Is melatonin safe to take every day

Sleep disorders: how useful is it to take melatonin?

Status: 26.03.2021 2:30 p.m.

Melatonin controls the day-night rhythm. As capsules, tea or spray - melatonin is heavily advertised as a sleep aid and sold in drug stores and pharmacies.

As an antagonist of the stress hormone cortisol, melatonin is important for healthy sleep. While cortisol keeps us alert and awake during the day, the sleep hormone initiates a slow downshift. As soon as it gets dark, the pineal gland in the brain produces twelve times more melatonin than it does during the day. It ensures that our energy consumption is reduced, body temperature and blood pressure drop.

Many melatonin supplements are available over the counter

More and more consumers want to take advantage of the sleep-promoting effect of melatonin and are turning to over-the-counter capsules, pills, sprays and teas containing the hormone. Usually, a milligram of melatonin is recommended before bed. With pills, capsules and tea, the sleep hormone enters the bloodstream via the intestines. With sprays, the melatonin gets into the blood through the mucous membranes.

The cause of the sleep disorder is crucial

All melatonin products promise a quick fall asleep and restful sleep. Those who really suffer from difficulty falling asleep due to a lack of melatonin can try such products. However, they only help those who do not produce enough melatonin themselves and therefore do not get tired. In a good 50 percent of those affected, however, the causes of the difficulty falling asleep lie elsewhere: They cannot sleep due to stress, inner restlessness, illnesses or medication - and taking melatonin does not change that.

Trying out instead of researching the cause

It is technically possible to measure a person's melatonin level - but so time-consuming that no health insurance company bears the costs. That is why the following applies to over-the-counter products: It cannot be ruled out that they can temporarily compensate for a defect, but there is no guarantee that this will be the case. Because how much melatonin a person needs varies from person to person. In addition, these products are not sold as medicinal products, but as dietary supplements, for which efficacy and safety do not need to be proven in clinical studies.

Over-the-counter melatonin does not help you sleep through the night

Over-the-counter melatonin products only work for a short time, because the body breaks down melatonin again within an hour - regardless of whether it produced it itself or whether it was supplied from outside. That is why the over-the-counter products do not help people who suffer from difficulty sleeping through the night.

Melatonin also available as a prescription drug

In Germany only one melatonin preparation is approved as a prescription drug. One tablet contains two milligrams of melatonin. It should only be prescribed to people aged 55 and over with sleep problems, as the body's own melatonin production decreases with age. And unlike the over-the-counter food supplements, the prescription drug works in stages: It is a so-called sustained release formulation, which ensures that the active ingredient is slowly released over a longer period of time and a stable level of active ingredient builds up. This has a long-term effect and the melatonin also helps you sleep through the night.

Risks and side effects of melatonin

Since the body breaks down melatonin very quickly, the dangers of overdosing with over-the-counter products are rather low. But if you take melatonin several times during the night, you risk nausea and, if in doubt, you cannot go back to sleep.

The prescription melatonin preparation should only be taken as directed by the doctor. Because if the dosage is too high or taken incorrectly, it can also disrupt the entire sleep-wake cycle: If a delayed-release drug is taken too late in the evening, the effect can also drag on into the morning and into the morning, which in turn leads to drowsiness in the morning or the next day leads. And on the following evening you fall asleep even worse.

Possible side effects of melatonin include headache, mild fever, malaise, and nausea. There are no studies on long-term effects so far, but according to observations by users, taking it for too long can lead to nightmares, increased nervousness and irritability. Interactions with anti-rheumatism agents and antihypertensive agents can also occur. With long-term use, doctors fear that melatonin could damage the liver and kidneys.

Melatonin intake is not a permanent solution

If you have temporary problems falling asleep, for example after a long-haul flight, you can try melatonin supplements. However, this self-experiment should not take longer than three months. And even the prescription drug is not suitable as a permanent solution.


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