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Melatonin side effects: What are the risks?By Mayo Clinic staff
Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/melatonin-side-effects/AN01717
- With Mayo Clinic internist
Brent A. Bauer, M.D.read biographyclose window
Brent A. Bauer, M.D.Brent A. Bauer, M.D.
Brent Bauer, M.D., is board certified in internal medicine. He is a consultant in the Department of Internal Medicine and director of the Department of Internal Medicine's Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dr. Bauer, a native of Madison, Wis., is also a professor of medicine at Mayo Medical School and a graduate of Mayo Medical School.
He serves on the editorial board of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter and is medical editor for EmbodyHealth Newsletter. He has been on staff at Mayo Clinic since 1992, first practicing at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., before joining Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., in 1996.
Dr. Bauer's principal research focus is the scientific evaluation of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies that patients and consumers are using with increasing frequency. He has authored several book chapters and papers on this topic, and is the medical editor of the "Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine." Dr. Bauer also spearheaded collaboration between Mayo Clinic and Gaiam in the creation of a series of 10 DVDs (Mayo Clinic Wellness Solutions). These DVDs address common health problems (for example, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure) with integrative medicine approaches that empower people to take charge of their health. His work is at the forefront of the emerging field of integrative medicine which combines the best of conventional medicine with the best of evidence-based complementary therapies.
Dr. Bauer has served on the NIH-NCCAM study section and is currently collaborating on over 20 studies being conducted at Mayo Clinic evaluating CAM therapies ranging from acupuncture to valerian. He is also a member of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society; the American Federation for Medical Research; the North Central Cancer Treatment Group and other professional organizations.
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Melatonin side effects: What are the risks?
Is melatonin a helpful sleep aid — and what should I know about melatonin side effects?
from Brent A. Bauer, M.D.
The hormone melatonin helps control your natural sleep-wake cycle. Natural levels of melatonin in the blood are highest at night. Some research suggests that melatonin supplements might be helpful in treating jet lag or reducing the time it takes to fall asleep — although the effect is typically mild. Melatonin might be more effective for other types of sleep issues, such as delayed sleep disorder or sleep disorders affecting circadian rhythm.
The most common melatonin side effects include:
- Daytime sleepiness
Other, less common melatonin side effects might include abdominal discomfort, mild anxiety, irritability, confusion and short-lasting feelings of depression.
In addition, melatonin supplements can interact with various medications, including:
- Blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants)
- Medications that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants)
- Diabetes medications
- Birth control pills
If you're considering taking melatonin supplements, check with your doctor first — especially if you have any health conditions. The correct dose depends on the intended use. For example, circadian rhythm sleep disorders are often treated with 0.5 milligrams of melatonin a day, while doses of 3 to 5 milligrams a day might be used to treat jet lag or reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. In addition, remember that melatonin is generally recommended only for short-term use — up to two months. Some research indicates that longer term use might be appropriate in certain cases, however.
If you take melatonin, choose commercial supplements produced in a lab. Melatonin supplements made from animal sources might contain various contaminants. Don't engage in activities that require alertness — such as driving or operating heavy machinery — for four to five hours after taking melatonin.Next question
Sleep aids: Could antihistamines help me sleep?
- Melatonin. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed July 18, 2011.
- Wade AG, et al. Nightly treatment of primary insomnia with prolonged release melatonin for 6 months: A randomized placebo controlled trial on age and endogenous melatonin as predictors of efficacy and safety. BMC Medicine. 2010;8:51.
- Van Geijlswijk IM, et al. The use of exogenous melatonin in delayed sleep phase disorder: A meta-analysis. Sleep. 2010;33:1605.
- Wade AG, et al. Prolonged release melatonin in the treatment of primary insomnia: Evaluation of the age cut-off for short- and long-term response. Current Medical Research and Opinion. 2011;27:87.
- Ferguson SA, et al. Melatonin agonists and insomnia. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics. 2010;10:305.
- Morgenthaler TI, et al. Practice parameters for the clinical evaluation and treatment of circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Sleep. 2007;30:1445.