Is Melatonin Addictive?

There is a current outcry on using melatonin to ward off insomnia. An increasing number of people report that they find it challenging to go cold-turkey melatonin; others say they need a higher supplement dose to get the required effect.

On TikTok alone, the hashtag #melatoninaddict has racked up more than a million views, with people sharing stories about how melatonin use has disrupted their sleep patterns or made it difficult to sleep without it. The same is seen on Reddit forums, as people fret over how to stop taking melatonin after constant nightly use.

In an article published by the New York Times, the editors interviewed several sleep experts and psychologists on the impact of melatonin on sleep patterns and whether melatonin can be addictive. The short answer is no—using melatonin doesn’t get you hooked. According to experts, there is no evidence that you can become physically dependent on melatonin supplements. They also explained that it is unlikely to develop withdrawal symptoms if you quit the supplement. However, they explained that if you become convinced that you need melatonin to fall asleep, you may find it difficult to jettison the habit.

“You can become psychologically dependent on Tic Tacs if you believe you have to have them,” said Philip Gehrman, a clinical psychologist with the Penn Sleep Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

Another sleep expert, Jennifer Martin, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine board of directors, assented to Gehrman’s belief. “Someone who relies on melatonin might worry that they can’t sleep without it — an anxiety that, in itself, makes falling asleep more difficult.” She added that this was a pattern she had seen in so many patients. “People say, ‘I try and try and try, and then I give up and take something,'” she said. “But it’s the giving up that helps them fall asleep, not the taking something.”

Melatonin is generally considered safe for short-term use. However, it is not known how melatonin will affect users long term. According to experts, taking it for years likely poses minimal risk for the average person, but there isn’t enough evidence to say for sure.

If you want to wean off melatonin, sleep specialists and doctors recommend that you do not wait until bedtime before deciding whether or not you’ll take the supplement—make a plan ahead of time. They also recommend that you cultivate healthy sleep habits. For example, Dr. Rohr recommends that you avoid external light and rigorous exercise for at least an hour and a half before bed.

Other recommendations include:

  • Limiting caffeine consumption throughout the day.
  • Avoiding alcohol in the hours right before you go to sleep.
  • Swapping melatonin supplements for a different ritual—for example, journaling.

See a doctor if you’re worried about your sleep patterns or can’t go asleep for a long time. They can screen for underlying disorders and suggest insomnia treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy.


Source: New York Times