If you have ever had to deal with a persistent case of insomnia, you probably have a hidden stash of melatonin sitting somewhere in your cabinet.
It is the go-to solution for many people experiencing sleeping problems as one can easily get it without a prescription, and also because it is affordable.
Studies that have shown that melatonin can help you deal with sleep-related problems.
Having established that it can help with sleep deprivation, the question now becomes, how much melatonin should you take?
Well, much less than you think!
Although there is currently no evidence to indicate that large doses of melatonin pose a threat to one’s life, it can cause you to experience unwanted and severe side effects.
In addition, if you take too much melatonin within a short time span, you are likely to experience a case of a rebound insomnia. This means that the melatonin will not only cease working, but it is also likely to contribute to your ongoing sleep problems.
Can you overdose on melatonin?
Is it safe to overdose?
Many people have resorted to taking melatonin as a way of addressing their lack of sleep. Those who use it normally take it as an alternative to the normal prescription sleeping aids recommended by pharmacists. Although it is safe if you use it within the prescribed dosage levels, you risk experiencing some serious side effects if you deviate from the recommended dosage.
Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in your body, and one that is produced by the pineal gland that is located inside your brain. When there are low levels of this hormone in your brain, you will normally end up experiencing lack of sleep, and this is likely to have a negative effect on your general wellbeing.
Taking these supplements has been proven to assist in improving sleep quality, reduce the number of times that one has to awaken at night, and also improve your sleep latency. It can be taken by any person who has insomnia or a related sleeping disorder.
For those taking melatonin supplements, it is recommended that they stick to a dosage of one tablet which should only be taken thirty minutes before going to sleep. If you choose to use a higher dosage, you should be ready to deal with the resulting side effects, e.g., drowsiness.
An overdose on melatonin will normally not be accompanied by side effects that are too serious, but one should not take the risk. So is it possible to overdose on melatonin? According to Health Line. Com, it is possible, if one is not careful on the number of tablets that they take per day, or during a single session.
Symptoms of overdose
what happens if you overdose on melatonin as a sleep aid?
Taking too much melatonin will lead to a person experiencing an effect that is opposite to what was initially intended. Normally, it can make it even harder for you to get any sleep as the traditional circadian rhythm has already been disrupted by the over consumption of this supplement.
When you experience an overdone, you will likely end up feeling sleepy and groggy during the daylight hours. It could also lead to one experiencing vivid dreams or nightmares when they are sleeping. Additional symptoms include:
- Joint pain
- Anxiety of irritability
There are individuals who could find that their blood pressure levels have become affected by the melatonin that they have been ingesting. Medication used to lower blood pressure in the body, e.g., beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers have been known to at times have a negative effect on the production of melatonin by the brain.
But if you are already taking this medication, it may not be a great idea for you to combine it with a melatonin supplement. You need to have a candid discussion with your physician pertaining to supplements like melatonin and how they can affect the medication that you are taking to control your blood pressure levels.
What should you not take when using melatonin?
As noted above, melatonin is capable of affecting your wake-sleep cycle. As a result, you should avoid taking it with caffeine or alcohol. These are some of the things that can interfere with the existing circadian rhythm, as well as the natural production of melatonin initiated by the body.
Prior to using supplements or over the counter sleep medication, you should consider it a good idea to have a word with your physician. It is especially essential if you are already taking other medication to help you with an existing problem.
For instance, women taking birth control pills could find that they have started producing too much of this hormone. By adding a supplement, it means that you will push the body to produce levels of melatonin that it is not accustomed to producing, leaving to increased levels of the hormone which may be harmful to your body.
Additionally, taking this supplement with an anticoagulant drug can also increase your risks of bleeding. People taking corticosteroids also need to ensure that they do not take melatonin as the supplement may end up suppressing their immune response to conditions, e.g., lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
Can you die from melatonin overdose?
How much will kill you?
The fact that melatonin does not have any obvious side effects means that many people tend to take it as a harmless drug. However, as a consumer, the classification of each drug or supplement ought to matter to you. This is because the FDA currently has no provisions for supplements to come with warnings or indicate overdose risks on their packaging as is the case with hormones and mandatory drugs.
What makes melatonin even riskier is the fact that this kind of classification has made it possible for manufacturers to sell this supplement in varying dosages. According to a study conducted by researchers at MIT in 2001, it was established that the correct dosage for melatonin was between 0.3 and 1mg per adult.
But if you take a walk down your local pharmacy’s isle today, you will find melatonin sleep aid packages that have a dosage higher than recommended in this study. It is easy for one to easily overconsume melatonin, which is the leading cause of the numerous side effects experienced by people who have taken too much of this supplement.
Although there is currently no evidence to indicate that melatonin can cause a fatality, choosing to take too much melatonin could cause an upset of the natural rhythm and processes in your body. According to Dr. Wurtman from MIT, taking too much of certain supplements can easily place your body in danger, and may also make the body to become very uncomfortable. Even though this high amount of melatonin may not kill you, it will definitely make your present life to become very miserable.
According to Michael Grandner, a sleep researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, it is possible for melatonin to cause drowsiness in the course of the next twenty-four hours if one is not careful with the dosage that they are taking. In the case of children, Grandner goes on to say that this supplement can affect:
- Impede normal development of hormones
- Affect their menstrual cycles
Taking too much melatonin may also cause one to develop hypothermia. This is because the temperatures in your body will start to reduce as more hormones are produced by the pineal gland. This will in turn cause the prolactin hormone to be overproduced leading to a hormonal imbalance, which may then contribute to liver and kidney issues in men.
Melatonin and insomnia
Also known as the insomnia clause, this supplement can encourage one to get sleep, provided that it is taken in the recommended manner, and that one is not tempted to overdose. However, when it is used for too long, it could amplify your insomnia.
There is a theory being advanced by scientists which states that having too much melatonin in your body may easily overwhelm the receptors in your body. This means that the way your body reacts to this hormone will be altered.
Dr. Wurtman states that there is a very big likelihood that these supplements will work during the initial days, but as time progresses, they may stop working as the brain has already become desensitized.
The resulting consequence will be that your body will not be able to respond to the supplements that you are taking, and neither will it be able to respond to the hormones that are being produced by your brain. It could, therefore, end up promoting your case of insomnia for a certain duration.
Apart from helping people deal with their sleep deprivation problems, melatonin has also been seen to assist people dealing with multiple sclerosis, and has in some cases being used to deal with different kinds of cancers. This is because of the fact that it has been seen to assist in combating tumor related cells.
Overdose in children
You need to ensure that you closely follow the dosage requirements provided by the manufacturers. As mentioned earlier, taking too much of this supplement often leads to increased chances of developing some negative side effects. Although there are currently no recorded cases of serious negative reactions or fatalities related to overdosing on melatonin, there is the issue of excessive drowsiness.
In one instance, it was established that a boy of two years had ingested close to 138mg of melatonin in a period of one hour. But the good news was that this boy did not die or experience any serious side effects. His parents reported that the boy fell asleep for a few hours and then woke up feeling fine and healthy.
In a second instance, a girl of four years ingested a liquid melatonin product that had a dosage of 39mg. She was lucky as she did not get any adverse effects from the melatonin and did also not experience any drowsiness.
In yet another case, a fifty-year-old woman intentionally overdosed on 100mg of melatonin that was contained in a time-release formula. The only side effect she reported was drowsiness that lasted for more than twelve hours. She also had a pulse rate that was highly elevated.
In all the studies that have been conducted on human beings, it has been established that the human body is capable of tolerating melatonin supplements even in dosages that are extremely high. A majority of the people that took part in these studies did not report exhibiting grade 3 (severe) toxicity or even grade 4 (life threatening) toxicity.
For the case of animals, a study conducted on mice indicated that their LD50 stood at around 800mg/kg. This dosage is definitely higher than the one recommended for therapeutic purposes.
A detailed comparison of melatonin and other sleeping aids
When it comes to the numerous sleeping aids that are currently in the market, melatonin is thought to be much safer than all the others. It is easily able to improve a person’s sleeping patterns. Over the years, this is a supplement that has shown that it can be used to assist people facing sleeping problems and have conditions that include:
- Shift work sleep disorder
- Circadian rhythm sleep disorder for the blind
- Jet lag
- Delayed sleep phase syndrome
- Primary insomnia
- Sleep-wake cycle disturbances
- Beta-blocker induced insomnia
Studies conducted in the last few years have shown that this supplement is safe provided that one makes good use of it. Correct use normally translates to reduced side effects. Compared to the different sleeping pills that are available in the market today, this supplement does not in any way interact with your GABA system found in the brain. Additionally, is has not been shown to cause addiction, dependence, or withdrawal symptoms when one stops using it.
Although this supplement does come with some sedative effects, its action mechanism is very different compared to that of common sedative drugs like benzodiazepines which are commonly given to people that have sleeping problems.
This is the factor that makes it ideal for use. It also means that one can use it for extended periods without having to worry about overdosing as is the case with other pills which one has been using for more than six months.
Side effects of melatonin pills
So how much of the melatonin supplement is enough? Or too much? For the average adult, a normal dosage should not exceed 3mg taken an hour before hopping into bed. However, there are special circumstances that calls for use of dosages that are as high as 12mg. but this only applies when there is another condition at play. When it comes to these high doses, you must make sure that you first seek permission from your doctor before taking the melatonin.
As is the case with many other supplements, you need to start with very low doses. An increase should only be made once it has been ascertained that no results are being achieved even after using the low dose for a few weeks.
People who have taken too much melatonin have reported experiencing a hangover the following day. The hangover comes in the form of fogginess and a general feeling of tiredness for the entire day.
In the event that you take in too much of this supplement in the early morning hours, the resulting effect is that you will experience drowsiness during the day. Additional side effects attributed to this melatonin include:
1. Daylight sleepiness
As was mentioned earlier, drowsiness is the most common side effect that is associated with a melatonin overdose. The idea behind this drowsiness is that you may have taken the supplement during the wrong hours of the day, and this is what is causing you to become drowsy. You could also put your life, and that of others in danger if you choose to drive or operate any heavy machinery after taking the supplement.
2. Changes in your hormone levels
Melatonin is a hormone, and just because you are taking it in the form of a supplement does not change anything. If your body experiences a change in the hormonal balance, the effects could be more serious than anticipated.
For instance, a pregnant woman should not attempt to ingest melatonin as it is likely to affect the way the fetus develops. Additionally, it may also reduce the libido levels of both men and women who are taking this hormone.
In men, it has been seen to interfere with their sperm count while women experience a change in their ovulation cycles. This being said, any person trying to have a baby with their partners need to stay away from this supplement.
This is yet another widespread consequence of taking melatonin. Regardless of whether you take it in small or large amounts, do not be surprised to find yourself with a headache the following day upon waking up.
Considering that this hormone is only produced in your brain, you need to maintain a balance between what is good, and what is not. If not, the situation could easily get out of hand, which could leave you with an even bigger headache than before.
It is yet another side effect that is associated with taking this supplement. There are instances where dizziness may be triggered by an allergic reaction. Your pineal gland could react adversely to the introduction of this supplement in the body leading to dizziness. It is something that is very unpleasant, and is one that can disrupt the way you function.
When your overdose is a bit more serious, you may start to experience hallucinations, delusions, confusion, and paranoia. This feeling is normally fueled by the resulting disorientation which is not something that you should look forward to.
6. Stomach issues
It is a popular side effect among people who are taking melatonin irrespective of whether they are following the right dosage or are overdosing. Some of the problems that you should brace yourself to experience include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. All these problems are not pleasant, but they are issues that you will have to deal with.
7. Depression and anxiety
The melatonin hormone can also induce depression and anxiety. You must keep in mind that these are feelings that are normally associated with the presence of a severe hormone imbalance in the body. In many cases, these are changes that your body will have to go through once you have started consuming melatonin.
The treatment of a melatonin overdose should always start with the immediate discontinuation of this supplement. You need to stop using it immediately you start experiencing confusion and drowsiness. As seen above, these are the most severe side effects associated with overdosing on melatonin.
You may also need to be kept under observation and to desist from taking part in any activities that requires the use of your physical strength. A patient that has a serious overdose will normally be placed under observation to check whether they are exhibiting any signs of getting or experiencing a seizure.
The other symptoms associated with having an overdose will also be treated as they manifest. There is a need to make sure that you will follow all the directions provided by your physician during your time at the treatment facility, or by the nursing aide taking care of you at home.
Is there an antidote for overdose?
There is currently no known antidote for overdosing on melatonin. It is, however, recommended that one be on the lookout for signs, e.g.,
- Reduced flow of blood in the body
- Grogginess experienced a day after taking the melatonin supplement
If any of these symptoms are noted, one should immediately get in touch with a medical practitioner for consultation, and advise on how to proceed.
What should you do in case you take too much?
If you think or feel as though that you have overdosed on melatonin, it is recommended that you immediately get in touch with the Poison Help Line. You should also make a call to the emergency services if you have symptoms like shortness of breath, high blood pressure, or sudden and persistent chest pain.
There is a likelihood that such signs may not be in any way related to your intake of melatonin, but it never hurts to exercise caution.
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