If you’ve ever had trouble falling asleep at night, you’ve probably heard that melatonin can help. When taken about an hour before bed, this over-the-counter supplement can help regulate your sleep-wake cycle. While melatonin is widely used, it may have some unintended consequences — and experts generally agree that it isn’t a long-term solution to sleep problems. Nightmares are one of the more unexpected side effects of melatonin use. Here’s why you have monsters when you take melatonin — and how to stop it to have better sleep.
Why Do I Have Nightmares When I Take Melatonin?
One possible explanation for “melatonin dreams” is that the supplement is doing what it is supposed to—helping you sleep more. Melatonin supplements, according to studies, can help people fall asleep slightly faster and sleep better than a placebo. (A placebo is a treatment with no active ingredient.) As a result, getting more sleep than usual may open the door to dreamland (the “dreaming stage” of sleep).
Even though your body is sleeping, your mind is still working. Your brain goes through five sleep stages, from light to deep sleep to dreams. Most people have vivid dreams during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, which is marked by random, darting eye movements behind closed eyelids.
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REM sleep typically begins about 90 minutes after falling asleep and lasts about 10 minutes. The REM stage lengthens each subsequent sleep cycle, giving you more opportunities to dream as morning approaches.
Melatonin supplementation has been shown in studies to increase the amount of time spent in REM sleep. In 2004, four-week research compared melatonin (3 mg) to a placebo in adults with sleep disorders. On average, melatonin users spent significantly more time in REM sleep (Kunz, 2004).
Can Melatonin Cause Crazy Dreams?
Yes, melatonin can speed up the occurrence of nightmares! So, why do some people who take melatonin supplements like this one have vivid dreams and nightmares?
As previously stated, the brain naturally releases this hormone cyclically to regulate sleep patterns. Melatonin directly affects the body’s circadian rhythm and internal clock. Sleep problems can arise as a result of melatonin cycle disruptions.
Such problems can be resolved by taking melatonin supplements. This is excellent news for people who have trouble sleeping, but some users say they have more nightmares. Some people, in particular, work with unusually vivid dreams.
Some melatonin users experience lucid dreams as well. Lucid dreaming occurs when the brain is conscious, and dreams happen. This gives people control over their reactions to their goals. Even though some people say they’ve had lucid dreams, no conclusive research has been done on the subject.
Can Melatonin Cause Night Terror?
So, taking melatonin supplements can cause us to shorten the wake-to-sleep cycle, which means “your mind doesn’t have the appropriate amount of time to vent out the stresses and anxieties to calm down before bed.” You carry your anxieties and stressors into your sleep if you do not gradually wind down. And it stands to reason that having those feelings floating around in your head could result in vivid or frightening dreams.
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Another possible link between melatonin and the onset of nightmares caused by melatonin is dosage. “Those who take high levels of melatonin can have some pretty vivid, troubling nightmares because there isn’t this natural sort of transitory process going on,” Lyon says. The higher the dose, the less likely you are to leave enough time between awake and sleeping, predisposing you to those aforementioned busy-mind dreams.
Reasons You May Experience Vivid Dreams After Taking Melatonin
If you have particularly vivid or disturbing dreams after taking melatonin, this could be your body’s natural response to falling deeper and more restfully asleep. Studies show that melatonin increases REM sleep, the sleep cycle known for producing vivid dreams. “If you spend more time in the stage of sleep where vivid dreams are most likely to occur,” Dr. Drerup says, “this may naturally lead to an increase in bad or vivid dreams.”
Melatonin also releases vasotocin, a protein that regulates REM sleep while you sleep. “More melatonin may cause more vasotocin, leading to more REM sleep and vivid dreams.” Scientists are also studying melatonin and memory. A 2020 study found that when the body broke down melatonin, one of the molecules that were left helped mice improve their long-term memory.
What Are the Negative Effects of Melatonin?
Melatonin is generally considered safe, but there are side effects to watch out for if you take higher doses or capsules that release the drug over a longer period of time.
Possible side effects include:
- frequent urination
- gastrointestinal discomfort
You may also experience less common side effects such as:
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- low blood pressure
Stop taking melatonin and consult your doctor if you experience side effects or nightmares.
What Can I Use Instead Of Melatonin?
If you’re looking for melatonin alternatives, you’ll be relieved to know that there are plenty. These low-risk options may be just what you need to get some much-needed rest and sleep. Here are some of the best melatonin substitutes that you can try to stop nightmares:
#1. Sleep Masks:
Sleep masks are one of the simplest yet most effective solutions for getting good natural sleep. A high-quality sleep mask, both glamorous and comfortable, should be made of a soft, raw material that covers your eyes completely, blocking out as much light as possible. This allows the darkness to work its magic and increase melatonin production. What’s excellent about sleep masks is that they also block out any visual distractions that might keep you awake. When you wear a sleep mask and earplugs to block out noise, you have the perfect sleep aid that boosts your natural melatonin levels and lets you sleep well.
#2. Sleep-Aiding Herbal Teas:
Herbal teas have been used for centuries to treat various ailments and diseases, including anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Herbal teas are an excellent alternative to melatonin supplements for a delicious and healthy way to relax before bedtime and prepare your body for rest. Many unique blends containing chamomile, lavender, and valerian are excellent natural sleep aids. Nothing is more calming and relaxing than sitting quietly with a cup of herbal tea before bed.
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#3. Magnesium Supplements:
According to research, magnesium aids in getting a good night’s sleep. According to the NIH, a lack of magnesium in the body causes inhibition of nerve cell communication, which causes cell excitability and causes a person to become more nervous and stressed than usual. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant that also blocks cortisol production in the brain. It helps induce an overall calming effect in the body, allowing you to fall asleep and stay asleep all night.
#4. Glycine Supplements:
Glycine is an amino acid found naturally in the body and is essential for the brain, muscles, and metabolism. Furthermore, the body also uses glycine to induce relaxation and kick-start the sleep process. This makes it an excellent choice if you want to replace melatonin supplements and improve the quality of your sleep. It is practical, especially for people who frequently wake up in the middle of the night. Glycine has also been shown to reduce brain hyperactivity and calm nervousness and anxiety, which may prevent you from sleeping. Furthermore, unlike melatonin, it does not leave you with that awful hangover or groggy feeling in the morning.
#5. L-Tryptophan Supplements:
Tryptophan is another amino acid required by the body to produce serotonin, a chemical known for balancing and regulating moods. Because serotonin is also involved in the production of melatonin, it stands to reason that increasing your body’s tryptophan levels will aid in getting a good night’s sleep. While research on tryptophan as a sleep aid is limited, this supplement has shown promise as an effective treatment for insomnia.
#6. L-Theanine Supplements:
Another melatonin substitute with no known side effects is theanine. It was first discovered in green tea and is now commonly found in various teas. It is known to have a calming effect and to act as a natural sedative. Theanine is used to treat both physical and mental stress and insomnia. L-theanine is well-known for its ability to regulate and generate alpha waves in the brain, which occur when the body is deeply relaxed. Theanine regulates sleep by increasing alpha wave activity and suppressing hyper beta waves, which may keep you awake and alert when all you want is rest and sleep.
As you can see, numerous melatonin substitutes can help you sleep just as well as melatonin supplements. If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, try one of these alternatives to get the sweet, deep slumber your body requires to remain energetic and healthy.
How Do You Break The Cycle Of Night Terrors?
If you’re convinced that melatonin is causing your vivid dreams or nightmares but don’t want to eliminate it from your routine, try these suggestions to stop it:
#1. Take melatonin one hour before going to bed.
This may help you relax and de-stress before you sleep. It will also give melatonin time to work before tempting you with more. Just make sure your doctor is on board first.
#2. Relax before you sleep.
Meditating, practicing yoga, keeping a journal, or reading your favorite book are great ways to stop melatonin nightmares. Anything that allows your body and mind to slow down.
#3. Keep a dream journal.
Keep track of your dreams and nightmares, the nights you took melatonin, and what happened during the day that may have influenced your dreams. This can help you evaluate the connection and stop melatonin nightmares.
#4. Consider therapy.
Suppose you are suffering from anxiety or trauma. Speaking with a therapist may assist you in processing your feelings and concerns that follow you to sleep.
Why do I have nightmares when I take melatonin?
After taking melatonin, if you experience unusually disturbing or vivid nightmares, this may be your body’s normal reaction to getting into a more profound, more peaceful slumber. Studies have shown melatonin to increase REM sleep, the stage of sleep known for producing vivid dreams.
Can melatonin give you night terrors?
Some studies have noted adverse effects such as vivid dreams, nightmares, stomach cramps, irritability, brief episodes of depression, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and daytime sleepiness. In elderly folks, melatonin can be active in the body for extended periods.
Should I stop taking melatonin if I have nightmares?
Disturbing dreams or nightmares can hamper your ability to get a decent night’s sleep. If this occurs, you might want to try a lesser dose or discontinue taking the melatonin supplement entirely (Besag, 2019).
What can you take instead of melatonin?
In some circumstances, melatonin may help get you to sleep, but it shouldn’t be used as a long-term sleep aid. It would be best to take magnesium, valerian root, tart cherries, L-theanine, lavender essential oil, and GABA as alternatives to melatonin.
Does melatonin give kids nightmares?
When administered correctly, melatonin generally appears to have just a few minor adverse effects in children, such as headaches, increased bedwetting, nightmares, dizziness, mood swings, and morning grogginess, all of which go away when the medication is stopped.
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Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by our brains that assists our bodies in preparing for sleep. Some people use melatonin supplements to help them sleep better, and they are considered safe for most adults in the short term. If you have disturbing nightmares or vivid dreams while taking melatonin, you may be simply sleeping more and increasing your chances of having good or bad dreams. The tips stated above can help you stop melatonin-induced nightmares.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take melatonin to get out of your system?
Its half-life ranges from 40 to 60 minutes. The half-life of a drug is the amount of time it takes for the body to eliminate half of it. A prescription is usually stopped after four to five half-lives. Melatonin will therefore remain in the body for approximately 5 hours.
Can melatonin cause psychosis?
In the absence of better science, melatonin should only be used after consulting with a healthcare professional who is already treating a seizure disorder. Mood swings, both highs, and lows, have been reported as psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and paranoia.
Is 10 mg melatonin too much?
Melatonin has a maximum recommended limit of 10 mg for adults and 5 mg for children. Too much melatonin can cause headaches and dizziness, as well as make it difficult to fall asleep. If you’ve taken too much melatonin, you should usually wait for it to leave your system.
What does a melatonin hangover feel like?
Melatonin’s most common side effects include headache, nausea, dizziness, and, of course, the desired drowsiness. However, drowsiness can last the next day or cause a melatonin “hangover.” If you experience any of these side effects, reduce your dosage.