If you’ve struggled with insomnia or suffered from jet lag, you’ve probably heard of taking melatonin. It definitely helps some people sleep better, and it can help combat jet lag when taken correctly. However, some people worry because it is an unregulated supplement. They wonder if the supplements they buy in the store can be trusted, if taking melatonin will actually help, and whether it’s actually safe.
So, Can You Overdose on Melatonin?
The short answer is: No. It does not appear that melatonin will kill you. While it’s theoretically possible to overdose on anything, there’s no research that shows melatonin to be lethal. Even when people take quite a bit more than the recommended amount, while they may suffer negative side effects, it doesn’t cause them to die.
However, taking more melatonin than you need can be miserable. Because melatonin tells your body when to sleep, having too much in your system means you’ll still be sleepy when you want to be awake. That’s why it’s important to find the right dose for you.
What are the Side Effects of Too Much Melatonin?
If you’re considering melatonin for your sleep issues, you should know the symptoms of taking too much. That way, you’ll be able to adjust your dose accordingly, until you find the right amount. Here’s what to look for:
- Daytime Sleepiness. As mentioned above, taking too much melatonin will make you sleepy during the day, when you want to be awake. This is annoying, but it can also be dangerous. If you need to drive, operate heavy machinery, make significant decisions, and perform other, similar tasks, your performance can be impaired when you’re tired.
- Headaches. Many people get bad headaches if they take too much melatonin. Since melatonin is a hormone, it helps regulate more things than just sleep. Some of these things can cause headaches that won’t go away until the melatonin leaves your system.
- Depression. Melatonin regulates sleep, but it also performs other functions in the brain. Another main function is that it helps regulate your mood. If you have too much of it, you may feel down, discouraged, or depressed. In addition, depression can come anytime there’s a hormonal imbalance. Having too much melatonin throws off your hormones, can throw off your mood, too.
- Irritability. Similarly, too much melatonin can make you easily frustrated with other people and grumpy when you’re around them. This may be because of mood irregularities stemming from a hormonal imbalance, or it may be because the side effects make you so miserable that you don’t want to be around others.
- Stomach Cramps. Melatonin helps regulate neurotransmitters, which are present in your stomach as well as in your brain. Too much melatonin can cause your body to overproduce some of these, which can cause painful stomach cramps, nausea, and even vomiting if you are especially sensitive.
How Much Melatonin Should You Take?
Your recommended dose of melatonin will depend on what you’re using it for. When it comes to promoting restful sleep and recovering from jet lag, the recommended amount runs from 0.3mg to 5mg per night. Since this is a wide range, it’s a good idea to start at the low end. If you take 0.3mg for a few nights and it doesn’t help, slowly work your way up to taking more until you find the dose that works for you.
Unfortunately, not all melatonin supplements are created equal. Many of them do not actually contain the amount of melatonin that is stated on the package. Since melatonin is a supplement and not a prescription or an over-the-counter drug, it’s not regulated by the FDA. If you’re concerned about getting an exact amount of melatonin, consider buying pharmaceutical-grade melatonin online. This is more likely to contain the amount of melatonin noted on the package.
Remember, since melatonin isn’t a sleeping pill, you’ll want to take it at least an hour before you plan to try to sleep. You may want to stick with the same dose for several days, to see how it affects your body over time.
If you want to take melatonin for something other than sleep, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before you start on a regimen. They will help you determine the right dose for your condition and make sure you don’t suffer from negative side effects.
When you’re taking melatonin, the key is to start small. Even if it takes longer to work up to a dose that works for you, at least you won’t have to deal with side effects that make you feel sluggish, moody, emotional, and sleepy. Once you find the right dose for your body, you should be able to sleep well and wake up refreshed and ready to go.