How safe is melatonin?

Posted at 3:47 PM, Jan 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-07 15:47:00-05

Melatonin may seem like an all-natural way to catch some z’s if you’re having trouble falling asleep, but there is potential for some side effects, Consumer Reports said this week.

About 20 percent of users in a Consumer Reports survey reported grogginess the following day, and the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a supplement trade group, says to use caution before driving the day after you take it.

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Melatonin sets the body’s circadian rhythm, which helps control when you wake up and when you fall asleep. You can buy a synthetic version much like you would any vitamin or supplement.

Consumer Reports says Americans spent about $378 million on melatonin in 2014, with about 34 million Americans using it every year.

But according to a 2013 study by the journal PLoS One, people taking the drugs fall asleep an average of seven minutes faster and sleep only eight minutes longer.

According to the Mayo Clinic, melatonin supplements can also interact with various medications, including blood-thinning medications, medications that suppress the immune system, diabetes medications and birth control pills.

Consumer Reports advises customers to search for melatonin products with the “USP Verified” mark, which have been vetted by the nonprofit U.S. Pharmacopeia.

Lower doses are also recommended, too. One to three milligrams is enough for most people, and as little as 0.1 to 0.3 milligrams may be effective for others, Consumer Reports said.

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