Can melatonin cause anxiety

Can Melatonin Cause Anxiety?

Writen By: Sadia Mirza
Reviewed By: Huma Khan
Publish Date: March 16, 2024

We have all experienced those restless nights when sleep seems elusive, making us search for the solution. In these restless and sleepless moments, many people turn to melatonin, a proper supplement known for its sleep-inducing properties. But have you ever pondered the question, Can melatonin cause anxiety? It’s fascinating to think about how something that’s supposed to help us relax and sleep could potentially cause an adverse effect.

Although melatonin is frequently suggested as a natural solution for sleep problems, there has been some discussion about its adverse effects. This raises many questions regarding the connection between melatonin and anxiety.

Read with us and dive deeper into this question: Can melatonin cause anxiety? Let’s find out that melatonin, which is supposed to be a hero of peaceful sleep, could be the culprit behind our nighttime anxiety. 

What is Melatonin? 

Melatonin is a type of hormone that our body naturally produces. It is secreted by the pineal gland, as the research says. It plays a role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle, also known as ‘circadian rhythm.’ 

The production and release of melatonin occur according to the time of day, decreasing during the daytime and increasing when it’s dark, signaling to the body that it’s time to sleep. The secretion of melatonin peaks between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., and then it gradually decreases.  

Sources of Melatonin

The hormone melatonin can not only be found naturally in the body but also be produced synthetically. 

  • Natural sources of melatonin include the pineal gland in your brain, which helps regulate one’s sleep-wake cycle; specific foods like grapes, cherries, and grains that contain small amounts of melatonin; and exposure to sunlight during the day, which can influence melatonin production at night.
  • On the other hand, synthetic melatonin can be obtained through supplements that are available over the counter, or through prescription medications that are given to individuals with sleep disorders, under medical supervision.

Before diving into the question, Can melatonin cause anxiety? We will thoroughly look at anxiety, its symptoms, and its causes to get an idea of what it is.

Anxiety 

Anxiety is a prevalent mental health issue that manifests as excessive worry, nervousness, and fear. It can be categorized as an anxiety disorder when it becomes excessive and interferes with daily life. 

According to the research, the most common mental health issue is anxiety, which can impact up to 20% of adults each year and 1 in 4 children between the ages of 13 and 18 as well

Symptoms Of Anxiety

Emotional Symptoms

  • Feeling restless or on edge
  • Feeling irritable
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling like your mind is going blank
  • Having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feeling overwhelmed or like you’re losing control
  • Having intrusive thoughts or worries

Physical Symptoms

  • Heart palpitations or racing heart
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach upset

Causes Of Anxiety

The exact causes of anxiety disorders are unknown, but there are likely a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some contributors to anxiety are:

Genetics

When you have a family history of anxiety disorders, it increases your risk of anxiety and other mental health disorders.

Brain Chemistry

When there is an imbalance in certain brain chemicals, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, it can lead to anxiety.

Stressful life events

Certain traumatic and stressful life experiences, such as childhood abuse, major life changes such as divorce, childbirth, pregnancy, financial problems, or chronic illness, can trigger anxiety.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions, such as thyroid problems, heart disease, and chronic pain, can contribute to anxiety.

Substance Abuse

The excessive use of alcohol and drugs can worsen anxiety symptoms so it’s better to limit their usage or completely avoid them.

Now it’s time to look at the connection between melatonin and anxiety. Are you curious to know if melatonin can help alleviate anxiety or if it might actually make it worse? Let’s find out together.

Exploring the Connection: Can Melatonin Cause Anxiety?

The relationship between melatonin and anxiety is complex. Some studies and research show that melatonin has a great ability to reduce anxiety. On the other hand, there is also a debate going on about its possible side effects that can cause anxiety and worsen its symptoms. 

  • According to research, this natural hormone has been shown to have a significant impact on reducing anxiety and even treating it, just by improving your sleep cycle.
  • Most of the melatonin-based research on humans has been done on people who were undergoing a surgical procedure, as it is common for people to feel anxious and nervous before and during the surgery. Anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines are used to reduce these symptoms of anxiety. In a clinical analysis conducted in 2015, it was found that melatonin worked better than a placebo pill and midazolam that are given to treat anxiety before the procedure. 
  • Another study conducted in 2018 also indicated that melatonin worked effectively to reduce anxiety before surgery. 

All these studies show the positive effects of melatonin for reducing anxiety and give evidence that taking melatonin supplements may be effective for people who experience symptoms of anxiety, but here’s the reverse scenario. Taking melatonin supplements is not safe for everyone as it has side effects. You should be aware of what you can expect from taking a melatonin supplement.

  • Besides other side effects of melatonin, such as headaches, nausea, and dizziness, it can also make you psychologically dependent on it. You may think that you must take melatonin to sleep, as you may have anxiety about not being able to sleep. 
  • While melatonin itself may not directly cause anxiety, its effects on sleep patterns and the regulation of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and cortisol in the brain can potentially heighten anxiety symptoms, as these hormones greatly influence mood.
  • Melatonin might worsen anxiety in people with certain medical conditions, such as individuals with liver or kidney disease, autoimmune disorders, or depression. So, it’s always a good idea to consult with a doctor before using melatonin, as it can interact with medications and underlying health conditions.
  • Moreover, high doses and excessive melatonin intake can cause daytime drowsiness, dizziness, and headaches, which can indirectly fuel anxiety for some individuals.

So, the simple answer to “Can Melatonin cause anxiety?” is that, while melatonin is generally known to help with anxiety, it can cause or worsen anxiety if taken in excessive amounts. As a natural sleep aid, it has some side effects and can induce anxiety. Therefore, consulting a doctor before taking melatonin is highly recommended.

Other Side Effects Of Melatonin

You should take into consideration melatonin side effects, as they can lead to some uncomfortable symptoms. They are usually mild, but it is better to be aware of them:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Sleepiness 
  • Drowsiness
  • Agitation
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • dry mouth
  • discomfort in the abdomen or stomach cramps
  • dry or itchy skin
  • pains in arms or legs
  • strange dreams or night sweats

Serious side effects are very rare. It’s better to consult a healthcare professional immediately if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Blood in the urine
  • Confusion
  • Vertigo
  • Unexplained bruising
  • Bleeding that doesn’t stop
  • Psoriasis
  • Feeling faint or passing out
  • Watery eyes or blurry vision

It’s better to not drive or operate any machinery for about five hours after melatonin intake, as it can be harmful. 

How to Sleep Better and Easily Without Taking Melatonin? 

Now that you know the answer to “Can Melatonin cause anxiety?” you may be wondering about alternative ways to sleep better without taking it. The good news is that there are many techniques you can use to fall asleep without relying on melatonin. Let’s discuss these techniques in detail:

Optimize Your Sleep Hygiene 

1. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule

Make a consistent schedule of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day and stick to it, even on weekends. This helps regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.

2. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine

Wind down in the hour before bed with calming activities like taking a warm bath, reading, writing, or light stretching. Also, burn some therapeutic-scented candles in flavors that you love. Avoid stimulating activities during bedtime, like watching TV or using electronic devices, as the blue light emitted can suppress melatonin production.

3. Make your bedroom sleep-friendly

Is your bedroom sleep-friendly? Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool, quiet, and comfortable. Invest in blackout curtains, earplugs, and a comfortable mattress, and pillows that help you sleep easily. 

4. Get regular exercise

Physical activity can make you sleep better. A Research study published on PMC shows that exercise improves sleep quality and duration. 

5. Limit Stimulants

Avoid alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime, as they can interfere with sleep and disturb mental health as well.

6. Relaxation Techniques

Try practicing different relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or progressive muscle relaxation before bed to quiet your mind and promote better quality sleep.

Dietary and Lifestyle Adjustments

1. Avoid sugary snacks and Heavy meals Before Bed

Opt for a light and healthy dinner several hours before sleep, and try to avoid sugary snacks as they can also interfere with your sleep.

2. Expose yourself to enough sunlight during the day

Exposure to enough sunlight during the day helps regulate your circadian rhythm and promotes melatonin production at night.

3. Manage Stress

Stress can disrupt your sleep. Try to manage it by practicing relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or spending time in nature to lower stress levels.

4. Consider cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I)

If these natural methods don’t perform effectively, consult a doctor about CBT-I, a structured therapy program proven to improve sleep quality.

Please take note that if you have underlying medical conditions or sleep disorders, consult a doctor for personalized advice and treatment options.

Some Important Points to Consider When Taking Melatonin

  • Melatonin is not a first-line treatment for anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is generally considered more effective for managing chronic anxiety disorders.
  • You should consult a doctor before using melatonin, especially if you take other medications or have any other underlying health condition.
  • Also, stick to the recommended dosages and avoid exceeding them.
  • Monitor yourself by being aware of any potential side effects, and discontinue melatonin supplement use if you experience increased anxiety and other side effects.

It’s recommended to seek professional medical advice before starting any new supplement. 

Conclusion

This article tried to answer the complex and difficult question, ‘Can melatonin cause anxiety?’ as melatonin is generally considered safe and effective for promoting sleep. 

Many individuals may experience increased anxiety as a result of taking melatonin, but it is important to note that this is not the same for everyone and can vary from person to person. It is important to approach its use with caution, especially for individuals who are prone to anxiety. 

Always consult a healthcare professional before starting any supplement, as they can give you personalized guidance based on your circumstances. They will make sure that you achieve a healthy balance between melatonin use and anxiety management.

FAQs

1. What causes low melatonin levels?

A few factors could possibly be the reason for low melatonin levels. Let’s find out:

  • Age Factor: Research indicates that melatonin production decreases with age, which is why older people may have trouble sleeping.
  • Diseases: A study by PubMed shows that several diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, migraine, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer, can cause low melatonin levels.
  • Exposure to Light: Light exposure, especially at night, can cause low melatonin levels. A finding from a study suggests that light exposure disrupts the circadian rhythm in humans, leading to low melatonin levels. That is why it is recommended to not use any type of screen, especially mobile, in bed, as it can interrupt sleep.

2. What are the Benefits of Melatonin supplements?

Let’s look at the connection between melatonin and sleep regulations, plus we are also going to look at its impact on other body functions with the help of different research reviews and studies on melatonin.

  1. According to the research, melatonin has been recommended as the first-line treatment for patients aged over 55 who are going through insomnia, parasomnia, and circadian rhythm sleep disorders.
  1. Clinical studies have shown that melatonin supplements can be effective in treating sleep-related problems.
  1. Research shows that melatonin also acts as an antioxidant, lowering oxidative stress in the brain.
  1. Recent research has indicated that melatonin can be used as an anti-aging therapy for treating age-related cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. 
  1. According to research, melatonin has numerous important functions beyond sleep regulation, such as promoting healthy bone formation, regulating reproductive hormones, supporting heart health and immune function, and contributing to healthy body weight.  

3. Can melatonin cause anxiety the next day? 

Yes, for some people, melatonin can cause anxiety the next day. This is because melatonin can affect the levels of other hormones in the body, such as serotonin and cortisol, which can impact mood and anxiety. It’s also possible that the sedative effects of melatonin can lead to feelings of grogginess and disorientation the next day, which can lead to anxiety. 

4. Can melatonin make sleep worse?

In some individuals, melatonin may actually worsen their sleep due to some reasons, such as taking a higher dosage of melatonin or being sensitive to melatonin. Some side effects of melatonin, such as headaches, nausea, or dizziness, can interfere with sleep and make it worse. So, you must consult a healthcare professional before taking melatonin.

5. Is it ok to take melatonin every night? 

Melatonin is considered safe for short-term use, but its long-term effects are not fully understood. Regular use of melatonin has been associated with side effects such as nausea, headaches, and daytime drowsiness. So it is recommended to take melatonin only when sleep difficulty arises.

6. What food is high in melatonin?

Research says that eggs, fish, and nuts are the highest sources of melatonin. Some kinds of mushrooms, germinated legumes, cereals, or seeds also contain melatonin.

7. Who should avoid melatonin?

Pregnant and breastfeeding women and people who have an autoimmune disorder, a seizure disorder, depression, or high blood pressure.