Taking Too Much Melatonin?

Melatonin use has increased sharply in recent years, study finds

(RxWiki News) Melatonin has caught on as an over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aid in a big way. But a sharp increase in dosage and frequency has raised some researchers' concerns.

That's according to a recent research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Examining nationally representative data from long-term health and nutrition survey, the researchers behind this letter found that the number of Americans taking a melatonin supplement increased from 0.4 percent of those surveyed in 2000 to 2.1 percent of those surveyed in 2018.

The authors of this research letter noted that the recommended dose of melatonin, a naturally occurring sleep hormone, typically does not exceed 5 milligrams per day. Of the more than 55,000 people examined for this study, very few exceeded this dose limit.

However, the number of people taking more than 5 mg of melatonin per day appeared to increase over time. In 2006, just 0.08 percent of participants took more than 5 mg. By 2018, that figure had increased to 0.28 percent. In other words, the proportion of people exceeding the recommended dose of melatonin more than tripled in 12 years.

While melatonin is generally regarded as safe, exceeding the recommended dose of any medication without a doctor's approval is never a good idea. And researchers may not fully understand melatonin's effects in high doses or its possible interactions with other medications.

The authors of this recent study also pointed out that the actual amount of melatonin in some supplements may be up to 478 percent higher than the concentration listed on some OTC labels.

The researchers called for further research on this subject, as well as raised awareness about melatonin's possible benefits and risks.

If you are having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor or community pharmacist about which medications may be able to safely help.

The National Natural Science Foundation of China, National Institutes of Health, Sleep Number Corporation and Mayo Clinic funded this research. The study authors disclosed no potential conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
February 10, 2022