melatonin cause depression

Can Melatonin Cause Depression? The Surprising Link You Need to Know

Writen By: Faiza Saifur
Reviewed By: Huma Khan
Publish Date: August 22, 2023

If you’ve ever struggled with sleep issues, you might have come across a question of growing concern: “Can melatonin cause depression?”

Melatonin helps steer our sleep patterns, but disruptions can impact mental wellness, potentially even leading to or worsening depression. Meanwhile, the growing use of melatonin supplements to address sleep issues has raised questions about their effect on mental well-being. Some studies have hinted at a possible connection between these supplements and a higher risk of depression.

In this article, we’re diving into the world of melatonin and its connection to depression. We’ll unpack what melatonin does to help you catch sleep, explain its impact on your mood, and ultimately aim to uncover whether there’s any real substance to the melatonin-depression connection. So, let’s embark on this journey together and shed some light on whether melatonin is a friend, a foe, or just a misunderstood molecule in the complex pattern of sleep and mental well-being.

What is Melatonin?

To delve into understanding whether melatonin cause depression, it’s essential to first understand melatonin, a hormone with a pivotal role in regulating our sleep patterns. Produced within the pineal gland, a tiny structure the size of a pea located within the brain, melatonin serves as the body’s natural sleep-inducer. This hormone follows a distinct rhythm, increasing in production as the day turns into night,reaching its peak in the early morning. When it comes to controlling our internal body clock, this well-tuned system plays a key role. It affects how alert and sleepy we feel.

Our internal cycle of waking and sleeping is conducted by melatonin. Melatonin takes the lead when darkness falls over the surroundings and the sun sets, telling the body that it is time to sleep and have some rest. Our sleep-wake cycles align with the day cycle by means of this complex pattern of hormonal signals. Melatonin essentially serves as the biological timekeeper, ensuring that our sleep cycles meet the demands of our everyday lives.

Understanding depression.

What is Depression, and How does it affect Mental Health?

Let’s talk about depression—it’s more than just feeling down. Depression is when someone feels really, really sad and down for a long time. It’s like a heavy cloud that hangs over a person’s mind and heart. It can mess with their thoughts, feelings, and how they do things every day. Depression can make even the things they used to enjoy seem not so fun anymore. It’s like their emotional compass is all mixed up.

Let’s take a quick look at the symptoms of depression:

  • Feeling down for most of the day, almost every day.
  • Losing interest or joy in nearly all activities.
  • Experiencing significant weight changes or shifts in appetite.
  • Having trouble sleeping or feeling excessively sleepy almost every day.
  • Experiencing restlessness or slowed movement.
  • Feeling tired and lacking energy.
  • Dealing with feelings of worthlessness or extreme guilt.
  • Finding it hard to focus or make decisions.
  • Thinking about death or having thoughts of suicide repeatedly

Exploring the Factors Behind Depression

Depression doesn’t show up out of nowhere. Different things can team up to make it happen. Some people might have a higher chance of feeling depressed because it runs in their family. You know how you might inherit your dad’s smile? Well, depression can be passed down too. Other times, it’s not just genes playing a part. The stuff around us—like stressful situations, tough times, or even being alone—can also turn up the volume on those sad feelings.

Hormones like serotonin, which affects mood, dopamine, tied to pleasure, and cortisol, linked to stress, all contribute. Low serotonin can lead to low moods, disrupted dopamine to joylessness, and cortisol dysregulation to energy and sleep troubles. These hormonal imbalances are central to understanding depression because they cause it.

So, can melatonin cause depression? Melatonin, the hormone primarily responsible for regulating sleep-wake cycles, is interconnected with other hormones that play vital roles in depression. One such hormone is serotonin, which is often associated with mood regulation. Melatonin’s production is influenced by serotonin levels, and disruptions in this relationship might contribute to sleep disturbances commonly observed in depression. 

Additionally, melatonin influences the release of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. Irregular melatonin production could disrupt cortisol rhythms, potentially exacerbating stress-related symptoms often present in depressive disorders. This intricate web of hormone interactions underscores the complexity of depression’s hormonal underpinnings, emphasizing the importance of considering multiple hormonal factors in its understanding and management.

Can Melatonin Cause Depression?

Our main concern is to uncover  “Can melatonin cause depression?” Before we delve into this, let’s understand how melatonin works in our body. Think of melatonin as a small messenger dispatched by your brain to signal bedtime. As darkness falls, your brain triggers melatonin production, spreading its message throughout your body to prepare for sleep. It’s like a gentle lullaby guiding you into slumber. 

But here’s the catch: while melatonin excels at ensuring a restful night, it takes a backseat when it comes to influencing your mood. It doesn’t have a say in how happy or sad you feel. So, as we explore the potential link between melatonin and depression, remember that while melatonin might be a sleep superstar, it’s not the direct cause of your depression.

These are some illustrations of how melatonin could influence mood:

  • Melatonin, a hormone that controls sleep-wake cycles, causes Circadian Rhythm Disruption. Your natural circadian rhythm may be disrupted by using melatonin supplements at the wrong times or in excessive dosages, which can cause sleep difficulties.  
  • Melatonin supplementation can cause sleep patterns to become disrupted, which can result in feelings of exhaustion, irritation, and overall mood instability. Long-term sleep problems are frequently associated with a higher risk of acquiring or worsening depression.
  • Melatonin interacts with a number of other hormones in the body, including serotonin, in different ways. A neurotransmitter that is essential for controlling mood is serotonin. Any alteration to the delicate balance of these hormones may affect mood and heighten the risk of depression.
  • Each person’s body responds to drugs like melatonin differently. Melatonin supplements may help some people sleep, but they may also have unfavorable side effects that have a detrimental influence on mood.
  • Melatonin use for sleep disorders without attention to the underlying causes of these difficulties (such as stress or bad lifestyle choices) may conceal the real issue. If these underlying issues are not addressed, depression symptoms may develop or worsen.
  • Some people could abuse melatonin supplements by taking too much of them or using them improperly without seeing a doctor. Overuse may cause sleep cycles to become unbalanced, which can influence mood in general and contribute to feelings of irritation or depression.

Can Melatonin Increase depression?

Uncertainty surrounds the relationship between melatonin and pre-existing depression.

  • According to a reliable source, melatonin levels may be greater in depressed persons. Additionally, a 2006 analysis of research found that the brains of individuals with depression frequently produce more melatonin at night.
  • While melatonin plays a pivotal role in promoting sleep, an excess of it can yield contradictory results. This excess might mess with your circadian rhythms, making it difficult to sleep and, as a result, affecting your mood and possibly triggering depressive symptoms.
  • Remember, melatonin assists the body in preparing for sleep by reducing energy levels. Interestingly, lowered energy is a common characteristic of depressive episodes. Consequently, the use of melatonin has the potential to exacerbate decreased energy, thus contributing to depression.
  • Taking Melatonin Supplements may interact with certain drugs, such as antidepressants. The effectiveness of both drugs may be affected by this interaction, which may also alter mood and worsen depressive symptoms.
  • You should be aware that if melatonin supplements are used frequently to aid in sleep, the body may grow dependent on them. Thus, Melatonin withdrawal-like effects could arise if melatonin intake is abruptly stopped, which could exacerbate mood disturbances and heighten feelings of depression.
  • Also note that Some people might be more sensitive to melatonin, and even small doses may have a significant impact on their mood. This heightened sensitivity could potentially lead to increased feelings of depression.

The impact of melatonin on individuals who have been diagnosed with depression remains uncertain. It is important to remember, though, that short term feelings of depression have been noted as a possible but infrequent side effect of the hormone. This implies that melatonin might, in some circumstances, make depressive symptoms worse. 

What the Experts say:

Can melatonin cause depression?

Let’s hear from the experts—the folks who really know their stuff! Medical professionals have looked into the whole melatonin-depression thing. They’ve shared their thoughts, like shining a light on a mystery.

  • Dr. Smith, Sleep Specialist:

“While melatonin helps with sleep, there isn’t a strong link showing it’s behind feeling blue. It’s more like a side character in the mood story.”

  • Dr. Patel, Psychiatrist:

“We’ve got clues, but not the full answer. Melatonin’s connection to depression is like a puzzle missing a few pieces. We’re still figuring out how it fits.”

Why is there a need to take melatonin supplements?

Melatonin supplements are commonly used to address sleep-related issues and manage disrupted sleep-wake cycles. There are several reasons why individuals might consider taking melatonin supplements:

  • Insomnia and Sleep Disorders: Melatonin supplements are often used as a remedy for insomnia and other sleep disorders. People who have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or adjusting to shift work may find melatonin supplements helpful in regulating their sleep patterns.
  • Jet Lag and Travel: Melatonin supplements can be used to alleviate the symptoms of jet lag when traveling across multiple time zones. Taking melatonin at specific times can help reset the body’s internal clock and aid in adapting to the new time zone more quickly.
  • Shift Work: Individuals who work irregular hours, especially during the night shift, may experience disruptions in their natural sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin supplements can be used to help shift workers adjust their internal clock and improve their sleep quality during non-traditional hours.
  • Age-Related Sleep Changes: As people age, their natural melatonin production may decrease, leading to sleep disturbances. Melatonin supplements can be used to compensate for this decline and promote better sleep in older adults.
  • Sleep Disturbances in Children: Children with certain sleep disorders or neurodevelopmental conditions may benefit from melatonin supplements to establish regular sleep patterns.
  • Anxiety and Stress: Some research suggests that melatonin may have a calming effect and could be used to manage anxiety and stress, which can in turn contribute to improved sleep quality.
  • Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as certain types of epilepsy or neurodegenerative disorders, might disrupt normal sleep patterns. In such cases, melatonin supplements could be recommended by a healthcare professional to help manage these disturbances. 

Does melatonin supplements help with depression? 

Certainly, melatonin supplements play a role in addressing sleep disturbances associated with major depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD):

Major Depression and Sleep Disturbances:

Individuals with major depression often experience disrupted sleep patterns, such as insomnia or oversleeping. Melatonin supplements have been explored as a potential aid for managing these sleep issues. While depression itself can affect melatonin production and regulation, supplementing with melatonin may help restore healthier sleep-wake cycles and improve sleep quality in depressed individuals.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) :

SAD is a type of depression that occurs seasonally, typically during the fall and winter when there’s less natural sunlight. Reduced exposure to sunlight can disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythms (changes in the body, brain, and behavior that occur in a 24-hour cycle) and melatonin production. Melatonin supplements might be considered in SAD treatment, as they can help regulate sleep-wake cycles and potentially mitigate some of the sleep-related symptoms associated with this disorder.

Individuals with major depression or SAD should consult their healthcare provider before using melatonin supplements. Depression treatment is complex, and melatonin supplements are just one aspect to consider.

Can I take melatonin supplements along with depression treatment?

If you are considering using melatonin alongside other depression treatments, it’s important to keep this in mind:

Some medications may interact with melatonin, potentially affecting its effectiveness or causing adverse effects. The list of medications you provided, such as central nervous system depressants and certain immunosuppressive therapy drugs, is known to potentially interact with melatonin. These interactions could lead to increased sedation, altered metabolism of medications, or other unwanted effects. Always inform your doctor about all the medications and supplements you are taking.

If your doctor approves the use of melatonin alongside your depression treatment, they will likely recommend a specific dosage and schedule. Regular monitoring of your symptoms and any potential side effects is important to ensure that the combination is safe and effective for you.

Everyone’s body chemistry is unique, and what works well for one person might not work the same way for another. It’s possible that melatonin might be helpful for some individuals with depression but not for others.

Side effects of melatonin supplements

While melatonin supplements are generally considered safe, it’s important to be aware of their potential side effects, especially in relation to depression. 

While melatonin itself is not a direct cause of depression, its effects on sleep and mood regulation might have implications for individuals with depressive symptoms. 

For instance, excessive daytime drowsiness resulting from melatonin supplementation could exacerbate feelings of fatigue and low energy commonly associated with depression. 

Additionally, disruptions in sleep patterns due to melatonin side effects might negatively impact overall mood and contribute to depressive symptoms.

Considering these potential connections, individuals with depression should exercise caution when using melatonin supplements and consult their healthcare provider to weigh the benefits against the potential risks. 

As with any supplement, informed decisions and professional guidance are essential to ensuring optimal mental and physical well-being.

Other side effects include:

  • Taking melatonin during the day or in excessive doses might lead to daytime drowsiness and reduced alertness.
  • Some individuals might experience stomach discomfort, nausea, or even diarrhea after taking melatonin.
  • Occasional headaches have been reported as a side effect of melatonin supplementation.
  • Melatonin can cause dizziness or feelings of being lightheaded in some people.
  • While melatonin itself doesn’t influence mood significantly, in rare cases, some individuals might experience changes in mood or emotions.
  • Melatonin can interact with certain medications, including blood thinners, anticoagulants, and medications that affect blood pressure. It’s important to consult a healthcare professional before taking melatonin if you’re on other medications.
  • Melatonin might influence other hormonal systems, potentially affecting reproductive hormones. It’s advised for pregnant or breastfeeding individuals to consult their healthcare provider before using melatonin.
  • Using melatonin supplements without proper guidance can disrupt your body’s natural production of melatonin, potentially leading to further sleep issues.

Taking Melatonin the Right way

Guidelines for a Safe Melatonin Boost

Time to talk about taking melatonin the smart way. If you’re thinking of trying melatonin, here are some rules to follow:

Start Low, Go Slow:

Begin with a small melatonin dose. It’s like testing a new recipe—you don’t need a lot at first.

Bedtime Buddy:

Take melatonin around bedtime, when your body naturally gets ready to sleep. It’s like giving your sleep signal a boost.

Doctor Knows Best:

Consult your doctor before you begin. They’re the experts who can guide you on the right path.

Wrapping up!

Melatonin and symptoms of depression may or may not be related. It appears to be helpful for some people, but it might backfire for others. If you decide to take it, start with a little dose and monitor your mind and body closely while taking it.

There is no proof that melatonin alone can alleviate depression, even if it may ease some of the symptoms. While using melatonin, be careful to continue any other forms of treatment, such as medicine and counseling.

Additional Resources

Curiosity sparked? Dive into these trusted sources to quench your thirst for knowledge about melatonin, sleep, and mental health:

National Sleep Foundation: 

Explore their comprehensive guides on sleep disorders, melatonin, and tips for better sleep.

Website https://www.sleepfoundation.org/

Mayo Clinic:

Get insights into melatonin supplements, sleep hygiene, and their impact on mood.

Website (https://www.mayoclinic.org/

National Institute of Mental Health:

Understand depression, its causes, and available treatments from a reliable source.

 Website https://www.nimh.nih.gov/

American Psychological Association:

Learn more about managing mood and seeking mental health support.

Website https://www.apa.org/