4 News Now Q&A: Is over-the-counter melatonin safe?

Your Questions Answered

Q: Is over-the-counter melatonin safe? 

Have you found yourself struggling with sleep? Have you turned to over-the-counter melatonin to help and is it safe? 

A: A new study published in the medical journal JAMA found that some people are using melatonin at dangerously high levels.

Since 2006, a small, but growing subset of adults are taking amounts of melatonin that exceed the five milligram-per-day dosage that is typically used as a short-term treatment.

Pills for sale may contain levels of melatonin that are much higher than what is advertised on the label.

Melatonin is not fully regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so there are no federal requirements that companies test pills to be sure they contain the amount advertised.

And because it is purchased over the counter, experts say many people view melatonin as an herbal supplement or vitamin. In reality, it is a hormone made in a gland deep within the brain and released into the bloodstream to regulate the body’s sleep cycles.

Studies have found that while using melatonin can help to induce sleep if used correctly, the actual benefit is small. On average, the benefit is really only four to eight extra minutes of sleep.

Experts say if it takes you hours to fall asleep, the better thing to do is turn off your screens. Get 20 to 40 minutes of exercise each day and avoid any caffeinated products.

What are you curious about? Submit your questions here. 

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