As an over the counter, natural hormone, melatonin can be inferred that it is probably safe no matter how much you take. Our own bodies make it in the pineal gland near the brain and so you can easily come to believe that more is better when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. But is this the case? Doctors have difficulty deciding exactly how much melatonin is considered the “right dosage”, which contributes to confusion as to what exactly constitutes as melatonin overdose.
Can You Overdose On Melatonin?
If you look at research studies and on medical sites related to melatonin intake, an optimal amount of 5 mg or less of this natural hormone should be taken, which leads to the answer: yes, you can overdose on melatonin.
Is 20mg of melatonin too much?
Unfortunately, many people take up to 20mg of melatonin at night and some experience untoward side effects. High doses of melatonin are ineffective in treating insomnia. The recommended Melatonin Dosage for adults ranges from 0.3 to 10 mg. Another complicating factor is the fact that even recommended doses of melatonin are higher in quantity of the hormone that the body naturally produces so that even a “normal range” dosage can easily override the body’s natural ability to secrete the hormone. Melatonin, being a natural substance, does not have to conform to the regular safety guidelines put forth by the US Food and Drugs Administration, leaving consumers to experiment with dosages along with the help of their healthcare provider.
The body normally secretes about 0.3 mg of melatonin each day in a cyclical way that promotes nighttime sleeping. Because the liver metabolizes melatonin that is taken by mouth, more melatonin is generally necessary to overcome this first pass effect of the liver. In other words, because of liver metabolism, the dose you take in isn’t necessarily the dose your body actually gets once the liver has metabolized it from the gut. Before taking 20mg of melatonin, you should consult with your doctor about the appropriate dosage.
Is Melatonin addictive?
There is no known case of melatonin addiction however, it is possible to overdose on melatonin. Many people ignore warnings of melatonin dose or use whatever dose seems to help them sleep and most suffer no untoward effects when doing so. The most common side effect from overdosing on melatonin is morning grogginess—a hangover of sorts brought on by residual melatonin in the system upon arising in the morning. Morning grogginess can lead to driving while fatigued, which is perhaps the most dangerous risk of taking too much melatonin.
How much melatonin to take?
Recent Mayo Clinic research indicated that melatonin taken at five milligrams in the evening is safe to take for periods of up to 2 years. Even though it is considered safe at these doses, you may experience side effects that stop when you stop taking the drug.
There is a wide variety in melatonin dosing, depending on the person and the reason you are taking it. You can take as little as 0.2 mg if you are trying to shift your sleep-wake cycle by a couple of hours or as much as 20 mg melatonin if you have significant insomnia. The dose that fits for you may be completely different from the dose another person needs to take. Because of the wide range in dosage, it is suggested you start with a lower dose of the hormone and work up to higher doses as needed.
Melatonin Side Effects
These are the side effects that you should be looking for if you take an overdose of melatonin or even if you are regularly taking higher than recommended amounts of the hormone:
You will feel as though you have suffered a hangover and will be tired upon arising. If you take melatonin at times other than before bedtime, it can cause you to have the urge to fall asleep during the day, leading to drowsiness behind the wheel or making poor judgments while operating dangerous machinery at work.
Can you take melatonin while pregnant?
Taking melatonin while pregnant is not really recommended by many doctors because it can interfere with other hormones of the body, including the sex hormones, Luteinizing hormone, thyroid hormone, progesterone, growth hormone and prolactin (a hormone necessary for milk production). Taking melatonin when pregnant may also increase the risk of developmental disorders in children. Melatonin is shown to reduce libido, interfere with normal ovulation and reduces sperm count so it should probably be avoided if you are pregnant or attempting to get pregnant.
Melatonin and Depression
Overdose on melatonin can cause depression because it interacts with brain chemicals which affect mood. It can trigger wide fluctuations in mood from depressive symptoms to manic symptoms. Those who are bipolar or who suffer from depression should avoid melatonin overdoses and should take melatonin only under a doctor’s supervision.
Melatonin and hallucinations
Overdoses on melatonin have produced hallucinations, paranoid delusions, confusion and disorientation in otherwise normal people and it can be even worse in people who have an underlying psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia.
Melatonin vivid dreams
Melatonin can cause you to have very vivid dreams or nightmares. People who sleep walk can have worsening of their symptoms when they take too much melatonin.
Seizure disorder worsening
If you have a known seizure disorder, taking melatonin can lower your seizure threshold so you can have more seizures than usual when taking the hormone.
Blood Pressure and blood sugar effects
While melatonin has a lowering effect on the blood pressure, it tends to increase insulin resistance, making it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar values.
Some people experience nausea and vomiting when taking melatonin orally, even if the dose is low. If this is the case, you may not be able to take any type of synthetic melatonin.
Melatonin and Breastfeeding
It is not safe to take melatonin while breastfeeding. Melatonin is found in breast milk but has an unknown effect on the infant. Recent Mayo Clinic research indicated that a study that was done on animals showed that melatonin was found in the animal’s breast milk and hence, should be avoided. Because melatonin can be given to children, some doctors will say it’s okay to take melatonin while breastfeeing even though there are no studies proving or disproving any danger to the infant.
Allergic to melatonin
You may have an allergic reaction to melatonin. Melatonin can cause a rash or an anaphylactic reaction in susceptible persons.
Melatonin shortness of breath
If you have tightness in your throat or shortness of breath, seek medical emergency treatment as soon as possible.
There is some research to indicate that taking melatonin increases the risk of getting an autoimmune disorder like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease or type 1 diabetes. If you already have an autoimmune disorder, seek a medical opinion before attempting to take melatonin for sleep.
Because melatonin is metabolized by the liver, taking too much of melatonin can do damage to the liver. If you already have liver problems, you might not be a candidate for taking melatonin at all.
Melatonin can interfere with many medications including blood thinners, blood pressure medications, anti-seizure medications, psychiatric medications (like anti-psychotics and benzodiazepines), caffeine, alcohol, diabetic medication, pain killers, muscle relaxants, antihistamines, Luvox and other medications.
Melatonin Overdose treatment
If you intentionally take a large dose of melatonin for whatever reason, you should go to an emergency room or call a Poison Control Center for personal advice as to what to expect and what you should do after a massive overdose. You should also stop using the melatonin supplement right away. This will gradually reduce the level of the hormone in your system.