Potential Uses and Benefits of Melatonin (2023)

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in the human brain that impacts circadian rhythms. Its primary function is to help us sleep, and its production increases at nighttime. For this reason, people take melatonin as a sleep aid. Research studies for these uses show mixed results. Melatonin overdose is not well-understood, and standard dosage has not been established. Melatonin is not a medication. It is a dietary supplement that is available over-the-counter in the United States.

Is melatonin safe?

Melatonin seems to be safe when taken for short periods of time as a sleep aid, though there are no studies of long-term safety. Melatonin side effects include drowsiness, as expected, and dizziness, but otherwise are about the same as placebo pills (sugar pills). People with seizure disorders should not take melatonin, as there are some reports of seizures occurring in people who took it.The safety and side effects of long-term melatonin use have not been studied extensively in pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and young children.To date, there are no definite answers about how well melatonin works for a number of conditions, and how safe it is when taken for long periods. Melatonin is not a medication. Quality control may be variable because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] does not regulate dietary supplements in the same way that it monitors prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Supplements may not have consistent amounts of the active ingredient in them, and they may be absorbed into the body at different rates. This can make it hard to interpret research studies that don't describe the formulation of melatonin used. While melatonin is a dietary supplement and not a medication, it may react with medicines and other supplements. Check with your doctor before taking it.

Is melatonin addictive?

The addictive potential of melatonin has not been studied extensively, and it's possible that some people may develop a dependence to melatonin after using it for a long time. Overall, melatonin is believed to be less addictive than other sleep-inducing medications.

Can someone overdose on melatonin?

Even though melatonin is not a medication, it can cause unwanted side effects in overdose. If someone takes too much melatonin, he or she might experience sleepiness, headache, nausea, and perhaps even agitation. There is no antidote for melatonin overdose, and significant toxicity is not expected to occur even after consumption of relatively large doses of it. If someone takes too much melatonin, have a reliable adult stay with the person who took the it until he or she is fully rested and awake. That reliable adult should also awaken the person who took the melatonin every half hour while napping. If the person’s breathing is not normal or if the person will not fully awaken, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Department. The side effects of melatonin, including drowsiness, may last for several hours.

Will melatonin help me sleep?

A review of more than 125 studies, many of them small, concluded that melatonin doesn't seem to help most people with sleep problems, including people with jet lag and shift workers. There is some evidence that it can help people fall asleep faster. The researchers found that most studies fell short in describing the details of the melatonin used in the study. A prescription drug called Ramelteon® acts on the same area of the brain as melatonin. It is prescribed for elderly people with insomnia.

Can melatonin help children with ADHD sleep?

Many children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have problems falling asleep and staying asleep. A review of four studies of such children found that melatonin often helped them fall asleep faster and sleep longer.

Should I take melatonin for jet lag?

Several studies have evaluated the effectiveness of melatonin for jet lag. Most studies were small. Some researchers believe that it is safe and effective when people cross five or more time zones in the eastern direction. Other researchers say that there is no evidence that melatonin helps with sleep problems associated with jet lag, though it may help people to feel more awake during the day. All seem to agree that additional research is needed.

Is it safe to put melatonin in food and drinks?

There is no research showing that melatonin should be added to foods and drinks, though it has been baked into brownies and added to beverages and marketed as “relaxation” aids. The amount of melatonin used was typically more than a usual bedtime dose of 5 milligrams, though standard dosage has not been established. The FDA required companies to remove melatonin from their products, noting that it has medical uses but is NOT recognized as a safe addition to foods. Although hundreds of melatonin studies have been published, many of them involved only small numbers of people, were not scientifically rigorous, and used unspecified types of products.

What should I do if I took too much melatonin?

If someone may be experiencing a melatonin overdose or worrisome side effects, use the webPOISONCONTROL® online tool for guidance or call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

Rose Ann Gould Soloway, RN, BSN, MSEd, DABATemerita
Clinical Toxicologist

Kelly Johnson-Arbor, MD, FACEP, FUHM, FACMT
Medical Toxicologist


Potential Uses and Benefits of Melatonin? ›

What are the health benefits of taking melatonin? Melatonin supplements may help with certain conditions, such as jet lag, delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, some sleep disorders in children, and anxiety before and after surgery.

What are the uses and benefits of melatonin? ›

Your body likely produces enough melatonin for its general needs. However, evidence suggests that melatonin supplements promote sleep and are safe for short-term use. Melatonin can be used to treat delayed sleep phase and circadian rhythm sleep disorders in the blind and provide some insomnia relief.

What is the intended use of melatonin? ›

Melatonin is a safe first-line sleep aid that may help promote a regular sleep cycle. In addition, melatonin is one of the few over-the-counter supplements that healthcare providers can recommend for insomnia. Although not FDA-approved, melatonin is widely used for insomnia and jet lag disorders.

What are three functions of melatonin? ›

Results: The physiological effects of melatonin are various and include detoxification of free radicals and antioxidant actions, bone formation and protection, reproduction, and cardiovascular, immune or body mass regulation.

What is the purpose of melatonin and what are the side effects? ›

Better Sleep for a Better You.

Melatonin side effects are typically rare and mild but can include daytime sleepiness, headache, nausea, and dizziness. More research is needed to understand the effects of long-term melatonin use. Talk to your doctor before taking melatonin during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

Does melatonin help with anxiety? ›

A 2017 study indicated melatonin as an effective and safe option for treating people with anxiety following acute coronary syndrome (ACS). A 2018 study found that the administration of melatonin was more effective in improving anxiety and sleeping patterns than the drug oxazepam in people undergoing heart surgery.

What are the benefits of melatonin on the brain? ›

Melatonin not only plays a role as an antioxidant, but also acts as an anti-excitotoxicity and anti-inflammatory molecule in neurons. Furthermore, melatonin is a neuroprotective molecule and potential antidepressant because it can pass through the blood–brain barrier and has few side effects [83].

Who shouldn't take melatonin? ›

Do not use melatonin if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have an autoimmune disorder, a seizure disorder or depression.

Is melatonin safe for depression? ›

However, if you have depression and find that your symptoms are worse when you don't get enough sleep, melatonin may be a good thing to keep around. While melatonin may not directly address your depression, it can help you get on a regular sleep schedule, which may help to improve some of your symptoms.

Does melatonin help with weight loss? ›

While melatonin alone will not aid in massive weight loss, it is recommended as a complementary weight loss strategy when used with increase in physical activity and a change in poor diet. Weight loss aside, melatonin directly helps regulate insulin sensitivity and acts as an anti-inflammatory.

Is it OK to take melatonin every night? ›

It is typically safe for adults to take melatonin every night for short periods of time. Several factors affect whether an individual should take melatonin every day.

Is it good to take melatonin daily? ›

Regardless of whether it truly helps with sleep or not, Dr. Ramkissoon doesn't recommend taking melatonin long-term. "Namely, because if you think you need to take melatonin every night to get to sleep, we need to understand why that's the case," explains Dr. Ramkissoon.

What happens if you take melatonin every night? ›

The current clinical consensus is that daily melatonin consumption is considered safe. However, according to a 2020 article published in Antioxidants, more research is needed to determine the correct dose and time and understand potential long-term effects.

Is it okay to take melatonin everyday? ›

Melatonin is generally safe for short-term use, but studies on its long-term effects are limited. The side effects of melatonin are typically mild. If you take melatonin and notice that it isn't helping you fall asleep or causes unwanted side effects, stop taking it and speak with your doctor.

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