This is not meant to scare or alarm anyone.
But sometimes, marketing managers at supplement companies run roughshod over their science folks.
This is what happens when science folks don't get to veto business ideas.
Melatonin Arms Race
The issue with Melatonin supplements is that we're in the midst of a dosage arms race.
Twenty years ago, most Melatonin supplements were 0.5 or 1 milligram (mg).
Today, it's hard to find products with less than 3 mg.
'More is better' is a belief that comes naturally to us. And Melatonin marketers are happy to exploit that tendency.
Today, dosages as high as 15, 30, or even 60 mg are common on Amazon.com.
60 mg Melatonin pills are aplenty on Amazon.
Of course, Amazon has become a cesspool of shady health products. If one no-name brand begins selling a 20 mg pill, there'll be another shadier brand selling 30 mg in a couple of weeks.
This dosage arms race is profit-driven. It has nothing to do with science.
NO ONE needs these ultra-high doses. They don't make falling asleep easier or faster.
After losing sales and market share, even well-established companies are selling 20 mg pills. That's a shame because they know better.
Melatonin is a powerful hormone and we have no business putting that much Melatonin into our bodies.
60 mg is literally 300 times what our bodies might naturally produce.
We have no idea what the long-term consequences of high dose Melatonin are.
There aren't enough studies on high dose melatonin to say what the consequences may be.
My concern is not with adults, but with kids.
There is some concern that high-dose Melatonin may disrupt normal sexual development. In some animal studies, Melatonin caused sexual organs to shrivel and shrink away by suppressing gonadotropin releasing hormone.
We have no idea if young humans react similarly. I don't want to find out the hard way.
Listen to this brief podclip by Dr. Andrew Huberman from Stanford University School of Medicine discuss the matter.
Melatonin and Kids
Melatonin use among kids has risen since the pandemic. Thats no surprise. My own adolescent children developed sleep issues a couple of months into the strict lockdown in early 2020.
Unlike adults, children aren't good at at processing the stress and isolation that came with the lockdown.
For children, the sudden lack of outdoor activity and constant iPad and TV viewing, especially after sunset...it's no surprise that kids started losing sleep.
What's Causing Kids to Have Sleep Problems?
Stress alone can cause sleep disturbance. But the 'circadian misalignment' from reduced sun exposure during the day and nighttime exposure to blue light from devices are mostly to blame.
iPads became baby sitters. At a steep cost to kids' sleep.
So, yes, I gave my kids Melatonin too. It helped.
But I did two things:
- I made sure their Melatonin dosage was low-ish (0.3 mg or 300 micrograms)
- I gave them 100 mg Theanine to help wind down. Theanine is the calming component found in green tea that works on the GABA (calming) system.
They were on Melatonin for about 2 months and after that, it was summer and I got them out in the sun for play and exercise. I also cut off their iPad and TV at 7 PM. I wasn't very popular for a few days there.
But sunlight and device management worked.
They began sleeping normally with just the Theanine and after a couple of more months, I took them off Theanine as well.
Should you Take Melatonin?
If you travel across time zones and have jet lag, sure, take Melatonin for a week or so.
Get a low-dose product. 1 mg or less. Please. We don't make or sell it and so have no dog in this fight.
Fortunately, a search for 'low dose melatonin' yields several products with 1 mg or less.
Of course, you can take a low-dose Melatonin supplement to help your body while you're working on fixing your light pollution issues.
But keep it temporary. Melatonin should not be viewed like a multi or calcium supplement - it is not meant to be taken daily
The solution for you (as it was for my kids) is to get out in the sun early in the day for about 10 minutes. And then shutting off devices after sunset. More on all that here in a previous blog.