Do you struggle with getting to sleep and find yourself reaching for a melatonin? Well, you’re definitely not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, up to 67% of women have a hard time falling asleep, which is likely why melatonin is one of the most popular supplements in the U.S.
Not getting enough sleep can affect every aspect of your life, from your performance at work to your mood and wellbeing. Sleep is so important and the single biggest investment you can make in your health. While you might think taking sleeping aids like melatonin are improving your sleep, they may actually be making it worse.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps regulate your circadian rhythm. It’s what drives your sleep/wake cycle and also helps keep you asleep throughout the night. Since melatonin is naturally produced, many people assume melatonin supplements are perfectly safe to use, which isn’t all true.
For a supplement you can find in every drugstore and medicine cabinet, melatonin is surprisingly dangerous for your long-term health.
The Risks of taking Melatonin
It’s completely unregulated
You would think you can trust the label on medicine bottles, but with melatonin that’s simply not the case. Since melatonin is classed as a dietary supplement, it isn’t regulated by the FDA. This means melatonin supplements aren’t controlled or tested for safety and effectiveness and could contain potentially harmful ingredients.
A 2017 study tested 31 different melatonin supplements and found that more often than not, the amount of melatonin contained wasn’t the same as listed on the label. And in 26% of these samples, the hormone serotonin was detected as well, which can accumulate and reach dangerous levels in the body.
It can interfere with other medications
As a rule, you should never mix medications unless your doctor allows it. And while most people wouldn’t think of melatonin as a drug, it still interacts with other medications (e.g. antibiotics and contraceptives) and can slow digestion, increasing your risk of dangerous side effects.
Melatonin’s side effects include dizziness, headaches, nausea, impaired balance and coordination, and next-day drowsiness. According to studies, taking melatonin can also increase your risk of car accidents and more than double the risk of falls and injuries.
It can cause dependency
Melatonin is a habit-forming drug that can make it even harder for you to sleep naturally. In several other countries, melatonin is restricted and only available with a prescription because of this. Melatonin is only recommended for short-term use, yet so many people use it as a nightly sleep aid. In a 2015 survey of over 4,000 U.S. adults, 41% reported using it for a year or longer!
Keep in mind that all the side effects and dosages are based on short-term use, and taking it for extended periods of time drastically increases its health and dependency risks.
The dosage is too high
Have you ever looked up what the right melatonin dosage is for you? Or have you just taken the dosage it comes in? That’s what most people do anyhow, and research has found it to be completely inaccurate. In clinical studies, 0.3mg of melatonin proved to be the most effective in restoring and maintaining healthy sleep. It gives your sleep/wake cycle that extra nudge it needs to get to sleep. The average dosage of melatonin supplements is 3mg– that’s 10x the recommended dose!
When it comes to taking melatonin, research shows that less is more. In a study on adults over 50, the typical 3mg dosage of melatonin was actually less effective than the 0.3mg dosage. Too much melatonin will only offset your entire sleep/wake cycle, making it difficult for your body to regulate melatonin levels to keep you asleep. Instead, you may just experience a light sleep followed by groggy mornings.
The Hangover Effect
Do you ever wake up feeling more tired than when you went to bed? Well, melatonin can do that to you– it’s called the hangover effect.
Researchers at MIT found that even the lowest dosages of melatonin can increase your body’s melatonin levels the next day, leaving you feeling groggy and tired. The added melatonin disrupts natural sleep hormone levels, making it harder for your circadian rhythm to regulate your sleep/wake cycle. This results in a poor quality of sleep and leftover sleep signals in your brain.
It’s Actually a Hormone
Melatonin may be classed as a dietary supplement, but it’s not the same as taking a vitamin or herbal sleep aid– melatonin is a hormone.
You can imagine your body as the director of an orchestra. It regulates and maintains harmony among all of your vital body functions, and hormones play a huge role in this. Adding external hormones, like melatonin, into your system can risk disrupting that harmony.
Although research on the risks of melatonin use is surprisingly limited, melatonin has been shown to negatively affect hormonal development in the body, including menstrual cycles, emotions, sexual function, and of course, sleep. Melatonin pills can also mess with your body’s natural melatonin processes and desensitize your melatonin receptors, meaning your body isn’t able to use natural melatonin at all.
It’s Synthetically Man Made
As melatonin is a hormone naturally produced in the body, have you ever wondered where the melatonin in supplements comes from? Well, most melatonin is made synthetically in a lab, or from a bovine source.
Unless the label says otherwise, you can generally assume your melatonin supplements are synthetically derived from 5-Methoxytryptamine, which has the side effect of producing a number of other chemicals, including serotonin. While melatonin alone would generally be safe to use, there are so many additional chemicals in melatonin supplements that can cause unwanted side-effects or more serious health risks.
When is it recommended to use Melatonin?
Melatonin can still be a helpful sleep aid when used correctly and for the right purposes. While the melatonin produced by your own body is always better for you, there are some situations where the targeted, short-term use of melatonin supplements can be helpful:
If you have a chronic sleep-rhythm issue, melatonin supplements can act as training wheels and help you get into a consistent sleep rhythm. It can also be a helpful sleep aid for shift workers who can’t stick to a regular sleep schedule and work regular night shifts. Since your body clock adjusts itself to natural light, it won’t produce any melatonin to sleep in daylight hours. Another common reason for taking melatonin is if your body needs to re-sync its internal clocks because of jetlag or a change in time zone.
Keep in mind, in all of these cases you shouldn’t be using melatonin supplements for more than a few weeks, and be sure to consult with your doctor to find a plan that works best for your sleep goals.
How to get better sleep naturally
Stick to a sleep schedule
Just like you would set a bedtime for your kids, it’s important to do so for yourself. Your circadian rhythm works like an inner body clock and helps regulate your sleep/wake cycle. Since it adjusts to your daily habits and lifestyle, having a regular sleep schedule can help your body know when it should feel tired. Try going to bed and waking up at a similar time every night, including weekends, to help your body fall asleep easier when bedtime comes around.
Identify sleep disruptors
Without even realizing it, many of our habits are sabotaging our sleep at night. Drinking too much coffee, having big dinners in the late evenings, and looking at your phone before bed, can all disrupt your sleep. You can experiment by changing up your routine and noticing what helps and what hinders your sleep.
Ditch the sleeping pills
While sleeping medications may seem promising when you’re desperate for a full night’s rest, they could be doing a lot more harm than good. Studies show that prescription sleep aids like Ambien and Lunesta add only 20-30 minutes of additional sleep per night, and often block the most important sleep cycles, leaving you feeling foggy the next day. More and more prescription sleep aids and OTC solutions, like Benadryl and Tylenol PM, are also linked to long-term neural damage, addiction, and rebound insomnia.
Rise with natural light
Lighting is so important for our circadian rhythm. It’s how our body knows when it’s daytime and when it’s nighttime. Light influences the production and release of melatonin in the body. For instance, when you’re exposed to blue light (e.g. from phones, laptops, TV) in the late evening, the release of melatonin is pushed back, and you won’t feel tired even though it’s your regular bedtime.
It’s also important to use light at the right times. Exposing yourself to the morning sun can help regulate your body clock and make it easier for you to sleep at night. As a general rule, try to avoid blue-light past sundown, sleep in complete darkness, and enjoy your morning coffee out in the sun when you can.
Create a comfortable environment
Your sleep environment plays a huge role in the quality of your sleep. Especially with the rise of work-from-home setups, it can be a challenge to keep work and home life separate. You can help your body and mind unwind at night by making your bedroom a sanctuary of rest and relaxation. Invest in some cozy candles and blankets, and make it a place you love!
It also helps to keep your room cool (under 70 degrees), and create a calming ritual that signals to your body it’s time for bed. If you’re looking for a natural way to relax before bed, you could add our Nightcap into your night routine. Try adding a few drops into a calming cup of tea or honey water an hour before going to sleep.
Made with full-spectrum hemp extract rich in terpenes that promote better sleep, our Juna Nightcap can help restore your natural sleep-wake cycle. Juna’s Nightcap promotes balance, reduces stress, and helps the body produce optimal levels of naturally occurring melatonin.
Unlike melatonin supplements, Juna’s Nightcap is an all-natural sleep aid that helps restore balance in the body by supporting the endocrine system where melatonin is regulated. Our Juna Nightcap has also been shown to increase Stage 3 Deep Sleep. In this stage, your body repairs itself, and your mind processes all information from the day, which is crucial for focus and balanced stress levels throughout the day.
Our Juna Nightcap is also made with Chamomile and Passionflower, which are scientifically proven to decrease cortisol levels in the brain and prolong your reparative and restoring Stage 3 Deep Sleep cycle. The Nightcap drops have a fresh minty taste with subtle herbal notes.
Here’s what some of our customers have to say about using Juna’s Nightcap for better sleep:
“I've been taking Melatonin every night for 15 years and it's wreaked havoc on my serotonin production, hormones, and made it impossible for me to fall asleep on my own. Juna’s Nightcap drops are the only thing that's worked for me. So happy and well-rested I could cry happy tears.” - Lauren (verified buyer).
“I was having a hard time getting to sleep and this oil changed everything! It is very gentle and relaxing and doesn't give me crazy dreams like melatonin sometimes does, or leave me waking up groggy. I absolutely recommend it! Tastes good too!” - Ryanne (verified buyer)