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What is Melatonin? 

Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the body that plays a role in circadian rhythms [1]. It is used in dietary supplements. It is a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness. Melatonin is a hormone that your body naturally makes to help keep your sleep cycle consistent. This cycle is also known as your circadian rhythm. This is also sometimes called the “biological clock.” Melatonin may be an effective and safe treatment of chronic insomnia, sleep anxiety, and insomnia caused by jet lag or shift work. There are cases where individuals use alcohol to self-medicate from insomnia, and they sometimes combine melatonin and alcohol.

Melatonin plays a major role in maintaining your sleep cycle. Your body produces most of it in the hours after the sun goes down. Most of it is made especially between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. Being exposed to light at night can block melatonin production. Research suggests that these hormones play other important roles in the body beyond sleep. However, these effects are not fully understood. Melatonin dietary supplements can be made from animals or microorganisms, but most often they’re made synthetically.

Can You Overdose on Melatonin
Can you overdose on melatonin? Long-term overdose from this dietary supplement can cause hormonal imbalances in the body, especially as it relates to women’s levels of estrogen and progesterone

People with sleep disorders sometimes use alcohol to self-medicate. Studies have found that approximately 30% of people with ongoing insomnia have used alcohol within the past year as a sleep aid. Insomnia and alcohol abuse are strongly connected; estimates of insomnia in people with alcohol dependency range from 36% to 67%. In addition, it is not uncommon for individuals suffering from sleep disorders to combine melatonin and alcohol.

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Melatonin Dosage 

10mg Dosage

  • This is the highest dose that is typically used for treating sleep-related conditions and hasn’t been associated with toxicity. 10mg was the dose used in one study to handle circadian rhythm disorders in people who are blind. The study concluded that this high dose should always be supervised by a physician.

20mg Dosage

  • The 30 mg dosage is substantial. Some studies have used doses of 20-40 mg to prevent and treat clot-forming cells (thrombocytopenia) associated with cancer chemotherapy.

100mg Dosage

  • This is a serious dosage, and it shouldn’t be used at all. With this in mind, it’s important to note that this would result in a lot of unwanted effects which could be potentially very harmful. 

How Much Melatonin is Safe to Take?

Melatonin is available to purchase in any quantity, without a prescription in the U.S. However, there is currently no formal consensus on the optimal dosing regimen for this supplement. Studies frequently use doses ranging from 0.1 to 10 milligrams, but 2 to 3 milligrams is often considered an appropriate amount to start.

There are many challenges to determining the appropriate amount of melatonin for any one person to take. Individual responses to this supplement can vary considerably due to factors that are not fully understood but can include age, gender, specific sleep issues, other health conditions, and timing of administration.

In addition, not all melatonin supplements are created equal. Differences in preparation can significantly alter its impact. Depending on the formulation, taking 1 to 10 milligrams of melatonin can raise the body’s melatonin blood levels anywhere from 3 to 60 times the normal amount.

 A random sampling of 31 brands of these dietary supplements determined that most did not contain the labeled dose, with the actual amount ranging anywhere from less than 80% to nearly 500% as much. Additionally, over one-quarter of the supplements contained serotonin. Consumers should look for products labeled United States Pharmacopeial Convention Verified for the most reliable formulation.

Despite the lack of data and variability around dosing regimens, with typical use, this dietary supplement is largely considered safe and is generally well-tolerated in healthy adults. The risk of side effects is low but can include mild headache, dizziness, nausea, and sleepiness.

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Why People Take Artificial Melatonin

Melatonin supplements may help with certain conditions, such as jet lag, delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, and anxiety before and after surgery.

Jet lag

  • Jet lag affects people when they travel by air across multiple time zones. With jet lag, you may not feel well overall and you may have disturbed sleep, daytime tiredness, impaired functioning, and digestive problems. Research suggests that these dietary supplements may help with jet lag. 

Delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD)

  • People with DSWPD have trouble falling asleep at the usual times and waking up in the morning. They typically have difficulty getting to sleep before 2 to 6 a.m. and would prefer to wake up between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Melatonin supplements appear to help with sleep in people with DSWPD, but it’s uncertain whether the benefits outweigh the possible harms. 

Anxiety before and after surgery

  • Anxiety before and after surgery happens in up to 80 percent of patients. Melatonin supplements appear to be helpful in reducing anxiety before surgery, but it’s unclear if it helps to lower anxiety after surgery. 

Melatonin Effects

Studies show serious adverse effects and toxicity of melatonin is relatively rare. However, more long-term human research needs to be conducted to conclusively prove this. What this means, is that it’s relatively safe to use melatonin daily. However, it’s advisable to only do this for a short period.

While no current research points at the toxicity of using melatonin long-term, you can have side effects when you take it at too high a dose. Most doctors recommend a dosage of 1 to 3 milligrams (mg). In some people, an overdose of melatonin may cause excessive sleepiness while in others it might produce the opposite of the desired effect and trigger over alertness.

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Melatonin Side Effects

Daytime Sleepiness

  • Drowsiness is undoubtedly amongst the most visible and common side effects when it comes to overdoing it with your supplementation. The idea is that if you take this supplement at the wrong time of the day, you are likely to start feeling drowsy. 

Hormonal Changes

  • When you’re taking a hormone – hormonal changes are bound to happen. However, this could be far more serious than you think. For instance, pregnant women are not advised to take this dietary supplement as not enough research has been done to know if it is safe during pregnancy.

Headaches

  • Another widespread consequence of taking a little bit too much of this supplement is a severe headache in the morning. One the one hand, some research has found that these dietary supplements may help to prevent headaches and migraines. However, keep in mind that this hormone is produced in your brain and as such, taking more than what’s needed could lead to chemical imbalances and quickly spiral into the very thing you’re looking to prevent — headaches.

Dizziness

  • Dizziness could be another unpleasant side effect from taking too much melatonin. It could also be triggered by an allergic reaction to the supplement. Either way, dizziness is something quite unpleasant and is capable of severely disrupting your functioning.

Can You Overdose on Melatonin
Although melatonin supplements are considered “natural,” this does not necessarily mean they are harmless.

Paranoia

  • If you take a higher dose than what’s necessary, you could experience delusions, paranoia, confusion, or hallucinations. Because this hormone is closely tied to other neurotransmitters that regulate mood and behavior, higher doses could lead to chemical imbalances and these unpleasant symptoms.

Stomach Issues

  • This is undoubtedly one of the most common side effects of melatonin, regardless of whether you take it in a regular amount or you overdose it. You may easily experience stomach issues such as diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. These are quite unpleasant, and this is something that you don’t want to deal with.

Anxiety & Depression

  • Anxiety and depression are commonly associated with hormonal imbalances and could be induced by taking higher doses of this dietary supplement. If you start experiencing any mental health changes after taking this dietat, speak to your doctor immediately.

Can You Overdose on Melatonin?

When it comes to the question concerning whether or not you can overdose on melatonin, the answer is yes and no. There has never been a case reported of anyone dying from too much melatonin, or even becoming seriously ill, so no, you cannot really overdose in the fatal sense.

On the other hand, you can certainly take too much melatonin, which can produce adverse side effects you likely want to avoid. If you are worried about whether or not you have taken too much, take a look at the warning signs and symptoms of taking larger doses of melatonin than recommended and adjust your intake accordingly.

Taking too much of this dietary supplement can have a wide range of harmful effects. Overdoses can lower the sperm count and libido of men, and affect estrogen and progesterone hormone levels in women. Some also suggest that melatonin can affect ovulation and menstrual cycles for women as well.

Symptoms of a Melatonin Overdose 

While overuse of this drug might not cause death, it can cause a few of the below symptoms: 

  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Drowsiness
  • Low body temperature
  • Vomiting
  • Worsening of alopecia areata (an autoimmune disorder causing hair loss)

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Treating an Overdose and Addiction to Melatonin and Alcohol

In the case of a severe overdose or side effect — like an abnormally low blood pressure — see a doctor right away. You should also get medical help if you feel that the supplement interacts with your prescription medication. For example, you might take your diabetes medication as scheduled to control your blood sugar, yet your blood sugar still remains elevated. Medical treatment will focus on stabilizing your health. So if too much melatonin causes low blood pressure, your doctor will work to get your blood pressure back to a healthy level. 

Alcohol acts as a depressant on the nervous system. When an individual consumes alcohol, the substance sedates their body. In many scenarios, alcohol seems to have a similar effect on the body as melatonin. Both substances make the user drowsy and slow down other body processes. Taken together, however, is a dangerous combination and is never a good idea.

While some may take alcohol to help them sleep, it also causes stress hormones to be released, resulting in restlessness while sleeping. Alcohol can also prevent the production of melatonin in the body. This, together with the depressant effect already present from melatonin, can yield a potentially dangerous mixture. If you regularly take this dietary supplement or need it to get to sleep, health professionals recommend you wait two or three hours after you’ve stopped drinking to take melatonin. The combination can be deadly, so it is always better to err on the side of caution.

The majority of common mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD, are related to sleep disorders, including insomnia. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, which affects sleep in various ways. Higher doses of alcohol have been shown to disrupt sleep, particularly during the second half of the night. Alcohol should not be used as a sleep aid, and regular use of alcohol as a sleep aid may result in alcohol dependence and addiction.

Now that we’ve answered the question “can you overdose on melatonin?”, it’s also important to ask yourself if you are combining it with other substances like alcohol. If you are having trouble with alcohol and insomnia, and self-medicating with melatonin and alcohol, talk to us and we will help you find an effective treatment for both. We Level Up New Jersey addiction treatment center can provide proper evidence-based therapy. Above all, recovering from co-occurring disorders like Alcohol and Insomnia problems does not need to be overwhelming or burdensome.

can you overdose on melatonin
If you or someone you know has been affected by melatonin and alcohol abuse, there are resources to help you recover.

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Sources:

[1] NIH – https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/melatonin-what-you-need-to-know