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Melatonin

Treatment Overview

Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland, a small gland in the brain. Melatonin helps control your sleep and wake cycles. Very small amounts of it are found in foods such as meats, grains, fruits, and vegetables. You can also buy it as a supplement.

Why It Is Used

Melatonin supplements are sometimes used to treat jet lag or sleep problems (insomnia).

Scientists are also looking at other uses, such as whether it might be used to:

  • Treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
  • Help control sleep patterns for people who work night shifts.
  • Prevent or reduce problems with sleeping and confusion after surgery.
  • Reduce long-term cluster headaches.

Risks

In most cases, melatonin supplements are safe in low doses for short-term and long-term use. But be sure to talk with your doctor about taking them.

Children and pregnant or nursing women should not take melatonin without talking to a doctor first.

If melatonin makes you feel drowsy, do not drive or operate machinery when you are taking it.

During health exams, tell your doctor if you are taking melatonin. And tell your doctor if you are having trouble sleeping (insomnia), because it may be related to a medical problem.

Side effects of melatonin

Side effects of melatonin are rare. They may include sleepiness, headache, dizziness, and nausea. These side effects will go away when you stop taking the supplement.

Credits

Current as of: June 21, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Alfred Lewy MD, PhD - Psychiatry

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