available in 1 mg dosage and you can take 4 drops 1 hour before bedtime for optimal results.
The reason why I advocate for using liquid form of this hormone is simple. Unlike pills, liquid melatonin is acts faster because it's directly absorbed by the mucosa of the mouth and reaches the brain faster. It could take only 3 to 10 minutes for the liquid melatonin to take hold.
Experts argue that side effects due to liquid MEL can be felt fast because it's fast assimilated to the body and reaches the brain very fast therefore it can cause discomfort withing a very short period.
How Much Melatonin is Too Much?
The best way to avoid melatonin overdose is to take the right dosage. Adults who are struggling with insomnia or occasional sleepiness are advised to start it off by taking a dosage of 0.2 to 5 mg about an hour before bedtime. If the dosage is well-tolerated, but not effective then you can slowly increase it until you get desired results.
Melatonin for Insomnia; Treatment and Dosage Information for Kids and Adults
The Right Melatonin Dosage for Adults
Generally, these melatonin dosages are recommended:
- For general help falling asleep: 0.3-10mg
- Insomnia in older adults: 0.1-5mg
- Jet lag: 0.1-8mg
- Restless leg syndrome: 3mg
A dosage of up to 10mg is considered mild and safe while a 20mg dose is considered high and is only recommended by doctors for patients with serious sleep disorders. Dosages of 30mg and especially 100mg are also considered high; the latter should not be used under any circumstances.
What to do in case of an overdose?
Melatonin overdose may be difficult to spot because symptoms are similar to those of many other health problems and side effects to some medications. However, if you do experience these symptoms you should not ignore them.
Consult your doctor, describe all symptoms you have noticed, and mention you’re taking melatonin. Your doctor will diagnose the problem.
In case of an overdose, you can also contact Poison Control Help Line at 1-800-222-1222 or call 911 if you experience serious reactions including chest pain and high blood pressure.
Melatonin Dosage for Kids and Toddlers
If your child has been having trouble sleeping, you have probably been searching desperately for something that can help. Your pediatrician or a friend may have suggested melatonin, but this may leave you with many more questions. Is melatonin for children safe? How should melatonin for kids be dosed? What about side effects? We answer all those questions here.
Melatonin and children: dosages
Children who suffer from insomnia because of a condition causing delayed sleep onset can take 5 mg of melatonin taken at bedtime.
Children who are taking melatonin to cope with insomnia due to developmental delays like autism or cerebral palsy should take 5 mg.
For secondary insomnia, 6 mg to 9 mg, taken before bedtime is recommended in children 3 to 12 years-old.
Children having trouble falling asleep can take 1 to 6 mg of MEL before bedtime.
Melatonin and children, dosage forms
Melatonin is available over the counter, usually in the natural section of grocery stores or at stores that sell vitamins and supplements. It is available as a pill form, but if your child has difficulty taking pills, you also have the option of dissolving tablets, drops or a liquid.
Melatonin is sometimes combined with other nutraceuticals to be more effective. Do not take one of these without consulting with your child’s pediatrician.
When is melatonin for children used?
Children can have a number of conditions that cause them to have trouble sleeping. Some common ones include attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, disorders on the autism spectrum or more severe conditions like cerebral palsy.
Is melatonin for kids safe?
The hormone melatonin is produced naturally by the body. It is responsible for setting the body’s inner clock. In spite of this, you should consult with your physician before giving it to your child as it does have the potential for being unsafe. This is a case where you don’t just want to take a friend’s advice, even if it worked for their child.
Melatonin may cause disturbances in other hormones, which can create problems with development, especially during adolescence. It can also increase blood sugar in diabetic kids and may increase the chance of seizures in children who have a seizure disorder. Additionally, melatonin can have interactions with medications, especially sedatives such as Ambien, Valium or Ativan.
Safety Tips for Kids, Adults and Pregnant Women
As a relatively new form of natural treatment for insomnia, a growing number of people are relying on a daily melatonin dose. However, certain things should be taken into consideration when taking MEL. The following things will help prevent the vast majority of side effects.
Adults should not exceed a dose of 10mg, begin with a liquid supplement, and switch to a capsule or pill form only after stabilizing a dose that relieves symptoms.
Melatonin affects the heart as well. Anyone who already has heart disease and is also taking a melatonin supplements may suffer from even more heart-related problems.
Melatonin supplements should be avoided in women who are pregnant or those attempting to become pregnant. Melatonin has also been detected in breast milk and therefore should be avoided during breastfeeding.
Taking Melatonin supplements along with immunosuppressants might decrease the effectiveness of the drugs that decrease the immune system.
Taking melatonin along with anticoagulant drugs increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.
People with a history of depression are advised to avoid using these supplements.
If your work is dealing with heavy machinery such as cranes or you're a pilot or you work in job that demand a lot of attention you don’t want to be messing around with melatonin.
Melatonin use may cause disturbance in other hormones, which might cause problems with development, especially during the adolescent. It can also increase blood sugar in diabetic kids and may cause seizures in children with seizure disorder.
Side Effects of Taking Melatonin as a Sleep Aid
Since everyone produces some amount of melatonin, even those suffering from insomnia, each person will respond differently to larger doses. Appearance of any side effects indicates the need to cut back dosage.
Start with a smaller melatonin dose for best results. The goal in using MEL should be to help your body get the rhythm of its natural sleep cycle thus not needing to take melatonin for a period of time.
Side effects occur in persons who take a higher dosage than recommended but may also happen due to underlying health problems. Besides headache, dizziness, drowsiness, diarrhea, and nausea, you may experience:
- Grogginess in the morning
- Mood changes
- Low blood pressures
- Rapid pulse
- Lowered body temperature and itching
- Vivid dreams
- Hormonal changes and
- Sluggish response
Melatonin may also aggravate bleeding in persons with bleeding disorders, increase blood sugar in diabetic patients, make symptoms of depression worse, interfere with immunosuppressive therapies in people who received transplants, increase the risk of seizure disorders.
However, most of these side effects are short term and go away before you realize but there can be other long term effects on your body when using MEL supplements daily as a sleep aid.
Note: The long term side effects of Melatonin are still unknown. Its long term safety has also not been established. There are some concerns about its continued use being associated with retinal damage.
Can You OD on Melatonin as a Sleep Aid?
Melatonin Overdose: Is It Possible? Can OD Actually Kill You?
Numbers show that 50 to 70 million American adults have a sleep disorder with insomnia being the most prevalent problem that prevents people from getting sufficient sleep.
About 35.3% of adults report getting less than seven hours of sleep during a typical 24-hour period. In order to get much-needed sleep, many people use melatonin which allows them to get enough good night’s rest in a natural manner.
One thing that isn’t discussed that often is a potential overdose on melatonin. Can you take too much of it? Can it kill you? You’ll find answers below.
As much as melatonin is an effective tool to get more sleep, there is always a risk of overdose and potential side effects. It’s not just melatonin, everything you take can carry these risks and you need to be informed about everything before you purchase some product.
A vast majority of melatonin-based products today are sold as dietary supplements and the manufacturing process of these items is not regulated by the FDA.
While some stricter measures are being introduced with the rise of this industry, the manufacturers are still not obliged to inform potential customers about overdose risks. At the same time, lack of regulation of this industry has allowed brands to sell their products at varying dosages. As a result, it is easy for people to take more than allowed and experience adverse reactions.
So, the answer to the question can you take too much melatonin is simple – yes, you can. Labels of many products on the market suggest dosages that are higher than those recommended (see below). Users are told to stick to the dosage listed on the label and they do so, without realizing they might be putting their health in jeopardy.
Good news is that melatonin won’t kill you, but you may feel uncomfortable and experience several unpleasant effects. Symptoms of melatonin overdose are:
- Anxiety or irritability
- Joint pain
- Abdominal cramps
- Sleep walking
- Stomach upset
- Confusion and
It is important to mention that too much of this hormone may have a negative impact on blood pressure in persons with hypertension.
Melatonin and Drug interactions
Before taking a melatonin supplements, you should be aware of the possible drug interactions. Consulting with a physician before taking any melatonin-based medication will ensure that people can relieve their insomnia in the safest way possible.
Sedative medications also known as CNS depressants interact with MEL and may cause sleepiness, drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion. Taking melatonin along with sedatives might lead too much sleepiness.
Examples of sedative medications include: lorazepam (Ativan), ramelteon (Rozerem), clonazepam (Klonopin), suvorexant (Belsomra), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), temazepam (Restoril) and others.
Birth control pills have the potential to increase the amount of melatonin produced by the body. Therefore taking melatonin along with contraceptive pills might cause the level of melatonin in the body to go beyond the optimum levels.
Examples of contraceptive drugs include ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone (Ortho-Novum 1/35, Lybrel, Ortho-Novum 7/7/7), ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel (Skyla, Aftera, Triphasil) and others.
These are medications that decrease the immune system. Taking Melatonin supplements along with these immunosuppressants might decrease the effectiveness of the drugs that decrease the immune system.
Examples of immunosuppressants include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune, Gengraf), daclizumab (Zenapax), nitrogen mustard (Mustargen), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids)), methotrexate (Rheumatrex), leflunomide (Arava), and chlorambucil (Leukeran).
Diabetic drugs are used to lower blood sugar in the body. Antidiabetes drugs' interaction with melatonin might increase the blood sugar. By increasing the levels of blood sugar, MEL might decrease the effectiveness of antidiabetes drugs necessitating the change in change of dosage.
Examples of diabetic drugs include glipizide (Glucotrol), rosiglitazone (Avandia), glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), insulin, tolbutamide (Orinase), pioglitazone (Actos), and others.
Also known as antiplatelet drugs, these are drugs used to slow down blood clotting. Taking melatonin along with anticoagulant drugs increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.
Examples of antiplatelet drugs include enoxaparin (Lovenox), aspirin, diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam),prasugrel (Effient), clopidogrel (Plavix), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn), rivaroxaban (Xarelto)dalteparin (Fragmin), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), fondaparinux (Arixtra), and others.
Caffeine might lower melatonin levels in the body. Taking MEL supplements along with caffeine may decrease the effectiveness of melatonin.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which foods are high in MEL?
There are a few excellent sources of naturally occurring melatonin in foods which include:
- Seeds and nuts such as peanuts, mustards seeds, flaxseed, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.
- Grains such as rolled oats, barley and rice.
- Fruits and vegetables such as asparagus, corn, tomatoes, grapes, pomegranate, olives, cucumber, broccoli, and tart cherries.
How do you get melatonin naturally?
Remember this hormone is produced naturally before bedtime to promote sleep. To boost its production, reduce stress levels, increase sunlight exposure and meditate. Natural sources include fruits and vegetables, grains, and seeds and nuts as discussed above.
What can cause low levels?
The main causes of low melatonin are lack of sleep or anything that disrupts sleep such as late nights, shift work, alcohol, jet lag, blood sugar imbalance, stress, caffeine, age, electromagnetic wave, and exposure to blue light.
Is it safe to take 10mg of melatonin?
A safe dose of melatonin is the lowest dose that is effective in helping you get quality sleep without causing side effects. In general, a dose between 0.2 and 5 mg is considered safe dose. Try a dose of between 0.3 and 10 mg to help in falling asleep.
Can I take 20mg of melatonin?
Your Melatonin Dosage should not exceed 10 mg for adults and 6 to 9 mg in children 3 to 12 years for treating secondary insomnia.
A dosage of 20 mg is considered high and is only recommended by doctors for patients with serious sleep disorders.
In rare cases people have taken over 20 mg dosage with no side effects due to an overdose. Basically, it means that the body’s production and intake of MEL supplements have together provided too much melatonin for the excretory systems to handle safely. Symptoms overdosing include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Mood swings
- Declining libido and loss of male potency
The truth is that there is no optimum melatonin dosage. The human body makes between 5-25 micrograms of melatonin, which is moderated by the dark and light cycles of the Circadian Rhythm. Production increases with darkness, and light causes production to fall.
Even under the worst conditions, the pineal gland does its best to make some melatonin. Digestive irregularity, poor diet, and after-hours exposure to artificial light are all problems that can hinder pineal hormone production.
In general, the normal dosage ranges between 0.3 to 10 mg for adults and 1 to 6 mg of MEL before bedtime for children having trouble falling asleep.
How long should you sleep after taking MEL?
Once you decide to take melatonin as a sleeping pill to induce sleep, you can take it up to 30 mins before or at bedtime. If you’re trying to treat delayed sleep phase syndrome, you should take it 2-3 hours before bedtime.
How much pineal hormone should I take to fall asleep?
According to WebMD, for falling asleep, a daily dose of 03 to 5 mg of melatonin for up to nine months is recommended. For problems with people with sleep-wake cycle disturbances, a dose of 2 to 12 mg taken at bedtime for up to four weeks is recommended.
Is there MEL in bananas?
Bananas are rich in potassium and magnesium which are natural muscle relaxants. They also contain the L-tryptophan amino acid, which is converted to 5-HTP in the brain. The 5-HTP in turn is converted to a relaxing neurotransmitter called serotonin and melatonin.
Melatonin is often sought for its ability to induce sleepiness naturally, but people also use it for the valuable antioxidant properties and as a treatment for several emotional and chronic disorders.
Though real melatonin can be found, it must be extracted from animal tissues or plants, which makes for two downsides. It is more expensive, and the animal form may contain unwanted trace particles, like prions or viral toxins. Synthetic melatonin has shown no difference in action within the body and is considered a safer alternative.
A growing body of evidence confirms the efficacy of this hormone in improving sleep duration and quality. That said, taking excessive dosage may cause overdose and side effects. While melatonin is effective and it can help you get much-needed sleep, you need to stick to dosages that are considered safe. If you’re not sure, consult your doctor and ask about the ideal dose.
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Sources and References