Melatonin supplements can be beneficial in numerous ways, but there are also side effects of melatonin which should be considered. Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced in the pituitary gland, located in the brain. Some fruits, vegetables, meats, and other foods contain traces of melatonin. Supplements are also available; it’s safest to use a synthetic rather than a natural supplement because the natural form can cause disease, since it can be biologically contaminated.
Benefits of Melatonin
Helping with sleeping and waking up is the chief benefit of melatonin. When this hormone is released in higher levels in the body, it triggers readiness of sleep. During the night, levels remain high. But as dawn approaches, the level of melatonin decreases steadily. This is how a healthy body works, but some people suffer from insomnia because their body clock, or their circadian rhythm, isn’t functioning properly.
The release of melatonin in the body is affected by light. A circadian rhythm sleep disorder could be caused by failing to get adequate light during the day and being exposed to too much light at nighttime. Shift workers and people with jet lag often experience a disruption in their normal sleep cycle.
As people get older, their bodies produce less melatonin, causing them to have problems sleeping.
For these various cases of insomnia, research proves that melatonin can relieve general symptoms of sleeplessness. But because of the fact that there are many possible side effects of melatonin supplementation, it’s best to take the hormone as a patient under a doctor’s care, including when used as sleep therapy.
Additional benefits provided by melatonin
- It’s an antioxidant, which means that it helps to prevent cell damage. This function can ultimately improve your immune system and reduce the chances of having health issues such as diabetes and heart disease.
- When added to anti-cancer drugs, melatonin has been proven to improve the rates of survival of men with metastatic prostate cancer.
- Research shows that it inhibits the growth of some types of breast cancer cells.
- It can bring relief from pain and bloating to people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome.
- The improved amount of deep restorative sleep provided by melatonin can have anti-aging effects on the body.
- Research reveals that it may reduce the frequency of migraine headaches.
- It can effectively be used as an anti-anxiety agent.
- Used topically, melatonin is a natural sunscreen.
- Experimental research provides strong evidence that low levels of melatonin lead to relief of both depression and seasonal affective disorder.
- This natural hormone has been found to inhibit ovulation in women. Used together with other contraceptive methods, melatonin can be used as a form of oral contraceptive. On the other hand, some research has suggested that melatonin may stimulate the reproductive process.
- One of the most notable benefits is that it helps people who do shift work and who suffer from jet lag. Switching from working all night to working during the day disrupts the body’s biological clock, and the results include dizziness, fatigue, and muddled thinking. Melatonin helps establish normal sleep cycles more quickly, which relieves the negative symptoms caused by shift work and jet lag.
- People who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease can improve their quality of sleep and possibly slow the damaging effects of the disease.
- Finally, melatonin, since it improves the REM phase of sleep, can lead to dream enhancement. People often experience memorable, enjoyable, and vivid dreams as a result of melatonin supplementation. The dose taken is an important factor, however.
Common Side Effects of Melatonin
There are many factors to consider with regards to taking melatonin supplements. For instance, they aren’t advisable for a woman who is trying to get pregnant or for a child or adult under the age of 20, unless it’s under the care of a doctor.
For the most part, side effects of melatonin are temporary and will cease by taking smaller amounts. The most common side effects of melatonin include the following:
- Mood changes
- An alteration in sleep patterns is one of the side effects of melatonin but is sometimes one of the benefits
- Changes in mental disposition
- Lowered body temperature is one of the more common side effects of melatonin
- Rapid heartbeats
- While having vivid dreams is sometimes one of the welcome side effects of melatonin, the dreams are sometimes awful nightmares
- Sleepiness during the day
Additional Side Effects of Melatonin
While not as common, there are other side effects of melatonin supplementation. For instance, in one medical study among men it was found that melatonin causes sperm concentrations to be decreased, and the motility rate also declines significantly.
Anyone who has diabetes, kidney disease, stroke, liver disease, depression, or immune system disorder should only take supplements under a doctor’s care because of serious possible side effects of melatonin.
Additionally, alcohol consumption should be limited because it could increase the risk of worsened side effects of melatonin.
Special precaution should be taken not to drive or operate heavy machinery after taking supplements since sleepiness is one of the side effects of melatonin.