Is Melatonin Safe?

Melatonin is safe for many adults. The brain produces this natural hormone, which is also available as a supplement to help individuals sleep.

However, there is a lack of research on melatonin safety in certain groups of people, such as babies and children.

This article provides an overview of the safety of melatonin, including how it affects different age groups and its possible side effects.

Man sleeping comfortably in bed

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Is Melatonin Safe? 

For most healthy adults, it is safe to use melatonin as a sleep aid for about one to two months. 

For Infants 

There is a lack of research on how melatonin affects infants. Research shows that melatonin may be beneficial for infants in oxidative stress (an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body and antioxidant levels become low). 

When considering melatonin for an infant, it is critical to work with your child’s healthcare provider. The first step is to initiate a healthy sleep schedule and routine before trying a sleep aid. 

It’s important to remember that infants are still learning how to sleep on a regular schedule. Infants need about 12 to 16 hours of sleep per day. 

Melatonin accounted for 4.9% of all pediatric ingestions reported to poison control in 2021, up from 0.6% in 2012.

For Babies and Children

Melatonin is a popular supplement for children. After multivitamins, melatonin is the most common natural product that parents give to their children. Like infants, babies and children may be able to use melatonin safely, but its use should be closely monitored by a healthcare provider, who can determine the dosage.

When using melatonin for a child, always keep the supplement out of reach and locked away. Research shows that melatonin chewable tablets may contain one half to more than four times the amount of melatonin listed on the label.

The long-term effects and risks of melatonin use in children are not known. Because melatonin is a hormone, regular use over time may affect a child’s hormonal development. 

Adolescence and Young Adults 

Melatonin use is relatively common in adolescents and young adults. Research shows that the sales of melatonin in the United States have increased by 150% over the past several years. This increase was likely related to the increased use among children and adolescents. 

Talk with your child’s healthcare provider before starting melatonin. Using melatonin may increase the risk of accidental or intentional overdose in adolescents.

Pregnancy 

Melatonin has not been adequately studied in pregnant and breastfeeding people to determine if it is safe. Do not use melatonin during pregnancy or breastfeeding without talking with your healthcare provider. 

Older Adults 

Older adults may turn to melatonin for trouble sleeping as they age. It’s important to remember that melatonin may affect older adults differently than younger adults.

Melatonin stays active longer in older adults, which means they are more at risk of experiencing daytime sleepiness because melatonin is still affecting them. Melatonin is not recommended for people with dementia. 

Regulation Concerns 

Melatonin is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a supplement. This means it is not as strictly regulated as prescription or over-the-counter medications. 

Side Effects 

Possible side effects of melatonin include:

Can You Develop a Melatonin Dependency?  

Melatonin does not cause physical dependency. However, it is not meant to be used long term. Talk with your healthcare provider about other options if you have been using melatonin for one to two months.

Melatonin is not safe for people with an autoimmune disorder, a seizure disorder, or depression. It is also not considered safe for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Interactions With Other Medications and Supplements 

Melatonin cannot be taken with certain medications because of drug interactions. Do not take melatonin if you are currently taking a blood thinner such as Coumadin or Jantoven (warfarin). Do not use melatonin with the following medications or supplements:

Summary

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain in response to darkness. It can also be taken as a supplement to help with sleep. Melatonin is safe for most healthy adults to use for a short period. Melatonin can safely be used in many babies and children but should be closely monitored by a healthcare provider.

Possible side effects of melatonin include drowsiness, headaches, dizziness, agitation, nausea, and bed-wetting. The FDA regulates melatonin as a supplement. 

A Word From Verywell 

Melatonin is a commonly used supplement for many adults and children. While it is safe for most healthy people, it is important to research before starting any new supplement regimen. Melatonin is not considered safe for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as those with other health conditions. Talk with your healthcare provider if you are considering trying melatonin as a sleep aid. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does melatonin make you sleep?

    Melatonin affects sleep for up to four to five hours. Older individuals may be affected longer because melatonin stays active longer in their bodies.

  • How much melatonin is considered safe?

    Talk with your healthcare provider about how much melatonin to take. Most healthy adults can take up to 8 milligrams, and most healthy children can take up to 3 milligrams. It is important to start small with your dose and slowly go up as needed.

  • Who might want to avoid melatonin?

    People with the following conditions should avoid melatonin:

    • Pregnancy
    • Breastfeeding
    • High blood pressure
    • Bleeding disorders
    • Seizure disorders
    • Depression
    • History of transplant
9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. John Hopkins Medicine. Melatonin for sleep: Does it work?.

  3. Marseglia L, Gitto E, Laschi E, et al. Antioxidant effect of melatonin in preterm newborns. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2021;2021:6308255. doi:10.1155/2021/6308255

  4. Janjua I, Goldman RD. Sleep-related melatonin use in healthy children. Can Fam Physician. 2016;62(4):315-317.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much sleep do I need?.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pediatric melatonin ingestions — United States, 2012–2021.

  7. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Health advisory: Melatonin use in children and adolescents.

  8. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Information for consumers on using dietary supplements.

  9. MedlinePlus. Melatonin.

By Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH
Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH, is a health writer with over a decade of experience working as a registered nurse. She has practiced in a variety of settings including pediatrics, oncology, chronic pain, and public health.