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Melatonin: Uses, Side Effects, Interaction and Melatonin Rich Foods

Sleeping Disorder (Insomnia)

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is primarily used as a medicine to treat sleeping disorders such as insomnia and circadian rhythm disturbances. Melatonin is known as a hormone produced naturally in the body. It helps the body to maintain its sleep cycle, commonly known as the biological clock.

On average, humans work for about 16 hours a day and sleep for about 8 hours. This body cycle is controlled by melatonin. Other names of melatonin may include 5-Methoxy-N-Acetyltryptamine, Pineal Hormone, MEL, Melatonina, Mélatonine, MLT, N-Acétyl-5-Méthoxytryptamine and N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine. Melatonin was discovered in 1958.

Melatonin supplements should be taken as per doctor’s instructions. If you are taking melatonin to help you with sleep disturbances, take it about 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime. This is mainly because the drug takes some time to make a positive effect. While supplementation can work wonders for some individuals, it may not work effectively for other individuals. In this case, it is best to seek the medical advice of a doctor. This medicine is also useful in the treatment of other health problems such as cancer.

The most common side effects of melatonin include frequent headaches and an altered sleep pattern. Although very rare, an allergic reaction can occur resulting in hives, itchy skin rashes, and confusion, in which case a doctor should be consulted immediately.

How Does Melatonin Work?

Melatonin belongs to the class of tryptophan. It binds to adenylate cyclase and inhibits a CMP signal transduction pathway, after binding to melatonin receptor type-1A.


Melatonin may interact with other drugs —


  • Teriflunomide
  • Fluvoxamine
  • Warfarin
  • Ifosfamide
  • Some sedative drugs such as lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien) and others


  • Caffeine
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
  • Verapamil (Calan, Covera, Isoptin, Verelan)
  • Medication used to treat high blood pressure such as nifedipine GITS (Procardia XL)
  • Medication for diabetes such as glimepiride (Amaryl), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), rosiglitazone (Avandia), tolbutamide (Orinase), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), and others.
  • Birth control pills such as levonorgestrel (Triphasil), ethinyl estradiol, ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone
  • Immunosuppressants such as azathioprine (Imuran), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), basiliximab (Simulect), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), mycophenolate (CellCept), sirolimus (Rapamune), corticosteroids (Glucocorticoids), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone)


  • Flumazenil (Romazicon)

Melatonin Side Effects:

Some common side effects of melatonin may include —

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches

Other side effects may include —

  • Pruritus
  • Increased levels of potassium in the blood
  • Somnolence (sleepiness)
  • Diarrhea
  • Abnormal dreams
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Increased weight
  • Tiredness
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Migraine
  • Lethargy
  • Psychomotor hyperactivity
  • Dizziness
  • Hypertension
  • Abdominal pain
  • Heartburn
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Dry mouth
  • Hyperbilirubinemia
  • Dermatitis
  • Night sweats
  • Rashes and dry skin
  • Pain in the extremities
  • Symptoms of menopause
  • Chest pain
  • Glycosuria (sugar in the urine)
  • Proteinuria (protein in the urine)
  • Abnormal liver function tests
  • Mood swings
  • Aggression and feeling hungover


Tell your doctor if you have a history of following diseases —

  • Liver disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Epilepsy or seizures
  • An autoimmune condition
  • Taking a blood thinner such as warfarin
  • Using other sedatives
  • Blood clotting disorder such as hemophilia

It is not recommended to take melatonin during pregnancy. It might change the sleep cycles of the woman and the baby. However, melatonin is safe and there is no side effects have been seen. Ask your doctor for more details.

There is not much scientific research to prove that melatonin isn’t safe for breast—feeding women. Although, it may passes into breast milk and may cause many side effects. Ask your doctor if you are breast—feeding.

It is advisable not to consume alcohol along with melatonin supplements as it can make you more dizzy.

Avoid taking beverages such as tea, coffee, energy drinks, cola or other products that contains caffeine.

Missed Dose:

The missed dose should be taken as soon as possible. It is recommended to skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose.


Melatonin overdose may cause the following side effects —

  • Joint pain
  • Anxiety
  • A headache
  • An upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability

Seek emergency medical help in case of an overdose or call 1—800—222—1222.

Melatonin Rich Foods:

Scientists have found that melatonin is also present in several foods. Nuts, especially pistachios, contain the highest amount of melatonin among plant foods. Fish and eggs are also good sources of melatonin.

Other foods with high melatonin levels may include —

  • Grapes
  • Mushrooms
  • Tart cherries
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Strawberries


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