How do I get off melatonin?


Q:  After years of use, melatonin no longer works for me — but I’m finding it hard to stop.  How can I avoid insomnia when I end it?  Is there a way to taper off without disrupting my sleep too badly?

A:  Good call for trying to get off this.  Melatonin is a non-prescription substance sometimes marketed as a “natural” alternative to sleeping pills, but in reality melatonin is a systemic hormone with unknown long term effects on the mind and body.

Over-the-counter sleep aids like melatonin are not recommended by the official clinical guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine because they have not been proven effective or safe for treating chronic insomnia.

Although the pineal gland produces melatonin naturally in the brain, supplemental melatonin is sometimes suggested by healthcare professionals for short term use while adjusting to jet lag, and for the blind who can not otherwise use light to naturally stimulate melatonin production.

If you have an underlying medical issue disrupting your sleep, melatonin might be worth considering for temporary use in lieu of a prescription medication with troublesome side effects.  Your best advice on this will come from a doctor who examines you and knows your medical history, contraindications, and any other issues.  In your case, a tapering strategy under the supervision of a healthcare professional is a good idea.

You can also help in effect stack the deck in your favor by adhering to a strong sleep supportive lifestyle as you make this transition. That means such things as a consistent sleep-wake schedule, exposing yourself to bright light immediately upon awakening, getting some natural sunlight during the day, avoiding bright light and screen time before bed, no or minimal napping, daily exercise, avoiding caffeine later in the day, and so on.

Be confident you’ll get all the melatonin you need from just living a healthy sleep supportive lifestyle.

Explore posts in the same categories: Health, Insomnia, sleep

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