Over the counter products help individuals with various sleep disorders, including flyers having to put up with jet lag. Similarly, employees of shift duties that disturb the sleep-wake cycles may also find benefit from certain products to get the benefits of deep sleep and rest. However, over the counter products, including melatonin often end up being taken in excessive dosages, and this could trigger undesirable effects. A common question on the minds of users is – what is the maximum safe dosage for melatonin? Following subsections offer a detailed look, including recommended or ideal dosages to prevent side effects. This will help users take an informed decision about strength and scheduled intake of OTC products to help regulate or improve sleep.

Overview – what is melatonin?

Melatonin is essentially a hormone that is produced by the body. This hormone from the pineal gland has a role in regulating sleep-wake cycles, and is present in OTC products for supplementation of melatonin to improve sleep. The products are intended to help individuals experiencing difficulties due to one of various reasons, that affect sleep negatively. Melatonin is released when various senses indicate the onset of darkness, and this helps regulate sleep at night. OTC formulations are available as tablets, and liquids, and are also available as a patch, and spray.

The supplementation is ideally meant to be taken for a short duration, and offers relief from sleep disorders that are temporary in nature. It is also used for longer durations by employees on night shifts who are unable to fall asleep during the day, due to the changes in the circadian rhythm. In addition to offering relief from sleep, it is also used to help individuals experience lesser stress or anxiety prior to surgical procedures.

Mechanism of action of Melatonin

The outcomes of the formulation are attributed to the properties and the manner in which the supplement works. Derived from tryptophan, Melatonin is known to bind to specific receptors, and this binding action is known to bring about various actions in the body. From inhibition of signals, to physiological actions in in the CNS (central nervous system), the medication is known to have effects on various parts of the body. Known to exert a synchronizing effect, this helps circadian rhythm, and other biological effects, including regulation of insulin and cortisol. It is also known to have antioxidant properties, and this helps other functions in the body.

What is the maximum safe dosage for melatonin?

With the basic information about Melatonin outlined, it is time to answer the question. The drug is actually well tolerated and is known to be free from the typical side effects of other prescription formulations for sleep disorder. Various studies conducted in the past have shown that melatonin supplements can help an individual fall asleep in an average of around 7 minutes, apart from increasing the quality of sleep and the total sleep time.

Supplements are not governed like prescription medications, and this makes it important to understand manufacturer’s guidelines, to prevent overdose. While there are broad guidelines about the dosage, experts opine that the best way to determine dosage is to calculate on the basis of the individuals age, weight, and reaction to the formulation. Here is a quick look at ideal dosages, under specific circumstances. It is added that this is only a broad reference and is intended to help users understand the overall dosage considerations. This is not to be treated as medical advice or recommendations on dosage.

#1 Adults

Adults may safely take a dose that could be anywhere between 1 mg to 5 mg, and this is to be taken a couple of hours before hitting the bed. The maximum dosage is not to exceed 8 mg, as this could result in undesirable effects.

#2 Elderly individuals

Elderly users are to factor in multiple considerations. For instance, the amount of melatonin produced in the body may reduce with advancing age. This may have a stronger impact on sleep wake cycles.  In other words, doses similar to that of younger adults may deliver amplified results, due to increased sensitivity to melatonin. Elderly patients on stronger dosages may experience drowsiness even during the day, and it is therefore important to put elders on a lower dosage initially. Depending on the after effects including drowsy feelings during the day, the dose can be incrementally increased depending on outcome.  Elders diagnosed with dementia are not to be given the drug as this could trigger undesirable consequences.

#3 Children

Children between the ages of three to five years are typically given between 1 mg to 2 mg, while children between the ages of six and twelve are usually given 2 mg to 3 mg. Children above the age of thirteen are generally given dosages that are more or less similar to adults. Children in this age group are typically given dosages that could be up to 5 mg.

#4 Pregnant women/nursing mothers

Melatonin is generally not advised for pregnant and nursing mothers. This is because adequate studies have not been carried out to determine the safety of the formulation on this category of users. In the event that it is necessary to be taken, the consulting specialists are to grant consent or recommend Melatonin as safe for use during these stages.

Commonly reported side effects of Melatonin

All medications, including OTC formulations, come with the possibility of undesirable effects. While Melatonin is known to be relatively free from effects, when taken in the right dosage, children sometimes experience certain effects. This includes mild effects such as bedwetting, and feelings of drowsiness, apart from dizzy feelings. Children may sometimes appear more agitated, while some are known to experience throbbing headaches.

The rule of thumb is to start a lower dose for individuals of all ages, and incrementally increase the dose, depending on the effectiveness and outcomes. A dose that ensures healthy and deep sleep, without any undesirable outcomes is to be considered as the right dose. OTC formulations of melatonin are typically available in strengths of 1 mg, 3 mg and 5 mg, and pill cutters may be used to adjust dosages accordingly.

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