Nowadays, many consider melatonin as an effective sleeping pill, rather than a sleeping supplement. Truth to be told, it is intended to help with sleep disruptions and lack of sleep, but it is no sleeping pill.
This supplement to our natural melatonin is there to simply step in when our body becomes a little bit lazy with its melatonin production. This is a rather simple approach to a discussion about melatonin overdose, but few things need to be cleared right away.
Yes, because melatonin supplements are easily accessible and available to everyone, they can be abused. And, melatonin overdose is not lethal, but it does come with certain harmful side effects.
When people approach melatonin supplements as if they’re sleeping pills, and approach both to cause harm to themselves, that is where the problem arises.
So, in the following paragraphs, we’re going to look at the possible melatonin overdose, what it does to our body and how melatonin should be dosed in the first place.
What Is Melatonin?
To understand melatonin overdose, it is important to understand melatonin first.
Melatonin is a neurohormone that is produced by our brain, or to be more exact, produced from tryptophan in the pineal gland. The pineal gland is a small mass of tissue, the size of a pea, that is placed in the middle of our brain and is responsible for the production of several hormones.
One of those hormones is melatonin, which is a serotonin-derived hormone that has a very responsible function. Melatonin (together with the pineal gland and other hormones) is in charge of our circadian rhythm or the sleep/wake cycle.
That is why melatonin is facilitated and produced in the darkness (also called ‘the hormone of darkness).
The hormone has sleep-inducing effects on our body, so it helps us become sleepy, fall asleep, and stay asleep.
Melatonin, however, has also been recently associated with many other functions important to our body, other than sleep-induction.
For example, it is characterized as a natural antioxidant for our body, an anti-cancer agent, a heart health regulator, and much more. It allows the body to rejuvenate throughout the night and remain healthy.
Why Do We Experience Lack Of Melatonin?
Melatonin levels are generally always the same in healthy individuals, who also lead a healthy lifestyle. But, let’s be honest, the lifestyle we lead nowadays is far from healthy.
Everything we do affects our melatonin levels negatively. Let’s look at some examples and reasons we experience melatonin disruption;
- Artificial light – we’re surrounded by artificial and blue light. Each of our electronic devices disrupts natural melatonin production, especially when we use them before bedtime. Because blue light mimics daylight, our brain becomes confused and halts melatonin production, when the production should be already happening. That is why we have a hard time falling asleep after hours of scrolling on Instagram or working on the computer before bed.
- Sedentary, indoor lifestyle – it’s a fact that people nowadays spend more time indoors leading a sedentary lifestyle, rather than outdoors being physically active. Because we’re not exposed to natural daylight, our brain needs to keep the melatonin production ongoing even during the day. Exposure to natural daylight halts the melatonin production completely during the day, so it can produce better at night. Because we’ve disrupted our lifestyle, and stay more indoors, our brain is confused and can’t keep producing effective levels of melatonin when it needs to.
- Unhealthy nutrition – again, in the past few decades, what we eat has changed drastically. We’re more likely to turn to fast food rather than healthy meals. Fast food is cheaper and available everywhere, so this is nothing to be surprised about. But, what we eat affects the levels of melatonin in our brain. Junk food impacts the availability of tryptophan and melatonin production completely. That is why it is important to eat healthy food, which is naturally rich in melatonin or tryptophan. Such food includes lean/white meat, leafy greens, cherries, avocado, bananas, figs, nuts (especially walnuts, pistachios and almonds), cottage cheese, milk, dark chocolate, etc.
Because melatonin disruption comes together with the modern lifestyle, melatonin supplementation has become a quick help for many sleep-deprived people.
However, because melatonin supplements are sold in health food stores or retail pharmacies, they’re easily accessible and suitable for abuse. Such abuse of the supplementation (often perceived to be a sleeping pill) can result in cases of overdose, which is of course not lethal but can have some adverse effects on our health. More on that in the following paragraphs.
Melatonin Supplement And Overdose
Sleep deprivation and inability to sleep can have people feel very frustrated and ready to do anything just to get a good night’s sleep.
And this is completely understandable, but where do we draw the line between ‘helpful supplements’ and ‘abuse of supplements’. A normal melatonin supplement dose for healthy adults is anywhere between 0.3 and 5 mg.
This is considered a healthy dose that your body should recognize as help and a possible trigger for further natural melatonin production. The problem is, this dosage is not a standard safe dose; in fact, there isn’t an official standard safe dosage, since we are talking about supplementation, but there are scientific studies implying the possible safe dosage.
The highest ‘safe’ dosage of melatonin supplements would be 8 to 12 mg, in cases of serious sleep deprivation, extended sleeping difficulties, or jet lag.
Melatonin supplementation consumption that exceeds 12mg could be considered abuse of supplements. In such cases, people can experience serious adverse affects, especially if the high consumption extends over a longer period.
Melatonin Overdose Symptoms
- Extreme daytime drowsiness – often not perceived as a serious side effect, drowsiness can, in fact, be very serious. Because it occurs during the day, for people who have seriously responsible jobs (for example, they operate heavy machinery), drowsiness, and feeling sluggish can be a serious side effect and overdose symptom. Drowsiness and sluggishness can even turn into sleepiness at unintended times, in some cases as well.
- Nausea – nausea and even vomiting can be serious indicators of melatonin overdose. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, melatonin overdose appears in forms of nausea in almost all patients/individuals, alongside other symptoms, that often include severe headaches and drowsiness.
- Headache – if you’re taking too much melatonin and start developing headaches, that can be a significant sign of overdose. Headaches often appear together with drowsiness and nausea, but can also appear as a symptom on their own. Headaches can often turn into serious migraines if an individual continues taking a high dose of melatonin.
- Dizziness – another melatonin overdose symptom is dizziness. It is often an indicator that you’re about to experience nausea and vomiting, so it is important to halt melatonin intake immediately and consult a doctor before you start developing other symptoms.
- Other melatonin overdose symptoms include anxiety, depression, irritability and crankiness, joint pain, disrupted bowel movement and diarrhea, disruption in blood pressure, etc.
- Nightmares and vivid dreams – also known as ‘melatonin dreams’ nightmares and vivid dreams are clear indicators of too much melatonin. High melatonin consumption can disrupt brain activity and increase dream activity in some people. In some cases, there were even reports of hallucinations and the inability to fully recover from a dream (cases of difficult reality perception upon wakefulness).
- Hypothermic effect – natural melatonin production in our brain indicated lowering of the body temperature to induce sleep. High melatonin intake, therefore, can cause excessive lowering of the body temperature and have a hypothermic effect.
If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, or you notice someone else experiencing them, it is important to contact a doctor immediately and consult for further action.
Melatonin overdose is not lethal, but if high melatonin intake extends over a longer period, it can damage one’s health significantly.
General Melatonin Supplement Intake Side Effects
Not to mistake them for overdose symptoms, it is important to know that there are side effects to normal melatonin supplement intake. These are general warnings and side effects that can occur in adults.
- Blood pressure and blood sugar disruption – it is advised that people who suffer from high blood pressure or diabetes consult a doctor or medical professional before they start taking melatonin supplements. The reason for that lies in the fact that melatonin supplements can react with blood pressure medication and raise blood pressure, or increase blood sugar levels in diabetics.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding – truth to be told, there aren’t enough studies regarding the side effect of melatonin intake for expecting women or women that breastfeed. That is why melatonin supplements aren’t advised in such cases, just because the side effects aren’t yet studied well enough. However, it is known that melatonin intake can affect ovulation, so it is not advised for women who are trying to get pregnant.
- Depression and anxiety – these side effects can often be considered to be symptoms of overdose, but even regular melatonin intake can result in feelings of depression and anxiety. That is why people prone to such states aren’t advised to take melatonin supplements, or at least, to take the lowest dose to avoid serious depression and anxiety development.
- Children and melatonin – because melatonin is a hormone, its intake might have even greater side effects in children than it has in adults. That is why parents are always advised to consult a doctor before they decide to give their child melatonin supplements.
Proper Melatonin Supplement Dosage
The following doses have been studied and determined in scientific research;
Melatonin Supplements And Suicide Attempt
Unfortunately, there have been cases where individuals have decided to take melatonin supplements in a suicide attempt. Luckily, such cases have only resulted in mild overdose symptoms and a focus on the underlying issues leading to the suicide attempt. Suicide attempts using sleeping pills aren’t unusual, and in extremely high dosages can have lethal effects.
Approximately 13% of all suicide cases were caused by sleeping pill overdose (or poisoning). But, because melatonin supplements aren’t sleeping pills, the lethal effect cannot be achieved. However, a person can cause some adverse health effects, which can also, luckily, be treated quickly.
So, if you’ve noticed that someone has taken an extremely high dosage of melatonin, or any other pills for that matter, make sure to quickly call for an ambulance.
In the meantime, what you can do is ensure the person is breathing properly (pull their tongue out and lift them into a sitting position to prevent choking), or if the person is awake, you can make them vomit so they get rid of the pill content in their stomach.
Melatonin supplements have shown to be rather effective in sleep-deprived people. When properly taken, melatonin supplements can trigger your natural melatonin production and have your sleep/wake cycle back to normal very quickly. However, some people are prone to taking higher doses and possibly overdosing, so it is important to know when to see a doctor. If you’re experiencing overdose symptoms, shortness of breath, chest pain, or extremely high blood pressure, make sure to call 911 so that you can be treated accordingly.
Note: the article is meant as an informational text and in no case should be used as a source to harm yourself.
If you’ve read this article to gain the information you can use against yourself, you should call the Suicide Hotline right now, or if you’ve already taken a high dose of melatonin or any other pills, call the Suicide Hotline or 911 immediately!