Melatonin is a natural hormone that is produced by the brain in response to darkness, which helps regulate circadian rhythms (the daily sleep cycle). Melatonin in supplement form can be bought over the counter without a prescription, and one survey showed that the use of melatonin in the U.S. increased from 0.4% of people in 1999 to 2.1% in 2017. The number is thought to be much higher now due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many people have started using melatonin because it is considered natural and is non-habit forming, and has less side effects than prescription sleep aids. While melatonin is considered safe for short term use, there have not been long term studies done to evaluate potential risks. Melatonin tends to work best when used occasionally as needed, such as for reducing jet lag or night shift workers.
Even though melatonin appears to be safe based on the current short-term studies, try putting emphasis on sleep hygiene and only using melatonin occasionally when needed, instead of every night. The body produces melatonin when it is dark, so try turning off bright lights and electronic screens an hour or 2 before bed. Even wearing blue light blocking glasses before bed can possibly help natural melatonin production by filtering blue light from electronic screens used before falling asleep.
As always if you have any questions and need to see a provider, we are here Monday through Saturday from 8am to 8pm. No appointment needed, we take walk-ins.