Too much of a good thing: Melatonin overuse is common

Too much of a good thing: Melatonin overuse is common

Living through several major world events going on at once is reason enough to have trouble sleeping. Coupled with work pressures and day-to-day stressors, it’s no surprise that many rely on sleep aids like melatonin — and some rely on it too much.

A new study from researchers in China suggests that the number of people taking more than the recommended amount of 5 milligrams is increasing.

The trouble, sleep scientists say, is that the effects of different additives in over-the-counter melatonin supplements, in the quantities they’re being taken, haven’t been studied over time.

In the recent study, researchers reviewed nearly 20 years’ worth of national health survey results from more than 55,000 adults. They found that by 2018, adults in the U.S. took more than twice the amount of melatonin than they had 10 years before.

Typically, melatonin is intended as a sort of Band-Aid — great for people who are traveling and at risk of jet lag, or those of us who work variable day and night shifts. And, because most people think of melatonin as a natural substance, they don’t fret about taking more than the recommended doses — or giving it to their children, where effects are less documented.

Notably, many also contain other substances like serotonin. In excess amounts, this can even result in life-threatening side effects. Melatonin supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, meaning the quantities may exceed what packaging labels say.

More research is needed to understand the long-term effects of melatonin overuse. For now, diversifying the methods you rely on to fall asleep can’t hurt. After all, counting sheep has never gone out of style.

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