Melatonin: Friend or Foe?

If you’re like most people, you have encountered trouble sleeping at least a few times. A majority of the population in the U.S.A. suffers from a sleep disorder. Some folks tend to just blow it off, some self-medicate with Tylenol PM, and some try a more natural approach. What about melatonin? Most of us have used it at some point and likely many parents have tried it with their children; especially those with special needs children. Let’s get serious about how well it works and how safe it really is.

Bad News?

Studies have shown that melatonin seems to be safe at low doses when taken occasionally for insomnia in children and adults. Notice the word, “seems”. There isn’t enough evidence to fully label melatonin as a good guy in the sleep department. While studying long-term or chronic insomnia, it is said that melatonin may not be the savior we’re looking for and may actually lead to further issues

As with any medication or supplement, the game can change entirely if you are currently taking prescription medication or herbal supplements. Melatonin can interfere with the effectiveness of medication leading to negative side effects, which certainly won’t help you get more shut-eye. Specifically, people with epilepsy, dementia, who are pregnant, nursing, or are on blood thinners should proceed with caution and consult a doctor before use. I’ve even noticed heightened aggression in my child since he began taking melatonin. 

How Much is Too Much?

The results showed that in 2018, adults in the United States took more than twice the amount of this sleep aid than they did a decade earlier, which may pose a health risk in some individuals. Taking sleep aids has been linked to dementia and early mortality, but why would melatonin kill you? The studies are so inclusive that nothing can be said with certainty, which is a little weird since you hear so many people, especially parents, talking about melatonin these days. 

I can attest that more melatonin doesn’t necessarily mean you will fall asleep or stay asleep if you truly suffer from insomnia. I have taken anywhere from 3-10mg of melatonin at a time and can honestly say it does very little for me. I have also given my autistic child melatonin nightly for a while since he has trouble sleeping and with having bad dreams. One thing melatonin is sometimes responsible for is causing some crazy dreams. Just with that info, think twice about taking it or giving it to your child. It is said that small doses of 1-3mg will not hurt you but if you take 3mg of melatonin daily for years, it just might be doing something you might not like. That is certainly not what you want from something that is supposed to calm you down and help you sleep. 

To Sleep or Not to Sleep

If you are still considering trying melatonin for your insomnia, take it with a grain of salt, and don’t expect too much. Significant research needs to be completed before anyone can say if it is a healthy choice. On the flip side, it may be healthier than taking a prescription sleeping medication. All medications and supplements will cause a reaction—finding one that creates the reaction we want can be difficult. None of this is looking too good for our pal melatonin; however, its assistance with jetlag has been deeply studied and seems to hold up to critics. 

Sweet Dreams

In conclusion, it looks like melatonin is better left on the shelf unless you will be experiencing jetlag sometime soon. The list of no-nos when taking melatonin is pretty long and since it is not well understood, sticking to a safer sleep method like exercising daily, eating correctly, and avoiding caffeine or sugar for 4 hours before your bedtime may be the better choice for you and your children. A little light reading before bed always does it for me if chasing a child all day doesn’t! Make sure to research anything you decide to try to improve your sleep. 

SEO Journal: I researched melatonin’s positive and negative tendencies in children and adults on the CDC and other noted links. I incorporated the terms melatonin, safe melatonin, bad side effects of melatonin, and insomnia throughout the article for SEO purposes. I added a slight personal touch to make this more informal and helpful by discussing my reaction to melatonin and the reaction my child had.  

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