Melatonin is available over the counter, and is sometimes used to promote sleep. If melatonin is available over the counter, does that mean it’s safe for everyone who needs help falling or staying asleep? No, no NO!!! It is a common misconception that over the counter medications are safe. In some situations, over the counter medications may even be more dangerous than prescription medications! Everyone is different and has different needs. Your body will not react the same to a medication (over the counter or prescription) as someone else’s body reacts to the same medication, even if you follow the recommendations on the bottle. Always check with your licensed medical provider before starting, stopping, or adjusting the dose of medications.
So, what about melatonin specifically?
It has NOT been approved by the FDA for medical use.
Melatonin supplementation is sometimes used to treat low levels of melatonin in the body. What if you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, but your levels of melatonin are not actually low? What if your struggles with sleep are caused by something else, like poor habits, stress, pain, other medical conditions, or something else? The melatonin could cover up the real problem by making you drowsy, but not producing quality sleep. It could also cause daytime drowsiness to increase because melatonin levels become too high. Any of this could actually lead to sleep getting worse!
Aside from negatively impacting sleep, other side effects may include abdominal discomfort, decreased sex drive, depression, dizziness, irritability, headache, and in men, breast enlargement and/or decreased sperm count.
Melatonin is a hormone that is associated with the sleep/wake cycle. When melatonin is taken as a supplement, it affects the way the body naturally balances those levels. A healthy human body is constantly working to keep everything in balance. When one level is thrown off course, it can affect many other areas of the body as well. That means over-the-counter melatonin may cause more harm than benefit.
The long-term effects of melatonin are still unclear. This does NOT mean there are no long-term side effects, it simply means there has not been enough research to determine if it is safe.
Are you willing to take the risk with your body and your health, or would you rather try something else first?
Here are some alternatives:
- Dim the lights 30 minutes before bed. This naturally helps to increase the body’s production of melatonin.
- As a bedtime snack, try eating almonds, bananas, dark cherries, flax seeds, goji berries, oats, orange bell peppers, oranges, pineapples, raspberries, rice, tomatoes, or walnuts. These foods naturally boost melatonin levels.
Give it a try, and let us know how it goes!