Can You Overdose on Melatonin?

Learn if it's possible to overdose on melatonin supplements and what the correct dosage of this sleep aid is.

By Alesandra Woolley

Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced in our bodies by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin is secreted when the sun goes down and our eyes are no longer exposed to bright lights. It helps our natural body clock tell us that it’s time to go to sleep. In fact, melatonin helps regulate our circadian rhythms.

Melatonin levels rise during the night—allowing us to fall asleep. These levels then stay with us throughout the night, allowing us to remain asleep, then drop in the morning—allowing us to wake up. While this hormone is produced in our bodies, it can also be found in small doses in some fruits and vegetables. Aside from this, it’s also available in a supplement form.

Blister pack of sleeping pills, blindfold and earplugs

The Purpose of Melatonin Supplements

Melatonin available in supplement form is made synthetically in a lab and sold as holistic medicine. It can be taken as a pill or quick dissolve tablet, and is used to treat a variety of sleep disorders such as jet lag, shift work sleep disorder, and sleep deprivation. Melatonin supplements may also be used to treat insomnia related to traumatic brain injuries, ADHD, sleep issues in children with autism, cerebral palsy, and other developmental disabilities.

It may be used to help with sleep after quitting benzodiazepine use and smoking cigarettes. Some find relief using melatonin supplements when suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and insomnia caused by beta-blocking medications.

While it’s important to always consult with your doctor before taking any new supplements, melatonin can generally be taken by those who have:

  • High blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Endometriosis
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nonalcoholic liver disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Mild mental impairment
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Migraines
  • Age-related vision loss
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Osteoporosis
  • Tardive dyskinesia
  • Epilepsy
  • Acid reflux
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia
  • Menopause
  • Pre and post surgery anxiety
  • Delirium
  • Jaw pain
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

Sometimes cancer patients use melatonin to help prevent some of the side effects of chemotherapy.

What’s the Correct Dose of Melatonin?

The correct dose of melatonin relies greatly on the age of the person taking it, how healthy they are, and the reason they are taking it. If melatonin is being used to treat insomnia, jet lag, or to adjust a circadian rhythm, the standard dose ranges from 0.3 milligrams up to 5 milligrams. Since melatonin supplements are not regulated by the FDA, supplements have various dosages per pill. Sometimes they can have ten times the recommended dose in one pill.

Prescription opioids with many bottles of pills in the background. Concepts of addiction, opioid crisis, overdose and doctor shopping

It is also difficult to determine if the amount of melatonin per dose advertised on a bottle is truly what is being ingested since it’s not regulated by the FDA. One study examined the actual dosage of 31 different melatonin supplements and found that 70% of them contained either more or less melatonin than what was advertised.

This can be a bit scary, especially if using melatonin for a child. If you are concerned about overdosing on melatonin, it’s recommended that you purchase pharmaceutical-grade melatonin online as the dosage is more likely to be reliable. It’s also recommended that first-time melatonin users take the lowest dose possible, and work their way up to the correct dosage in 0.5-milligram increments.

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 melatonin, take a look at the warning signs and symptoms of taking larger doses of melatonin than recommended and adjust your intake accordingly.

Common side effects of melatonin overdoses include daytime grogginess, headaches, depression, anxiety, diarrhea, stomach cramps, irritability, joint pain, dizziness, and low body temperature. It can also lower the sperm count and libido of men, and affect estrogen and progesterone hormone levels in women. Some also suggest that melatonin can affect the ovulation and menstrual cycles for women as well. Taking too much melatonin can cause a person to be more awake than they would be normally—producing the opposite effect of what was originally intended (if taking it as a sleep aid). Taking too much may also cause a person to feel incredibly tired during times that they wish to be awake, and may cause intense dreams and/or nightmares.

How to Treat a Melatonin Overdose and When to Talk to a Doctor

Melatonin is relatively safe, but there are some dangers associated with taking too much. Depending on the severity of symptoms, a person may need to call 911 if they’ve taken large amounts of melatonin and are experiencing chest pain, extremely high blood pressure, or shortness of breath. A melatonin overdose can typically be waited out, or one may find relief from calling their doctor to seek medical advice. If a person is taking other medications, it’s most certainly important to speak with a doctor. In fact, it’s recommended that you speak with a doctor before taking a melatonin supplement to avoid any unpleasant drug interactions. It’s also recommended that pregnant women discuss the use of melatonin with their doctors before taking it. The good news is that the effects of melatonin are short-term, and there should be no long-term side effects that result from taking too much.

Does Melatonin React with Other Medications?

Melatonin can react negatively with other medications, and so it’s imperative to speak with a doctor before taking it if you are on any sort of prescription medication. Blood-thinning medications can be dangerous when paired with melatonin as it has a chance of increasing the risk of bleeding. Melatonin can also make blood pressure and diabetes medications less effective. Women who are taking birth control pills may not benefit from taking melatonin, as many of these hormonal contraceptives already increase the body’s natural melatonin levels, and so taking a supplement may cause excessive drowsiness.

Melatonin may also make steroids and immunosuppressant drugs less effective, and so it is not recommended that melatonin be taken when on these medications. Other medications, such as those that prevent seizures may also become less effective when taking melatonin. If a person with epilepsy who is on medication to treat it decides to take melatonin, it could actually increase the risk of having a seizure. Other medications to avoid taking melatonin with include anything that causes drowsiness, such as opioid painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, and alcohol.

Is Melatonin Safe for Children?

If you’re considering giving melatonin to a child, it’s best to speak to a doctor ahead of time to rule out any adverse side-effects or drug interactions that may occur. Melatonin is relatively safe for children so long as the dose is appropriate. However, the risks of a melatonin overdose are more severe for children, so should a child experience some of the more intense side-effects of too much melatonin, medical attention should be sought immediately. It’s also not recommended to give melatonin to a child whose sleep issues are situational.

A trip to the pediatrician is a good idea when your child is having any sort of trouble sleeping in order to rule out any medical conditions, such as an ear infection. It may also help to examine your child’s bedtime habits. Some studies have suggested that using melatonin during childhood may delay the onset of puberty. These studies have only been conducted on animals thus far, and there is yet to be substantial proof showing this is the case for children. However, you can never be too safe.

Natural Sources of Melatonin

As previously stated, melatonin can be found naturally in a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains. Such natural sources of melatonin include:

  • Tart cherries
  • Corn
  • Asparagus
  • Grapes
  • Olives
  • Pomegranate
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Bananas
  • Ginger
  • Radishes
  • Rice
  • Rolled oats
  • Barley
  • Peanuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseed
  • Mustard seed
  • Red wine

If you’re interested in learning more about the best ways to get a better night’s rest, check out our sleep health information or other sleep resources. It may also be a good time to start considering investing in a new mattress and pillow suited for your own unique sleep preferences and support needs.

You can start by taking our mattress quiz to find out the best type of mattress for you, and check out our mattress buying guides to learn more about the best mattresses on the market today that fit your desired firmness, support, and more.

Your sleep is something that should never be compromised due to an old or unsupportive mattress. Since you spend 1/3 of your life in bed that time should be spent in the type of comfort and support that’s designed to fit your personal needs.

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