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Melatonin in the news

sleep aides Apr 28, 2023

It's no surprise to me that a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that a study of melatonin gummies showed up to 357% percent greater melatonin than what was advertised on the bottle. In addition, five brands had 0 mg of melatonin and one had over 30 mg of CBD.  Thirty common brands were tested, and 22 of them had melatonin concentrations that were different than their label.

This is a known issue with melatonin supplements and has been shown before.  A study published in 2017 in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine showed a similar problem with melatonin pills having up to 478% greater melatonin than what was on the label and some had 0 mg.  Additionally, in that study of melatonin pills, a quarter of the melatonin products tested contained serotonin.  

People turn to over-the-counter sleep aids frequently, hoping to get some relief.  I get it– sleep problems are hard.  Melatonin is readily available over the counter both in single-ingredient preparations and among other ingredients advertised as a sleep aid.  Know that melatonin is a hormone, and it may have effects on other hormones including those associated with puberty. 

And I think that it may come as a surprise that melatonin is considered a “food supplement” and you may get more (or even less!) than you bargained for.  Regulation of food supplements is unreliable or nonexistent.  Consumers are at the mercy of the supplement industry for any over-the-counter product.  The supplement industry is very financially motivated, so quality control and pill-to-pill inconsistencies are often overlooked or not measured at all.  Even though you can buy supplements without a prescription, they are NOT necessarily side effect free.  

For example, what if you are subject to random drug screens and you test positive for a substance you didn’t even know you were consuming?  What if you are sensitive to the effects of serotonin or hormones?  What if a higher-than-intended dose of melatonin causes you to feel sleepy while driving?  What if you are giving melatonin to your child?  

Melatonin is produced by your body naturally at night.  It comes from a little gland in your brain called the pineal gland.  If you are exposed to light (such as handheld electronic screens or bright overhead lights), natural melatonin production is suppressed.  Sometimes people seek out a supplement for sleep not understanding that a simple behavior change (dim lights at night, put down the electronics) would allow you to sleep better NATURALLY.  Plus, these types of behaviors can help you restore TRUST in your sleep.

Melatonin helps signal the TIMING of sleep but does not really induce sleep.  So taking melatonin pills, gummies, or liquid may not help get you to sleep or help you stay asleep at all.  This has been proven again and again in clinical testing, although the placebo effect can be strong.  

If you want to continue taking melatonin, know that you may not be getting what you think you’re getting.  Be aware that melatonin is not terribly shelf stable and should be protected from light.  Store melatonin in the dark and throw it out when it expires.  Look for the USP (United States Pharmacopeia) symbol on any over-the-counter supplement as a bit of added quality insurance.  For children, doses of melatonin greater than 1 mg are not going to produce any added benefit and may increase the risk of side effects.  The fact that the melatonin content can be more than 400% more than the label is very concerning.  Long-term studies of melatonin use have not been conducted in children so side effects from chronic usage are not known. 

When choosing a supplement, it is best to choose single-ingredient preparations with the USP logo.  This helps you to know if a supplement works for you and gives you the ability to pinpoint side effects, if any.  Instead of taking supplements, you could address the root cause of your problem and make important lifestyle changes that would save you time, effort, and money in the long run.  If you have trouble sleeping, there are many effective behavioral treatments.  

Here's the news article to read more: Melatonin Sleep Gummies Mislabeled

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