What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone which is manufactured by the pineal gland of the brain. It is responsible for controlling the daily sleep-wake cycles. All of us have an internal clock in our body, known as the circadian rhythm. This is responsible for influencing the amount of melatonin, the pineal gland can produce. Though the melatonin quantity in the body is also affected by the amount of light entering the body, the internal clock is the main factor responsible. Melatonin levels start increasing from the mid-to-late evening after the sun has set. They are present in high quantities in the body, during the night when it is dark, and as the sun rises and there is light, the levels increase. These increased levels are responsible for us to get up from the bed.

As winter has shorter days, melatonin may be produced by the body earlier or later in the day. This fact is responsible for inducing frequent natural sleep cycles. Thus, there is fatigue, mood change and drop in energy during winters. Some foods are also responsible for increasing the levels of melatonin like rice, strawberries, barley, cherries and cow’s milk.

Natural help for good sleep

Many drugstores and natural-food stores have melatonin supplements for sale, which are bought by customers to get an undisturbed sleep. They might be suffering from jet-lag, insomnia, shift-work problems or some other health issues which are not allowing them to have a proper sleep. These supplements may be available in liquid form, in pill state, in lozenge forms or in doses ranging from 1 to 20 milligrams. Insomniac patients usually consume a melatonin supplement 30 to 60 minutes before they go to bed. This way they can get a good night’s sleep. Melatonin supplements can react with other medicines, therefore it is better to consult with the doctor before they are consumed.

Is overdose of Melatonin safe?

If someone is becoming too much dependant on melatonin supplements, there are bound to be certain disruptions in the circadian rhythms or the sleep-wake cycle. There might also be some other side effects which are harmful. Though a melatonin overdose has no proper definition, there can be serious effects of melatonin overdose.  Some people may be more sensitive to 20 mg Melatonin while others may be not. Doses in this range might be harmful to the adults, let alone children.

The safest dose of melatonin would ideally be the lowest dose that helps in falling asleep without causing any side effects. A dose between 0.2 and 5 mg is considered to be safe, though a safe dose is always determined by age, body weight and sensitivity to the supplement.

Symptoms of Melatonin Overdose

If 20mg melatonin or higher doses are consumed and they go beyond the level of tolerance, there can be severe side effects and symptoms which should be immediately attended to. People can start feeling sleepy throughout the day and get nightmares and dreams. Some other symptoms are:

  • Joint pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

The blood pressure of some might also get affected. People who regularly consume calcium channel blockers and beta-blockers for reducing blood pressure may have naturally reduced levels of melatonin. In spite of that, if they want to consume melatonin supplements for getting sleep, it might not be a good decision always. A doctor’s advice is always important.

What not to consume with Melatonin?

As 20mg melatonin and other melatonin supplements can affect the sleep-wake cycle, one should avoid taking it with caffeine or alcohol. The circadian rhythms can get affected and the natural production of melatonin is disturbed. Birth control pills cause the body to start producing more melatonin, so no extra supplements should be taken while taking these pills. If you are taking corticosteroids for suppressing the immune response for rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, then also melatonin should not be taken.

Melatonin can be indeed helpful for some people needing help for falling and staying asleep. Still, it is not for everyone and should be avoided as much as possible. Some people might not be able to tolerate it even at low doses. Some others may see that even melatonin supplements are not helping them to fall asleep. For insomnia, it is always better to talk to a sleep specialist. Some changes in lifestyle, like cutting the consumption of caffeine or alcohol could be adopted to get a good sleep. So, always consult a specialist before taking any decision.