Are Melatonin Supplements Safe To Take Long-Term
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the brain as a biological signal to prepare for sleep when you are exposed to dimming light, like the setting of the sun. Melatonin is at peak production levels in complete darkness.
Melatonin allows your brain to transition from the state of being awake to a sleep state.
Melatonin governs and regulates the body’s circadian rhythm, hormones secreted by the endocrine system, and, most importantly, your sleep patterns.
Melatonin supplements are considered to be safe and non-habitual with prolonged use. They have not yet been clinically tested for long-term side effects past two years of continuous daily use.
However, studies conducted thus far do not place melatonin in the category of drugs of addiction or drug dependency.
In Australia, anyone under 55 years of age requires a prescription from their doctor, and melatonin cannot be sold in pharmacies without a prescription, with one exception. Over 55’s can now purchase melatonin over the counter without a prescription as of July 2021.
Several natural herbal supplements that claim to be equally effective are sold in the vitamin section of all pharmacies and supermarkets across the country and are sold by all the big supplement manufacturers on the market. Purchasing melatonin from overseas locations via online stores is an option in this post-Covid 19 world, as is picking it up on your international travels if you manage to leave the country.
It is not illegal to possess in a personal supply-only capacity, but it cannot be purchased legally in Australia without a prescription.
Natural sleep agents sold as food-grade; plant-based sleeping aids all include Valerian root as their main ingredient. Valerian is a perennial plant with the scientific name Valeriana officinalis.
The plant grows wild in grasslands throughout North America, Asia, and Europe and has been used for centuries for its sedative properties as a herbal remedy. Like most things, the amount of Valerian root in a product differs widely from one brand to the next, as does the quality of the product and its effectiveness in shortening the sleep latency period.
As a free warning, it tastes truly revolting and smells like ants if, for any reason, you rupture it before swallowing the overly large black capsule. If you are unlucky enough to discover this for yourself, you will likely opt not to return for repeat exposure.
Regardless of which option you choose, their effectiveness versus their side effects as a sleep-inducing agent is open to debate and different on a person-to-person level for short-term use in treating conditions like jet lag, delayed sleep onset or insomnia.
Jet lag is cured naturally by sleeping normally and adjusting to the time zone you land in. For most people, taking a melatonin supplement is overkill and unnecessary. If you regularly travel internationally across time zones that throw out your natural circadian rhythm, they may offer some benefit in helping you reset your circadian rhythm and establish a new sleep pattern.
On the downside, they may also make you grumpy, irritable, anxious, depressed, dizzy, sensitive to light and short-tempered due to headaches and dehydration that are side effects of the valerian root.
Insomnia is a clinical sleep medicine issue and, ironically, not considered a true sleep disorder.
In most cases, insomnia is the manifestation of a subconscious psychological disorder creating a state of sleeplessness designed to force the person to address the underlying issue causing them sleeplessness. For various reasons, some people do not wish to address the root of the problem causing them insomnia, so they suffer from the condition until action is finally taken.
A qualified doctor can only establish the correct diagnosis of insomnia after a Sleep Study has been completed.
Most melatonin supplements are synthetically created in a laboratory.
Those touted to be ‘natural‘ have been harvested from the pineal glands of animals. Something that will surely cause issues with vegetarians and vegans seeking to use this product.
Like anything in life, if used in moderation, they may be effective. However, if abused or used for extended periods, they can have serious side effects that have not been fully studied for the long-term detriment in clinical trials.
Melatonin supplements come in several forms. The most commonly used forms are the liquid, pill, or capsule. However, not everyone likes swallowing large objects, and they might have difficulty swallowing both the capsules and tablets as they are on the exceptionally large side.
With that in mind, manufacturers of melatonin released a line of lolly-like Gummies.
Now, I don’t know who thought it would be wise to make any medication or supplement that looks and tastes like candy a child would consume without thinking or why no one told them it was an exceptionally bad idea. So, if you have any medication in the form of Gummies in your home and you have young children, please book yourself into a First Aid course and learn what to do should the worst happen and they consume the entire content of the package.
The Most Common Melatonin Side Effects Include:
- Short-lasting feelings of depression
- Mild tremor
- Mild anxiety
- Abdominal cramps
- Reduced alertness, confusion, or disorientation
- Abnormally low blood pressure
- Temperature drops
- Light sensitivity.
Because melatonin can cause daytime drowsiness, do not drive a vehicle or operate machinery within five hours of taking the supplement. Melatonin supplements can adversely interact with various medications causing them to become ineffective or redundant, so always check with your GP if you have known or pre-existing conditions and are on medications.
The following is a short list of the top five medications that melatonin is known to have an adverse effect upon.
- Anticoagulants and antiplatelet drugs
- Contraceptive drugs
- Diabetes medications
- Medications that suppress the immune system called immunosuppressants
Now For The Big Question
How would you recognise the signs and symptoms of a colleague who has taken too much melatonin or swallowed too many supplements and needs First Aid?
How would you provide First Aid to someone who suddenly appeared to pass out and collapse before your eyes?
When was the first time you took a basic First Aid Course or the last time you updated your skills with a refresher course?
At the end of the day, melatonin might not be the right treatment if falling asleep is an issue for you. You might want to talk to your doctor about undertaking a sleep study to establish the root of your problem. You might have sleep apnoea and not be aware of it, causing you to wake feeling exhausted and like you didn’t get a good night’s sleep.
If you still seek ideas on getting to sleep, download white noise apps, try meditation for sleep, or watch the most boring and monotonous thing you can find on the internet.
Lastly, try the benefits of using goldfish in tanks to create a state of relaxation and serenity that clears the mind of clutter and stress before sleeping.