If you’re a poor sleeper, chances are you’ve probably tried melatonin at some point or another to get a few more hours of restful shut-eye. While it can seem like a miracle worker in the short term, melatonin can also lead to a number of serious side effects if you take too much or consume it continuously over an extended period of time.
What is melatonin?
At its simplest, melatonin is a hormone and its primary job is to regulate the body’s internal clock, which often affects sleep cycles. It’s common for people to take melatonin if they’re going through a short period of insomnia, like dealing with jet-lag from a trip or adjusting to a change in their daily schedules. Because it’s a supplement, its benefits are temporary, and unless folks make other changes to their sleep patterns, they may revert back to old patterns.
You should talk to your doctor if you’re considering adding melatonin to your regimen, but most scientists recommend taking anywhere from one to 10 milligrams of it per night (most people stay within the range of one to five milligrams) and generally stopping consumption after one to four weeks.
If you take melatonin for longer, what are the side effects?
If you go past the one-to-four-week threshold or continuously take more than the encouraged 10-milligram dosage mark, you could potentially run into a slew of health issues. In addition to experiencing more drowsiness when awake, some people may have issues with blood clotting and decreased body temperatures. Scientists are also looking into reports that excessive consumption could cause kidney or liver damage too.
This is due to the fact that the presence of too much of one hormone — in this case, melatonin — can throw off the delicate regulation of other hormones all over the body.
How can I naturally create more melatonin?
If you’re worried about taking melatonin or can’t because of other factors like lifestyle or medications, there are still easy steps you can try to naturally increase its production. These include turning off your phone, computer, and TV at least 30 minutes to an hour before bed to reduce the amount of artificial light you’re exposed to and wearing a sleep mask at night if you need to. You can also get plenty of natural sunlight during the day to strengthen your internal day-to-night cycle response.
Melatonin is a great temporary sleep aid to many people — just make sure you don’t overdo it!
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First For Women.