May 13, 2024

Can Melatonin Help with Anxiety?

Woman sleeping in a bed

Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate the sleep cycle. The pineal gland in your brain makes it, creating more when it’s dark outside and less when it’s light. You can also buy melatonin supplements.

Research suggests melatonin may also be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms. This article provides details on its use for that purpose.

Causes of Low Melatonin Levels

The body generally produces the right amount of melatonin. However, certain factors can cause low melatonin levels, including:

  • Advancing age. The body produces less melatonin as we get older.
  • Diseases. Experts believe conditions like type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, migraine headaches, certain cancers, and other diseases may reduce melatonin levels.
  • Nighttime light exposure. Exposure to light — blue light in particular — at night can reduce melatonin production. This is why doctors and sleep specialists recommend minimizing or eliminating screen time later in the day.

Melatonin, Sleep, and Anxiety

Studies have shown that taking a melatonin supplement can improve sleep. That benefit may reduce anxiety symptoms by helping you get more rest. However, experts speculate that the hormone may also improve anxiety symptoms more directly.

It’s important to note that most of the research on melatonin’s effect on anxiety has been done on people in the context of preparing for surgery. The stress of an approaching procedure makes it difficult for some people to sleep. Doctors sometimes prescribe medications such as benzodiazepines to address that issue.

Studies have shown that melatonin supplements are more effective than placebo pills and as effective as prescribed medications. There have also been positive results in anxiety reduction in people taking a melatonin supplement after surgery.

It’s also worth noting that anxiety is a complex condition, and pre- or post-procedure stress isn’t the same as an anxiety disorder.

How to Use Melatonin Supplements for Anxiety

It’s critical to talk with your doctor before using any supplement or medication to reduce anxiety symptoms. If they indicate melatonin may help you, a typical dosage is 3 to 10 milligrams taken just before bedtime. The most effective dosage hasn’t been determined, but evidence suggests taking more than 10 milligrams doesn’t improve the results.

You should also be aware that melatonin supplements vary in quality. Consequently, you may want to buy a product with a positive reputation for quality and safety.

Melatonin Supplement Side Effects

Melatonin typically doesn’t cause side effects when taken as directed. If common side effects occur, they can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or stomach upset
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry or itchy skin
  • Pain in the arms or legs
  • Vivid dreams
  • Rash
  • Night sweats

Talk with your doctor as soon as possible if you experience rare but serious side effects, such as:

  • Confusion
  • Vertigo
  • Unexplained bruising
  • Bleeding that doesn’t stop
  • Blurry vision
  • Watery eyes
  • Blood in your urine
  • Depression
  • New or worsening psoriasis

Melatonin can interact with prescription drugs, including blood pressure medication, blood thinners, and medications that cause sleepiness. This is another reason to talk with your doctor before taking a melatonin supplement.

Ask Your Baptist Health Doctor About Melatonin Supplements

Melatonin may be a safe, effective, drug-free way to reduce anxiety symptoms. However, you should talk with your doctor about whether it’s appropriate for you based on your physical and mental health, the prescription medications you take, and other factors.

Contact your primary care physician to discuss melatonin and anxiety. If you don’t have a Baptist Health doctor, you can find one using our online provider directory.

Learn More.