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Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
21 Nov

Why Melatonin Is a Dangerous Supplement

Melatonin is a popular supplement for the sleep-deprived, namely because it carries rather innocent associations. Melatonin is “natural” and “safe” and “herbal”, right?

Wrong. I’ve been arguing with the melatonin prophets for years because I believe the image melatonin has, and what melatonin really is, are vastly different. Like so many things that we trust in, consume or think we understand, the truth may not be what we want to believe.

My caution with melatonin is simple: melatonin is a hormone.

That’s right – a hormone. Like estrogen. Like testosterone. And just like taking estrogen (whether it’s Hormone Replacement Therapy or the Pill) or testosterone therapy, melatonin comes with risks. Frequent melatonin use – especially in the typical dosage of 3-6 milligrams – can trigger a bit of a vicious cycle in the brain. Supplement with melatonin regularly to get to sleep, and your body is going to produce even less, creating even greater need for the hormone. It’s not that you can’t ever take melatonin; but I think it’s important that people understand the facts.

A caveat: While I am generally against using hormones (it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature), I am in favor of using the natural version of the hormone melatonin to “reset” the diurnal clock when traveling across time zones. Because, after all, you got there by fooling Mother Nature in the first place! Humans did not evolve a mechanism to adapt to changing time zones. Jet travel can be some of the most destructive stress you can encounter, especially the older you get.

In fact, a recent article in ScienceNow Daily News reported on the growing concern in the scientific community over the dangers of jet lag. Turns out it’s more serious than we previously realized. Jet lag increases risk of cancer, ulcers, and sleep disorders, as well as weakening the immune system. Now, this isn’t reason to stop traveling; simply be aware of the risks and take some smart precautions (drinking alcohol on the plane: not a good idea).

I travel frequently, and I don’t suffer from jet lag, because I use melatonin judiciously in these instances. I also have a few rules about travel (feel free to crib my notes):

– Once you’ve landed and checked in to your lodgings, immediately get an aerobic workout. This will help stimulate circulation, hormones and serotonin production – it’ll just be that much easier adjusting to the new time zone. Don’t tuck into a glass of wine or take a nap. Spend 30 minutes getting your heart racing instead.

Eat a small, protein-rich meal that also includes some fiber. But keep it light so your body isn’t further stressed.

– Reset your watch and then… lie to yourself. Don’t think about it; just immediately adapt to the new time zone.

– Of course, the goal is to adjust as soon as possible to your new time zone. If you’re flying overnight or flying to a place where everyone else will have just finished sleeping, by all means, do what you can to nap on the plane or otherwise refresh yourself.

Drink at least a quart of water your first day there (4 glasses).

Go to bed when everyone else in your new time zone goes to bed, and take 3-6 milligrams of melatonin an hour before you plan to fall asleep to make that possible.

Here’s the ScienceNow clickativity.

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  1. i was taking Melatonin 10mg for a while due to insomnia, i didnt notice any weight gain, but had the most weird dreams .. i stopped taking as the dreams were so weird and vivid .. use to wake you and shout in my sleep … OMG …

    Janis wrote on April 20th, 2014
  2. do not take melatonin if you have life long depression. period.

    kris wrote on April 22nd, 2014
  3. MY INSOMNIA IS CURED after 15yr fight

    I posted here several times regarding how Melatonin and other supplements have helped me fight insomnia.

    I thought I was “cured” several times. It turned out I never really was. Until recently.

    It’s been several months now and I sleep like a rock every day. What did I do differently?

    First of all no more in Melatonin. No more other sleep aids either.

    I simply a lot of of vegetables every day. Those highest in vitamin K. The most nutrient dense I can find.

    It also helped clear up a heart condition that I had, a blocked artery. Cleared up blood clots in my lungs. All possibly caused because of long history of insomnia and Snoring. Both have cleared up as well – What else is there to say.

    Frank B wrote on April 22nd, 2014
  4. I happen to agree with weight gain. Took it for about 1-2 months and been working out and couldn’t lose 5 lbs that I gained. It increased my appetite. And same with my coworker. You can’t argue (in my opinion) that it doesn’t affect weight, as all bodies are different, so the effects are different. Let’s see if I lose the weight now that I’ve quit it? I just want others out there to know of my experience so that they can make their own decisions.

    Jill wrote on April 28th, 2014
  5. I’ve also had the oddest of dreams while on the supplement.

    Jill wrote on April 28th, 2014
  6. I love melatonin, I take it once in awhile when I know I need a good sleep.

    Katy wrote on May 5th, 2014
  7. Agree with Rene – hormones are hormones and they are dangerous in the wrong dosage – this goes for Melatonin – Estrogen – Estradiol – Progesterone – Testosterone and even Vitamin D – when you disrupt your body’s natural rhythm and upset your hormones than several things can occur – depression, loss of energy, muddled thoughts, and yes, weight gain. Never ASAUME that any of these people on the discussion board are over-eating, or eating junk food, all of them have pretty much stated that they are below aver ah weight and live healthy, and fairly athletic lives. I am a former National-Level Powerlifter and Bodybuilder, I can tell you exactly first-hand what happens when you mess with hormones, and yes, I’ve tried melatonin, but I’ve also tried Clenbuterol too, which speeds up your body’s metabolism and heats your inner core temperature, in the short term, you do lose weight and have more defined muscle-tone, but in the long run you end up gaining weight because you’ve played around with your body’s own rhythmic hormonal cycle. Now I’m in my 40’s and still maintain a 120 lbs. physique, but I do not do any hormonal disrupting drugs anymore, and it’s taken years to repair the damage. Consult your Doctor for testing your hormonal levels before taking anything that may throw your internal system out of sync.

    LisaMarie wrote on May 8th, 2014
  8. if melatonin wont help you sleep reading these comments will. so far for me im finding it doesnt always make me sleep but helps. some grouchyness at night and headaches. lots of diarea so probly weight loss. but more daytime energy and enhanced mood. i will keep trying it til i run out of toilet paper 😉

    jenny wrote on July 5th, 2014
  9. Is there any actual research that the body produces less melatonin when supplementing? It sounds like one of those things that sounds true, but is there any data to confirm this? Also consider that light is a “lie”. We aren’t meant to view artificial lights. Orange lenses just address what we presently understand about how light affects the circadian rhythm, but we are many to experience the day as it really is. This screws with melatonin, most people likely don’t make enough. I can’t sleep well without 15 milligrams of melatonin. 9 is better than nothing, and 15 is a good number for me. I sleep great and wake up cheerful.

    sir foodles wrote on August 16th, 2014
  10. Also vitamin d is a hormone. Hormone doesn’t have to be a dirty word. I’ve read of a few studies where participants were given hundreds of milligrams supposedly with no ill effects. You’ll have to find the study yourself it’s been a while.

    I’ve taken some brands of melatonin that make me feel weird. And others that work. I take gnc time release. They look at me odd when I go in there, because I know exactly where my stuff is and I don’t browse like everyone else. Also, those people tend to hand out medical advice or certain health claims like chromium helping weight loss and such. I just ignore them and get my stuff. Liquid Valerian is one component in a cocktail I take for panic attacks. I buy their fish oil too because if you buy three it works out cheap and I take twenty basic strength caps per day. Then my melatonin.

    sir foodles wrote on August 17th, 2014
  11. Try “earthing” a.k.a. “grounding” to help with insomnia !
    It’s on Youtube and it does work – I use Aluminum tape and roll it out
    under my bed sheet…. and then connect a wire to it that goes out the window
    and into the ground…. It’s because our body has way too much voltage in alternating current (AC)…. and it’s a stress on the body and prevents us from getting a good REM deep sleep… and… like it my case… caused me to be unable to easily go to sleep… if you have any fears – put an inline fuse in the wire….
    Give it an honest try and it will make a believer out of you – I am not kidding…

    Don wrote on August 20th, 2014
    • Do you have any contact with the aluminum tape? Your post gives the impression you are not (tape under the bed sheet). If you do not, then you are not earthing. You are putting a shield between yourself and the ground, and some of the radiation from the ground (if there is ground current) is flowing out the earth wire. If the tape is contacting your skin then you are earthing, and I apologise for reading it wrong. I earth myself every night with a wrist strap and find it very worthwhile.

      greg wrote on August 23rd, 2014
  12. So much hate on here. Everyone is different, people. Melatonin will be a good thing for some and not for others.
    If I take melatonin regularly and then stop, I become depressed. My body lowers its production of serotonin as some of the melatonin is metabolised to serotonin. When I stop taking the melatonin, it takes a few days for my body to catch up. This is because of having an autoimmune brain condition. It would seem to not have that effect in healthy people. Glandulars can have that effect on some people too, if a gland in their body is really struggling. When the glandular is stopped, they crash.

    greg wrote on August 22nd, 2014
  13. I have been taking melatonin every night now for about 2 months. Mainly because I have horrible insomnia. It is great in the way of helping me fall asleep fast but it does not keep me asleep. I usually wake up 2-3 hours in and it takes me several hours to get back to bed. Maybe is is because I only take 3 mg. I’m not sure.

    I have not experienced any weight gain on this as many people have complained of… I am actually under weight and am struggling gain weight. If you eat balanced meals and exercise you should not gain weight taking this supplement.

    Krista wrote on August 24th, 2014
  14. So hey…does melatonin cause you to gain weight? lmao

    Jen wrote on August 26th, 2014
  15. What did you do to get yourself off melatonin? Any other supplements used? I’m gradually putting on weight. Did you have trouble sleeping when going cold turkey?

    Laura wrote on September 2nd, 2014
  16. Everyone’s body handles thing completely different and anyone can experience different side affects BUT with that being said i can say that melatonin was definitely making me gain weight. I weight about 150 pounds and i started drinking Nuero sleeps which contains high doses of melatonin then i thought i would try something natural so i started taking double the dose of melatonin pill almost every night to help me go to sleep. Right when i started taking melatonin i had started working out 5 days a week and to add to that a very healthy diet. About 5 months go by and i weigh 162 pounds. How could i gain 12 pounds when im eating better and exercising regularly??!! I thought of anything and every thing that could cause that so i stopped taking the melatonin and its been about a month and a half. I am still continuing on the same diet plan and exercise regimen and i have already lost 7 pounds! Like i said every one is different so maybe you will or wont have the same issue i had but i am much happier being back in shape and feeling thinner.

    To All wrote on October 21st, 2014
  17. I’ve been taking 2mg for a few years. I lost weight because I got great sleep and was able to be more active during the day. Watch what you eat. More meals and less portions people. Also exercise 5 times a week.

    craig wrote on October 22nd, 2014
  18. Lasting treatment effects in a postmarketing surveillance study of prolonged-release melatonin.

    Hajak G1, Lemme K, Zisapel N.

    Author information


    Surveillance studies are useful to evaluate how a new medicinal product performs in everyday treatment and how the patient who takes it feels and functions, thereby determining the benefit/risk ratio of the drug under real-life conditions. Prolonged-release melatonin (PRM; Circadin) was approved in Europe for the management of primary insomnia patients age 55 years or older suffering from poor quality of sleep. With traditional hypnotics (e.g. benzodiazepine-receptor agonists), there are concerns about rebound insomnia and/or withdrawal symptoms. We report data from a postmarketing surveillance study in Germany on the effects of 3 weeks of treatment with PRM on sleep in patients with insomnia during treatment and at early (1-2 days) and late (around 2 weeks) withdrawal. In total, 653 patients (597 evaluable) were recruited at 204 sites (mean age 62.7 years, 68% previously treated with hypnotics, 65% women). With PRM treatment, the mean sleep quality (on a scale of 1-5 on which 1 is very good and 5 is very bad) improved from 4.2 to 2.6 and morning alertness improved from 4.0 to 2.5. The improvements persisted over the post-treatment observation period. Rebound insomnia, defined as a one-point deterioration in sleep quality below baseline values, was found in 3.2% (early withdrawal) and 2.0% (late withdrawal). Most of the patients (77%) who used traditional hypnotics before PRM treatment had stopped using them and only 5.6% of naive patients started such drugs after PRM discontinuation. PRM was well tolerated during treatment and the most frequently reported adverse events were nausea (10 patients, 1.5%), dizziness, restlessness and headache (five patients each, <1%). There were no serious adverse events and no adverse events were reported after discontinuation. The persisting treatment effect and very low rebound rate suggest a beneficial role of sleep-wake cycle stabilization with PRM in the treatment of insomnia.This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0, where it is permissible to download, share and reproduce the work in any medium, provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially.

    Manuel wrote on November 24th, 2014
  19. I used to take 3 mg and it gave me headaches, migraine headaches to be exact, but that’s no surprise as I’ve had migraines for years and lots of things can trigger them, including most pharmaceuticals and many foods. I recently tried melatonin again at about 1/2 a gram and it works fine and doesn’t give me migraine. I have noticed possible slight increased weight gain, but the cure for that is eat less.
    On the up side I don’t wake up after 2 hrs sleep, or spend 5 hrs trying to get to sleep.

    TonyR wrote on November 29th, 2014
  20. Guys,

    Am having sleeping problem for 20 years . I started taking benzo diaphine and diazepum and got addicted to it for 20 years. For last 2 years am noticing erection problems and recently its really bad where i cannot get him up at all and i can cum without being hard. So i stopped the prescription pills and trying melatonin 10mg and getting pretty decent sleep.

    Am just wondering, do any one of you here face the ED problems due to the sedatives and antidepressants and is it reversable. Once i stopped the prescribed pills, will my erection go back to normal? please advice


    Luis wrote on December 5th, 2014
  21. Guys,

    Am having sleeping problem for 20 years . I started taking benzo diaphine and diazepum and got addicted to it for 20 years. For last 2 years am noticing erection problems and recently its really bad where i cannot get him up at all and i can cum without being hard. So i stopped the prescription pills and trying melatonin 10mg and getting pretty decent sleep.

    Am just wondering, do any one of you here face the ED problems due to the sedatives and antidepressants and is it reversable. Once i stopped the prescribed pills, will my erection go back to normal? please advice


    Read more:

    Luis wrote on December 5th, 2014
  22. Guys,

    Am having sleeping problem for 20 years . I started taking benzo diaphine and diazepum and got addicted to it for 20 years. For last 2 years am noticing erection problems and recently its really bad where i cannot get him up at all and i can cum without being hard. So i stopped the prescription pills and trying melatonin 10mg and getting pretty decent sleep.

    Am just wondering, do any one of you here face the ED problems due to the sedatives and antidepressants and is it reversable. Once i stopped the prescribed pills, will my erection go back to normal? please advice


    Luis wrote on December 5th, 2014
  23. Wow, I am astonished at how people treat each other on the internet. This is a serious topic, there is no room for belittling, insults and animosity simply due to differing opinions.

    I think it is incredibly close-minded to believe that everyone responds one way or another to ANYTHING they put into their body. Although there may be general tendencies in human responses, we all have different physiology and chemical balance in our body. You don’t have to be a medical professional to know that. It does not surprise me that Melatonin may affect weight. It may induce weight gain in some and weight loss in others, especially at high doses. It may have no affect on others. Calories in/calories out is certainly the main component of weight balance, but there are other factors, such as how calories are stored and metabolized, which can be genetic, environmental or supplemental. Melatonin may affect this in some (or many) people.

    I am here because I recently began taking Melatonin to fall asleep and it DEFINITELY works for me. I take a very small dose, 1mg, just before bedtime. I am concerned about taking it long-term. At present I believe that in such a small dose the benefit of sleep probably outweighs any concerns about long-term use, but I welcome any CIVIL responses as to people’s experiences.

    Has anyone been taking a small dose over a long period?

    I have also noticed that it does NOT help me sleep through the night. I still wake up frequently, but I am able to fall back asleep quickly. I suppose that means I may not be getting improved REM cycles, which is probably a secondary issue since frequent waking happens with and without the melatonin. But again, I’ll take 9 hours of interrupted sleep over 4 hours of interrupted sleep!

    I can sometimes be a little groggy in the AM as well, but not nearly as much as with other over-the-counter sleep-aids or alcohol (sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do lol).

    I want to add that, based on my research, taking large doses (more than 5mg daily) seems likely to be more harmful than helpful, so I worry about people taking that much. Of course it varies from person to person and there are certain medical exceptions where a high dose may be prescribed (by a doctor). That’s simply my opinion.

    Just be careful!

    Travis wrote on January 7th, 2015
  24. A good natural remedy a fellow-frequent traveler shared with me years ago is called “No-Jet-Lag” and reduces the effects of jet lag for me in a big way. When I arrive at my destination, I do the the melatonin for 3 nights and that also helps reset the body clock. This is my opinion for what it’s worth.

    Joy wrote on January 17th, 2015
  25. Putting aside the completely asinine comments I’ve noticed on this entirely hateful thread towards those claiming weight loss, I’ve yet to see much discussion on how melatonin can suppress pituitary functions (namely LH release), as well as suppressing the production of dopamine. I notice a great change in my mood when taking even small (300mcg) doses of melatonin. Immediately when I stop taking it I feel as if a cloud has been lifted off the next day.

    Might this be a potential link to those expressing weight gain when using melatonin?

    Ron Burgandy wrote on February 11th, 2015
  26. I take 5mg of melatonin every night… have gained 20lbs and all other blood work comes back normal. Wake up with wicked headaches and fatigue, no strength, can’t function. Any advice? Could this be the melatonin? I’m 22 and weigh 120 lbs,I was 100lbs last year and felt great.

    Kristen wrote on February 21st, 2015
  27. Melatonin has nothing to do with your weight gain. I have been taking melatonin now for several months. I have recently had surgery and have not been able to exercise in that period and have experienced no weight gain, bad mood or adverse effects. It helps me to get to sleep and wake up feeling more refreshed.

    So, I think people should stop trying to pass the buck and just accept responsibility for their actions, what they eat and their own short comings.

    I also find it slightly funny that this guy and website talk about the adverse effects of such a Supplement, and yet it is sponsored by a antioxidant supplement.

    Ron wrote on April 7th, 2015

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