Scientists explain the risks linked to taking melatonin for sleep

Fareeha Arshad

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In a recent article published in The Conversation, scientists discussed the risk factors associated with melatonin supplement consumption for sleep. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain and helps regulate the body’s response to day and night changes. Therefore, melatonin regulates the circadian rhythm, that is, the body’s sleep-wake cycle.

So, during the nighttime, the body releases melatonin in response to the darkness it observes. Melatonin then makes you feel drowsy, and that’s how you end up sleeping peacefully. Likewise, melatonin production does not occur during the daytime, and you remain fresh throughout the day.

However, as per Lourdes M. DelRosso, a PhD candidate from the University of Portsmouth, false melatonin production also occurs. This happens when an individual is exposed to bright light throughout the day and night. The brain then feels that it is still day, then no melatonin production occurs, so you do not feel sleepy at all.

Because of using electronic devices until late at night, sleep deprivation has become quite common among many people these days. As a result, often people take melatonin supplements to induce sleep. However, is regular consumption of melatonin a safe option?

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reported that such supplements usually include the melatonin hormone anywhere between -83% to +478% of the labelled content. Also, other chemicals like valerian and serotonin are used during the preparation, and their concentrations are usually not mentioned on the labels.

When taken in high concentrations, melatonin supplements may result in side effects like nausea and frequent headaches. Therefore, researchers recommend the short term use of melatonin supplements between one to three months in low amounts, that is, 0.5 to 1 mg.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I write about current affairs, history, science, and lifestyle.

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