If you are taking melatonin every night, you need to read this. A natural, non-habit forming pill that helps you fall asleep sounds great in theory, but at what cost?
This post is not directed toward you if you only take melatonin every once and a while. But, if you are taking it every single night (or nearly every night), STOP TAKING IT NOW!
Sorry to yell at you. I just care too much to let you make the same mistakes that I did.
I don’t usually get riled up about things, but sleep is something I’m pretty passionate and this is a post from my very unpleasant personal experience.
I have taken a very low dose of melatonin (3 mg) almost every night since college. It worked great for me! I popped a pill about an hour before bedtime and it would get my just drowsy enough to fall asleep at the same time every night without giving me any lingering grogginess the next day.
BUT (and this is a very big but)…I have basically spent the last decade messing up my body’s natural sleep cycle. And about a month ago, the unthinkable happened…
the melatonin just stopped working.
Overnight, it went from doing its normal job to not even spurring a hint of drowsiness. I tried doubling the dose…nothing. I tried tripling the dose…it didn’t help me fall asleep one bit, but I did feel groggy the next day. I tried taking Tylenol PM for a few nights to get myself back on my normal sleep schedule (because I keep myself on a very strict sleep routine to stay as healthy and high functioning as possible). It worked for a day or two and then that stopped working, too.
I am doing everything else right. I go to bed at the same time every night. I have a calming bedtime routine with lavender scented bed spray, chamomile tea, a few stretches, my gratitude journal, a guided relaxation recording, and lots of prayer. I’m using a sleep mask in a cool, dark bedroom. I’m not drinking any caffeine and I don’t eat chocolate after noon. I’m exercising and eating well.
So, basically, my body is now revolting against sleep altogether. After years of taking melatonin (which I justified because it was such a low dose and it was all natural), I destroyed my body’s ability to fall asleep naturally.
It suppresses your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, which can be great for adjusting
It’s interesting that I let it go on for so long because I only let myself drink coffee once or twice a week because I never wanted to become reliant on the caffeine regularly to get me through the day. Instead, I became dependent on melatonin, the natural, non-habit forming sleep aid.
It’s not the worst thing in the world for you, but it is also (really, really) not the best.
Consumer Reports actually just came out with an article about the serious safety concerns associated with melatonin (dizziness, nausea, vivid dreaming, and sleepiness) and this article from Huffington Post mentions some pretty serious side effects (kidney and liver issues, amplifying insomnia, impeding normal hormone development), as well.
I know how tempting it is to reach for things that will seemingly make our lives easier. Popping a melatonin is far easier than keeping our stress in check and making it a priority to relax at bedtime.
But at what cost? At some point, all of the caffeine and melatonin overtake our natural signals so that our body can’t even tell us what we actually need anymore.
The good news is, your body can reset its natural sleep-wake cycles. The bad news is, it doesn’t happen overnight (think more like 2-3 weeks).
I have slept 7-8 hours a night with melatonin for about a decade. I stopped taking it altogether two weeks ago and was only sleep 4-5 restless hours a night, more a product of exhaustion than a time of refreshment. Then, something wonderful started to happen. For the last three nights, I was actually able to fall asleep in under an hour and stay asleep all night long! I get tired at bedtime. I’ve been waking up a few minutes before my alarm clock in the morning. And I actually feel rested, something I am not taking for granted!
I am absolutely convinced that taking melatonin for a few days every once and a while to help your body reset (like with jetlag) is a great thing, but taking it every single night, relying on a fabricated form on melatonin instead of your body’s natural sleep cycle is a terrible mistake.
On that note, what are your favorite non-melatonin ways to relax at night?