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Can't Sleep Without A Melatonin Supplement

Published: May 14, 2012
Dear TeenHealthFX,
I can't sleep without taking a melatonin supplement every night. I was just making sure that this is okay. I am an insomniac and I know it's not addictive, but is this healthy? thanks
Signed: Can't Sleep Without A Melatonin Supplement

Dear Can't Sleep Without A Melatonin Supplement,


In the United States, melatonin is considered a dietary supplement that can be purchased in any dosage without a prescription – so TeenHealthFX is unsure whether you met with a medical health professional about your insomnia and he/she recommended you take a melatonin supplement, or you are taking this on your own initiative. If you were directed by a doctor to take a melatonin supplement daily, FX suggests you go back to him/her to find out whether there are any health risks for you given what he/she knows about your medical history. If you are taking this on your own without any direction from a doctor, then FX suggests you do meet with a medical care professional to find out if the melatonin daily is safe for you.

When taken as directed by a physician in low doses (and without increasing the doses) and for a limited period of time, generally a melatonin supplement is relatively safe for adults. However, due to hormone-like effects it is not suggested that people use a melatonin supplement for the long-term, especially if taken in higher doses. As for kids and teens, there are limited studies on the effectiveness and safety of melatonin supplements for people under 18.  In addition, since it is not regulated as a drug, it can contain additives that have their own pharmacological actions and potential side effects. There have also been reports of adverse reactions in people with seizure disorders or who are taking oral anticoagulants. So, again, it is best to check in with a doctor who can determine whether there are any health concerns for you and whether this is an appropriate supplement for you to be taking daily.

FX also thinks it would be helpful for you to speak to your doctor about a more effective long-term treatment plan for your insomnia. The melatonin supplement may address your symptom of not being able to fall asleep, but it does nothing to address whatever underlying issue is contributing to your ongoing difficulty falling asleep. Your doctor can assess the situation and determine whether there are any medical issues contributing to your insomnia, or can refer you to mental health professional if it appears there might be an emotional health issue contributing. Rather than relying on the melatonin supplement, it would certainly be in your best interest to understand what is contributing to your insomnia and to have that underlying issue treated directly.

If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-6475 for an appointment or contact your local teen health center. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network providers.

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

 For more information about melatonin supplements, read the following MedlinePlus article on Melatonin.

For more information on insomnia, read the Mayo Clinic article on insomnia, including the section on treatment.

Signed: TeenHealthFX