Melatonin is generally considered a safe drug for most adults. It’s a synthetic version of a hormone our bodies produce to control the sleep-wake cycle.
Most people take it to help them fall asleep faster and beat insomnia. Others take it for jet lag and various sleep disorders.
It’s also helpful for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder and night workers who want to control their internal clocks to sleep better during the day. However, can you overdose on melatonin?
How much melatonin should you take?
There is no evidence that taking too much melatonin can cause death or send you to the emergency room with a serious complication.
But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to take more than the recommended dosage.
Too much melatonin can cause headaches, irritability, joint pain, diarrhoea, dizziness and nausea. You’ll also wake up tired and groggy and may feel a bit too sleepy during the day.
So how much should you take?
It will depend on why you are taking the supplement. But generally, you should keep it below 5mg daily.
WebMD recommends 2-3mg daily before bedtime to treat insomnia. If you have severe insomnia, your doctor may recommend a higher dosage.
For jet lag, take 0.5-3mg of melatonin daily for a few days starting from the day of arrival.
I strongly recommend that you talk to your doctor for proper dosage recommendations.
This is because there are many factors including any other drugs you are currently taking that can affect how well the supplement works.
Do not be tempted to take more melatonin than you need. The lowest effective dose is enough. Taking more will not help you sleep better and could in fact interfere with your sleep cycle.
Note that melatonin is not meant to be taken perpetually. While it is not addictive, you should focus on natural routines and habits to help you sleep better.
If you have insomnia, experts recommend taking the supplement for around 4 weeks.
Again, getting a prescription from the doctor is the best option. They’ll advice you how long you should keep taking it.
Melatonin and Children
You need to be more careful when giving melatonin to a child. Do not do it without a doctor’s prescription.
That’s because too much melatonin can interfere with their growth and cause serious side effects.
For kids with insomnia, the general recommended dosage is 0.05-0.15 mg per kg.
Side effects, Risk factors and Interactions
Here are other issues to watch out for if you are taking melatonin supplements or planning to start taking them.
- Even when you take the recommended dosage, melatonin can still cause certain side effects including stomach cramps, daytime sleepiness, dizziness and nausea. Do not drive or operate machinery for at least 5 hours after taking the supplement.
- If you have depression, taking melatonin can worsen it. You may have to reduce your dosage.
- Do not use melatonin if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- If you are planning to get pregnant, know that melatonin can interfere with your ovulation cycle.
- Melatonin has been known to increase blood sugar in diabetics. Be extra-careful if you have diabetes.
- It’s also risky for people with bleeding disorders. It can worsen your condition.
- Too much melatonin can cause seizures or tremors.
- Melatonin interacts with other medications including sedatives, birth control pills and diabetes medication among other drugs. When getting a prescription, make sure your doctor knows which other drugs you are currently on, if any.
It’s difficult to define what an overdose of melatonin is because everyone needs different dosages. That’s why a doctor-recommended dosage is best. There is no risk of taking too much.
But the risk of serious complications from taking too much melatonin is low. It is also highly unlikely that you’ll get addicted to the supplement.
Most people can take a tablet or two every night without any problem.
But be careful if you have a major health condition, are currently taking other drugs or you are giving melatonin to a child or teenager. In any of these situations, talk to a doctor first.