Melatonin supplements are commonly used as a sleep aid, managing jet lag, high-blood pressure, endometriosis, anxiety, and certain other situations. It even works as a sunscreen. Generally speaking, there’s a popular misconception that because melatonin is a “supplement” and because it’s naturally-occurring in the body, that it’s relatively harmless. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Even apart from a list of side effects that includes headaches, daytime drowsiness, dizziness, cramps and irritability, it’s hard to know exactly how your body will react. Made by the pineal gland, melatonin is a hormone that’s a little like but not quite a neurotransmitter. It definitely has an effect on the uptake of neurotransmitters including serotonin. Melatonin can have complex physiological effects based on its ability to affect other things in the body.
Now, we’re not saying that the benefits won’t outweigh the adverse effects. Moreover, there is something you can do to make smarter choices about your long-term melatonin use:
- Practical Tip—Your thyroid is one of the things that can be affected by melatonin use and chronic use in particular. This can be a good thing for one person and a bad thing for the next person. So next time you’re at the doctor’s office, and ideally before starting a regimen of melatonin, have your thyroid levels checked. This should give you something of a baseline to measure future thyroid activity, a notoriously difficult thing to track.