A new investigation launched by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine is looking into the safety of melatonin. And while the health advisory checking the evidence is underway, the academy is recommending that melatonin not be used for insomnia in adults or children.
Production of melatonin (dubbed the “vampire hormone”) begins at night, when it starts getting dark outside. Melatonin release is scheduled by the small but mighty pineal gland at the back of the head. Melatonin signals to the body that it’s time to sleep. And as the sun rises and light shines, melatonin levels decline again to help the body wake.
Muhammad Adeel Rishi, MD, vice chair of the Public Safety Committee for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, says he has a doctor colleague who started taking melatonin to help him during the pandemic when he was having trouble falling asleep at night. His doctor friend started giving the hormone to his own children, who were also having sleep issues.
But Rishi says there are important reasons to not use melatonin for insomnia until more information is available.
Melatonin affects sleep, but this hormone also influences other functions in the body.
“It has an impact on body temperature, blood sugar, and even the tone of blood vessels,” Rishi says.
And because melatonin is available over the counter in the United States, it hasn’t been approved as a medicine under the FDA.