- How Melatonin Makes You Feel
- How It Works
- Side Effects
- When to Take
- How Long Stays in Body
- Who Should Not Take It
- When to Seek Medical Help
How does melatonin make you feel?
Melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates the sleeping cycle of humans. People use melatonin supplements for depression, and chronic pain and to relieve sleep conditions, including jet lag and insomnia. It makes you feel sleepy and calm, but you may experience some melatonin side effects.
Melatonin production and release in the brain depend on the time of day. Darkness results in more melatonin production, which sends the body to sleep. Light decreases the melatonin production that keeps the body awake.
Melatonin is naturally produced in our bodies, but its supplements are also readily available in the United States as an over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aid.
When you take melatonin supplements, the increased melatonin levels drop your body's temperature and blood pressure. Melatonin makes you feel relaxed and calm and instantly puts you to sleep.
How does melatonin work?
The pineal gland is located in the mid-line of the brain and produces melatonin. The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) manages the release of this hormone, which consists of several neurons in the brain's hypothalamus. These neurons, or nerve cells, control your body's circadian (sleep) cycle by transmitting signals.
In the daytime, the retina in your eye absorbs light and triggers the SCN. The SCN then sends signals to your pineal gland to stop producing melatonin. As a result, you stay awake and energized the whole day.
The opposite happens at night time. When the retina doesn't get enough light to absorb, the SCN triggers the pineal gland to release melatonin. As the melatonin production increases in your body, your SCN slows down the neuron functioning and prepares your body for sleep.
Are there harmful side effects of melatonin?
Melatonin is generally considered safe to use. It is primarily used to induce sleepiness, so that's not considered a side effect. However, some people may experience mild melatonin side effects, including:
- Mild anxiety symptoms
- Nightmares with mild tremors
- Decreased alertness
- Temporary depressive thoughts
- Unusually low blood pressure
These melatonin side effects only happen when you take too much melatonin and are likely to disappear after some time.
How much melatonin should I take?
There is no standard melatonin dosage, but keeping your dose between 1 to 6 mg is recommended. Always begin taking melatonin with the lowest amount. Then, increase it gradually until you determine the right melatonin dosage that works for you without causing side effects.
Never overdose on melatonin, as doing so may disrupt your sleep cycle and cause unusual sleepiness.
It's important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't regulate melatonin and its supplements. Melatonin isn't a drug, but rather, a dietary supplement.
Every manufacturer lists the dosage on the packaging that you can follow. However, it's essential to talk to a doctor to determine the right melatonin dosage and when you should take it.
When should I take melatonin?
It's better to take melatonin 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed. This is because melatonin starts working in your body after 30 minutes, when your blood levels rise.
However, the right time to take melatonin may vary from person to person since everyone absorbs it at different rates. It's suitable to start taking the melatonin supplement 30 minutes before bedtime. Then, you can adjust the time according to the time your body takes to fall asleep.
Try not to take melatonin at your bedtime or after it. If you do so, it can disrupt your sleep cycle, leading to daytime sleepiness.
How long does melatonin stay in my body?
Melatonin has a half-life of 40 to 60 minutes. Thus, the supplement doesn't stay in your body for long.
A drug generally takes 4 to 5 half-lives to disappear from the body entirely.
Even if you don't go to bed after taking melatonin, you'll feel drowsiness and sleepiness. Therefore, never use dangerous tools or machinery and avoid driving within 5 to 6 hours of taking melatonin.
Since every person metabolizes and reacts to drugs differently, the total time melatonin remains in the body may vary. The duration depends on some factors, including:
- Caffeine intake
- Overall health condition
- Body composition
- Your melatonin consumption
- Other medications
Taking melatonin at the right time doesn't give you a hangover. However, if you take it at unusual times, you may feel drowsy the following day.
Who should not take melatonin?
Although it is safe, some people may experience severe melatonin side effects and should avoid taking it. You should not take melatonin if you:
- Have depression or anxiety symptoms
- Have an autoimmune disease
- Have a seizure disorder
- Have a kidney disease
- Have a heart condition
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Are a transplant recipient
These people must consult a doctor before taking melatonin to stay safe and avoid side effects. Melatonin is also said to interact with medications that you're consuming. These include:
- Diabetes medications that include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, etc.
- Medications altered by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2C19 (CYP2C19) substrates), such as amitriptyline (Elavil), carisoprodol (Soma), citalopram (Celexa), etc.
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
- Birth control pills including Ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel (Triphasil), Ethinyl estradiol
- Antihypertensive drugs including captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), etc.
- Anticonvulsants, such as phenobarbital, primidone (Mysoline), valproic acid (Depakene), gabapentin (Neurontin), and others
- Immunosuppressants including azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), daclizumab (Zenapax), etc.
- Anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs, such as aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), etc.
- Sedative medications, such as clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and others.
When to seek medical help
Melatonin benefits people with insomnia, and jet lag. However, it may cause some side effects if you take it in a higher dose, at the wrong time, or with any drug that interacts with melatonin.
If you're considering using melatonin supplements, it's better to consult with your doctor, especially if you have any health condition and are taking medication for it.
Always seek medical help if you observe continuous symptoms of dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, and depressive thoughts.
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Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Anna Aulinas: "Physiology of the Pineal Gland and Melatonin."
Mayo Clinic: "Melatonin side effects: What are the risks?"
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH): "Melatonin," "Melatonin: What You Need To Know," "Optimal Melatonin Dose in Older Adults: A Clinical Review of the Literature."
Sleep Foundation: "Melatonin Dosage by Age and Weight," "Melatonin: Expiration and How Long It Lasts in Your Body."
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