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5 Melatonin Myths Debunked

5 Melatonin Myths Debunked

By Andrea Bartels CNP NNCP RNT
Registered Nutritional Therapist

12 Jan 2024

5 Melatonin Myths Debunked

Melatonin Myth #1: Melatonin supplements don’t work.

Truth: While it’s true that not everyone’s sleeping problems can be helped by melatonin supplementation, there is plenty of research showing 2 things: one, that melatonin supplements can decrease the time it takes to fall asleep, and
two, they can increase sleep duration.  The result? A better night’s rest. After all, melatonin is a hormone made by the body, secreted by the pineal gland inside the brain as part of the sleep-wake cycle upon the shift from light to darkness to help prepare us for sleep.

 

Melatonin Myth #2:  The body makes melatonin, so supplementation is unnecessary.

Truth:  If you’re an adult, your melatonin production has fallen 80% from what it was when you were 4 years of age.  In fact, melatonin production keeps decreasing the older you get. So unfortunately, you’ll never secrete at age 40, 60 or 80 what you did in your youth.  So when a person who isn’t secreting enough melatonin necessary for a healthy sleep cycle starts taking melatonin, they’re simply giving the body what it’s unable to make enough of anymore.  

If you can’t sleep, be aware that certain common drugs you may be using regularly can decrease melatonin production. These include alcohol, ibuprofen and aspirin. 

 

Melatonin Myth #3:  You can become ‘addicted’ to a melatonin supplement.

Truth: There is no evidence that melatonin can become addictive or habit-forming. 
If this were so, increasing amounts would be needed to induce sleepiness as time goes on; that’s one of the hallmarks of addiction. But there is no such phenomenon when it comes to melatonin use, perhaps because the body makes it. So, why can melatonin users experience a return of sleeping difficulties when they stop using it? When you stop taking it, you lose the benefits.  This is not unique to melatonin; the same thing will happen with practically all nutritional supplements and most drugs.

If you’re seeing a setback in your sleep quality when you don’t use melatonin, it may be time to look at your sleep hygiene. Are you sleeping in total darkness? Are you shutting off screens at least 1 hour before attempting shut-eye? Is your bedroom too warm? Are you avoiding strenuous sport close to bedtime? Take an inventory of your habits and you can modify according to this list.

 

Melatonin Myth #4: Melatonin supplementation causes the sensation of ‘brain fog’ or grogginess upon waking up.  

Truth:  Melatonin supplements shouldn’t cause a ‘sleep hangover’. This phenomenon can be due to a couple of different culprits.  If a consumer finds this occurs the morning after melatonin supplementation, it’s usually a result of finally achieving deep REM sleep after sleeping light over an extended period of time.  You’ll likely see the same thing if you eventually fall asleep again during the night after being awake for a while, even if you didn’t take melatonin.  

The other possible reason grogginess can occur the morning after supplementation is that the dosage you took was actually higher than the label claim. For example, A 2017 study on melatonin products sold in a Guelph, Ontario pharmacy found that among 30 commercially sold products, the melatonin content varied significantly from the amount listed on the label.
One brand had a 465% difference in melatonin content from batch to batch (lot to lot)!

It’s not common knowledge that this kind of testing is not mandatory by law; the hiring of an independent laboratory to test quality of product ingredients is completely optional.   

Rest assured that each batch of Pure Lab Vitamins’ products such as Magnesium + Melatonin and Slow Release Melatonin 10 mg is tested before encapsulation, then again after encapsulation to ensure the integrity and stability of the product and to make sure it meets label claims---not wildly overshoot (or undershoot) them.

 

Melatonin Myth #5: Melatonin supplements are a good first-line solution for children who won’t go to sleep.

Truth: Giving children melatonin supplements when they usually have a naturally high ability to make their own is something that shouldn’t be done without the guidance of a physician. Although reports have indicated that use of melatonin is way up in American children over the past few years, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has issued a health advisory with warnings about melatonin use in kids. There is simply an absence of long-term research on its use in children at this point.  (The FDA does not regulate melatonin supplements).

Good sleep hygiene is the best starting point for kids who won’t go to bed. Institute a no-screens policy 1 hour before bedtime. Keep them on schedules, even on the weekends, allowing no more than an extra hour of ‘staying up’.  

 

Melatonin Myth #6: Melatonin is safe for all adults to take.

Truth:

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also abstain from melatonin use simply because there is insufficient data on these groups. Finally, avoid combining melatonin with stand-alone GABA or 5-HTP products as they can magnify the effects of melatonin.  As with any natural health product, if you’re not sure melatonin is right for you, do not take it without the guidance of your primary health care practitioner. Sweet dreams!

 

References

 

Ahmad SB, Ali A, Bilal M, et al. Melatonin and Health: Insights of Melatonin Action, Biological Functions, and Associated Disorders. Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2023;43(6):2437-2458. 

Cleveland Clinic. “The Truth About Melatonin Addiction.” October 21, 2022. Accessed online Dec 18, 2023.

Erland LA, Saxena PK. Melatonin Natural Health Products and Supplements: Presence of Serotonin and Significant Variability of Melatonin Content. J Clin Sleep Med. 2017;13(2):275-281. Published 2017 Feb 15. 

Godoy, Maria. “What parents need to know before giving kids melatonin.” NPR Weekend Edition Sunday. December 16, 2023.

Herndon, Jaime.  “Is Melatonin Addictive?”. Healthline. Updated July 20 2018.  Accessed online Dec 18, 2023.


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