Melatonin overdose can lead to health side effects. Naturally, this hormone is produced in the pineal gland and is involved in the circadian sleep-wake rhythm. That means, its secretion affects sleep patterns.
For this reason it is also available as a medicine, as it helps with sleep disorders. And although it is considered a relatively safe drug, there are adverse effects that must be considered before taking it.
How is melatonin produced?
The hormone is synthesized from a precursor molecule, serotonin. This is modified by the action of enzymes. In general terms, its secretion is regulated by neurons located in the hypothalamuswhich indicate when and in what quantities it is produced.
In turn, these neurons are stimulated by retinal cells that are activated in the absence of light. Therefore, maximum secretion occurs in complete darkness.
What do you use it for?
Although in theory the utility of the substance is broad, the studies justifying its use are generally small. This led to melatonin it does not have sufficient consensus approval for the management of various sleep disorders.
Also, no agreement has been reached on the age at which it can be used. Even so, it’s usually prescribed under certain conditions, such as the following:
- Reconciliation insomnia.
- Sleep phase disturbances.
- Irregular sleep-wake rhythm.
- Sleep resynchronization in shift work.
- Some dementias, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
- Circadian rhythm synchronizations in blind patients.
In addition to the poor documentation on its use, errors in prescribing melatonin are also described. First, for the lack of training of primary care staff on sleep disorders.
On the other hand, because the substance can be found in two different ways of presentation; fast-acting and sustained-release. Each has specific prompts, which can be ignored.
Melatonin overdose and its effects
Melatonin overdose is one of the most common mistakes made when using this substance. In pursuit of better effects, some tend to abuse them.
Likewise, being classified as a food supplement, it is often used on the advice of people who are unsuitable for it. Since it is a molecule with effects on the central nervous system, its indication must be under professional supervision.
Moreover, there is little documentation on melatonin overdose. In general, it is considered a fairly safe molecule, as few adverse effects are described, which are usually not serious.
Likewise, a maximum recommended daily dose has not been established, but in usual practice between 1 and 10 mg per day are prescribed, always taking into account the age of the patient and the ailment to be treated.
Although the literature on this subject is scarce, some adverse effects due to an overdose of melatonin have been described. Generally, These are transient symptoms that are not serious and that improve when the drug is stopped.
In any case, the documentation of some clinical entities considered more serious tends to concern patients and family members, so it is important to clarify the frequency of these symptoms.
Does melatonin have an increased risk of producing seizures?
There are concerns that melatonin may cause seizures, especially in children. This fear stems from a study in which six pediatric patients with significant neurological impairment received melatonin treatment and four of them reported seizures.
The main drawback of this finding is that the underlying brain lesions may have been the cause of the seizure and not the drug. Also, the population studied was small, so it does not represent a significant sample. More research is needed in this regard.
Other authors make it difficult to come to a conclusion about this theory, as there are reports with contrary results. In these improvements in epileptogenic activity are described in patients using melatonin. Therefore, discretion regarding its use should always be in the hands of a specialist.
On the other hand, high doses have caused more drowsiness in patients, but these amounts are not usually used in the general population. On the contrary, the usual doses generate a synchronization of the sleep-wake cycle, which improves sleep and the level of alertness during the day.
Other adverse reactions that may appear with melatonin
In addition, other side effects with the use of the “dark hormone” are described, which are usually infrequent and subside over time without much importance. These symptoms are considered trivial, as they pose no threat to the patient.
Even so, if they cause enough discomfort, stopping the drug ameliorates those effects. Among these adverse reactions are the following:
- Abdominal pain.
Regulating sleep patterns is the main reason melatonin is used. There are various situations that interfere with a night’s rest and which you can work on to avoid over-medication.
However, evaluation by trained personnel is —ultimately— the most important action in deciding whether melatonin treatment is most appropriate. Often, specific improvements in sleep hygiene help regulate the quality of rest, as sleep disturbances are secondary to bad habits.
Among these recommendations it is worth highlighting the following:
- Be willing to go to bed at the same time every day.
- Sleep in complete darkness.
- Avoid sources of distraction such as electronic devices in the room.
On the other hand, the ideal time to take melatonin depends on the purpose for which it is used. In this sense, It is suggested that you follow the directions of a physician experienced in administering this supplement.
In fact, there are conditions in which it is indicated during the day, while in other cases it is taken at night. As for the dose, they can go up to 300 mg without observing any serious adverse effects. Despite this, low doses are usually handled.
Precautions with the use of melatonin
Finally, it is important that the consumption of melatonin is under medical supervision. Ideally, the indication should come from a specialist in the area, due to its low use in primary care.
Particular attention should be paid in patients with pre-existing conditionssuch as those with autoimmune diseases, hematologic diseases, asthma, diabetes, and epilepsy.
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