As the moon rises, many of us turn to our trusted ally, Melatonin, to escort us into the realm of dreams. Known as the ‘sleep hormone,’ it has been a boon for insomniacs and light sleepers across North America, promising a good night’s sleep.
However, whispers have begun circulating about this guardian of nocturnal peace far beyond dream: can melatonin cause hallucinations?
The evidence available is not conclusive on whether melatonin can cause hallucinations. Some sources suggest that high doses of melatonin may increase the risk of hallucinations in some people. But according to some studies, melatonin may cause weird and vivid dreams but not hallucinations.
Read the article to discover more about the connection between melatonin and hallucinations.
Understanding Melatonin Supplements: A Boon for Sleep Troubles
Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by your pineal gland. It helps you prepare for sleep and is linked to your body’s internal clock that controls your sleep and wake cycles.
As you age, your body produces less Melatonin, leading to sleep issues. To make up for this, many people have turned to Melatonin supplements, which have become increasingly popular in the US in recent years.
Melatonin supplements can help regulate sleep patterns for those with insomnia, jet lag, shift work sleep disorder, blindness, or Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. According to a study, Taking oral melatonin 2 hours before bedtime daily can help improve sleep induction and quality for cancer patients with insomnia.
However, the rumor regarding melatonin causing hallucinations is indeed unsettling. And that’s where our exploration begins.
Can Melatonin Cause Hallucinations?
According to some sources, Melatonin may cause hallucinations if you take more than the recommended dose or longer than the advised duration. The supplement can affect the brain’s neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that influence mood, cognition, and perception. Thus it may lead to hallucinations.
However, the evidence is inconclusive.
Hallucinations are sensory experiences that occur without any external stimulus. They can affect any of the senses, such as vision, hearing, smell, taste, or touch. Hallucinations can be frightening, confusing, or distressing for the person experiencing them.
If you experience hallucinations while taking melatonin, you should stop and consult your doctor. It can be a sign of a serious medical condition or a drug interaction that needs immediate attention.
Melatonin And Hallucinations: What Does Research Suggest?
The New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority stated they received three reports of hallucinations associated with melatonin use. Hallucinations generally occurred the same night they took melatonin.
A 2020 study by eHealthMe found that 0.18% of people who took melatonin experienced hallucinations. Older individuals, males, and those who took melatonin for less than a month were more likely the sufferers.
However, not all sources agree that melatonin can cause hallucinations.
According to a study on Sleep Medicine in 2018, four patients with neurodegenerative diseases were successfully treated for nocturnal hallucinations using melatonin. The study also indicated that melatonin may protect the brain areas responsible for visual processing.
Some research has indicated that Melatonin supplements may cause vivid dreams or nightmares, which may be mistaken for hallucinations. You can’t really overlook the possibility, especially if those dreams are intense or bizarre.
The bottom line is the link between Melatonin and hallucination still needs more research to understand how it affects the brain and the senses and what factors may increase or decrease the likelihood of experiencing hallucinations while taking melatonin.
Safe Use of Melatonin To Avoid Hallucinations
To get the most benefits from Melatonin while avoiding potential side effects like hallucinations, it’s crucial to use it properly.
The Right Dosage
Generally, 1-5 milligrams of melatonin is effective for adults, although there is no officially recommended amount.
The usual dose of melatonin is one 2mg slow-release tablet taken 1 to 2 hours before bedtime. Sometimes your doctor will recommend taking melatonin 2 or 3 times a week to see if that improves your sleep first.
But always start with the lowest possible effective dose, 0.5 milligrams (mg) to 1 mg, about 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. Then gradually, you can increase the dosage to 2 – 3 tablets under your doctor’s supervision.
The maximum dose is 10 mg, 5 tablets, once daily.
Remember, Melatonin is not recommended for children or teenagers due to limited long-term research on its potential impact.
The Right Duration
You can take Melatonin for up to 4 weeks to manage short-term sleep issues. However, a healthcare professional may recommend taking it for up to 13 weeks in certain instances.
If you have long-term sleep issues, your doctor may suggest treatment over 13 weeks.
For jet lag, take Melatonin for a maximum of 5 days.
Check how long Melatonin lasts.
Melatonin vs. Other Sleep Aids: Side Effects
Several medications are available to manage sleep disorders: prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, and natural supplements. Commonly prescribed medications include benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepines (also known as ‘Z-drugs’), antihistamines, and antidepressants.
However, these medications often come with a laundry list of potential side effects, some of which can be serious.
- Benzodiazepines and Z-drugs may pose a risk of dependency and withdrawal symptoms. They can also cause drowsiness, dizziness, and cognitive impairment.
- Benzodiazepines may increase the risk of hallucinations.
- Antihistamines may cause dry mouth, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, and blurred vision. They may also lead to moodiness, difficulty urinating, fatigue, headache, and low blood pressure.
- Antidepressants may induce side effects like nausea, dizziness, headaches, and sexual problems.
In contrast, Melatonin can be a safer option, as it’s a hormone naturally produced by your body. It doesn’t carry the same risk of dependency. Besides, the side effects are typically milder, including-
So, always consult a healthcare provider before starting any medications or supplements.
Can Melatonin Cause Schizophrenia?
Some studies have suggested that melatonin may have antipsychotic properties and may help reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia or prevent its onset. However, other studies have shown that melatonin may worsen the symptoms of schizophrenia or induce psychotic episodes in some individuals.
But note that melatonin is not a cure for schizophrenia and should not be used as a substitute for medication or therapy. If you are diagnosed with schizophrenia, follow your doctor’s treatment plan carefully.
Can Melatonin Cause Nightmares?
Melatonin may cause nightmares or vivid dreams in some people.
Nightmares are unpleasant or frightening dreams that usually occur during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, when the brain is most active, and most dreaming happens. Some experts suggest that melatonin may induce more REM sleep, increasing the chances of nightmares.
However, the evidence is still inconclusive, and more research is needed to establish the connection between melatonin and nightmares.
You may also have nightmares due to stress, trauma, medications, or mental health conditions.
Natural Alternatives To Melatonin
Several natural alternatives to melatonin can help improve sleep. They can help with sleep, anxiety, and melatonin production by blocking out light or visual disturbances.
The natural melatonin alternative sleeping aid includes-
- valerian root
- tart cherry
- CBD oil
- herbal teas.
However, alternative options may vary in effectiveness and consequences.
Can melatonin cause hallucinations?
While Melatonin is widely used as a natural sleep aid and is typically considered safe, anecdotal reports and a few case studies suggest it might be linked to hallucinations or vivid dreams, especially at high doses. However, more extensive research is needed to confirm this link.
So, always consult a doctor before starting melatonin or if you see any adverse side effects.
For more on supplementation, visit our blogs.
I am a health and wellness enthusiast working in a Pittsburgh-based wellness clinic. My primary role as a consultant is to tailor a balanced lifestyle for my patients, where positive steps and potent supplements play a synergistic role.