Experts warn of risks of taking melatonin to help you sleep
If you’re having trouble sleeping, you’re not alone. Symptoms of insomnia increased by 42 per cent from 2007 to 2015 among Canadian adults, according to Statistics Canada data released in 2018.
Sleep of poor quality and short duration is linked to a number of adverse health outcomes, such as obesity, depression and cardiovascular disease.
Many people with trouble sleeping turn to melatonin, a naturally occurring sleep hormone and over-the-counter supplement, to help them fall asleep. But experts say the supplement, sometimes packaged in gummy or liquid form, comes with risks of its own.
Experts say that taking melatonin can be effective at helping you fall – and stay – asleep, but only in certain instances.
Lauren Friedman, the health editor of Consumer Reports, says those circumstances include “if you’re jet-lagged, if you have to work a night shift or if you’re getting older.”
If you do take melatonin, Friedman said it’s best to start with small doses of about 0.2 milligrams and to never take a dose that exceeds 10 milligrams.
One problem with the supplement is that it is completely unregulated, unlike prescription and over-the-counter drugs. The risks of taking it for a period longer than three months have also remained relatively understudied.
Experts say that people should check with their doctors before taking melatonin, particularly because it can react adversely with certain medications. Some studies have also reported side effects including drowsiness, headaches, nausea and dizziness.