There are several benefits of melatonin for seniors, including helping with insomnia, blood pressure, and even cancer. But like every drug, you need to take care while using it. In this article, we will discuss all safe melatonin use for seniors.
Insomnia, or difficulty initiating and maintaining your sleep, is a very common problem among older adults. Studies show that more than 50% of people above the age of 65 have symptoms of insomnia.
Melatonin is the hormone that helps regulate sleep cycles, circadian cycles (the 24-hour cycle commonly known as the body’s internal clock), and other rhythmic and seasonal cycles in your body. Your body produces melatonin on its own. Production increases in the night or when you are in the dark and decreases when it is light or during the day.
However, as you grow older, melatonin production can decline, which is one of the causes of loss of sleep in seniors. Therefore, seniors often need melatonin supplements. Melatonin supplements can also be used by adults or children if necessary.
To find out about the benefits of melatonin and how you can safely use supplements to help you sleep better, please keep reading! We will cover the following topics:
- Benefits of Melatonin
- How to use Melatonin safely
- Things to think of and drug interactions to avoid before taking it
- Correct dosage
What Are the Benefits of Melatonin in Seniors?
Research suggests that melatonin in small doses is safe and beneficial for older adults. Seniors can use it as a sleep aid and even for certain medical conditions. Following are some of the significant benefits of melatonin.
Helps You Sleep Better
As mentioned in the beginning, sleeping disorders are becoming very common in older adults. Among the various mindfulness methods and medications that you can take for treatment, melatonin is one of the promising options.
Therefore, melatonin supplements are essential. They will help you sleep better. You will find that you are falling asleep quicker. You will also see that you are getting about thirty-five minutes of extra sleep in the first month after taking melatonin.
Melatonin helps to improve sleep efficiency in older adults. Sleep efficiency means the time spent sleeping compared to the time spent in bed. If you are just lying down, then the efficiency is low. Melatonin will help you fall asleep within a short period.
Your circadian rhythm may be disrupted, and if you are above sixty, you will have difficulty resetting it. So, you will need to take melatonin. Melatonin helps to correct your sleep-wake cycle.
The benefits of melatonin related to sleep are the same for adults and children. The dosage may vary, but it helps to regulate sleep cycles and improve sleep timings.
Treatment of Macular Degeneration and Other Eye Diseases
Macular degeneration is often related to age. Seniors above the age of sixty-five suffer from macular degeneration. This eye disease affects and blurs central and straight vision. Melatonin can help treat this condition.
Melatonin is protective and helpful in treating various eye diseases that are caused by inflammation and old age. Doctors usually prescribe about 3 milligrams of melatonin to treat these conditions. Research suggests that such a dosage of melatonin helps maintain the retina and prevent any continued damage to the eyes.
Apart from age-related macular degeneration, seniors also suffer from several eye diseases. Doctors can also treat these diseases using melatonin. These include uveitis and glaucoma. In uveitis, the eye swells up and turns red. You are likely to feel pain. Glaucoma is a disorder that is caused by pressure within the eye. If you do not treat glaucoma immediately, it can cause damage to the optic nerve. The correct dose of melatonin, in both cases, can reduce the symptoms and help you feel better.
Treatment of Tinnitus
Tinnitus is a medical condition where you hear a ringing sound in your ears all the time. It happens even when there is no external sound. Such a condition causes extreme discomfort.
A small dose of melatonin can help treat tinnitus. Usually, doctors prescribe about 3 milligrams of melatonin to treat tinnitus.
The dosage can be lower or higher depending upon the severity of the condition. Tinnitus can also cause patients to lose sleep. Therefore, melatonin is a safe and effective drug for treatment.
Once you start taking melatonin, you will notice that the ringing has decreased after about a month, and you will also be able to get sound sleep.
Melatonin is often used to help reduce tumor size in cancer patients. Doctors usually administer high doses of melatonin during chemotherapy or any other cancer treatment. Melatonin can also help to increase the chances of survival of cancer patients.
Endometriosis is a uterine disorder that is extremely painful. Adults and older adults who have endometriosis often take painkillers to deal with the symptoms.
But painkillers have numerous side effects. Melatonin is safer and helps to reduce pain, improve sleep scores and provide relief. It also helps endometriosis patients to have less pain during menstruation, sexual intercourse, or urination.
High Blood Pressure
Oral consumption of melatonin helps to stabilize blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, you can take melatonin before bed to lower the levels. However, you should not use melatonin with drugs that are already helping you reduce blood pressure.
Temporomandibular Disorders or TMD are medical conditions that affect the jaw joint and muscles. It causes severe pain in the region around the jaws. Melatonin helps to treat such disorders in females. You can take melatonin for about four weeks to treat TMD, and the pain will slowly reduce.
Thrombocytopenia is when the blood platelet count in the body is very low. A specific dose of melatonin (as prescribed by the doctor) can help to increase the blood platelet count.
Helps Cure Jet Lag
Almost everyone feels jet-lagged when they travel across time zones. Jet lag makes you tired, and you may have trouble concentrating on anything. It happens because your body clock has not had time to adjust.
Your internal clock is stuck in the time zone you came from, so you cannot adapt to the new time zone. If you are a senior, you might feel more jet lagged as your body will not produce any melatonin.
A dose of melatonin will help to reduce the symptoms of jet lag and improve your sleep cycle. It will help your body adjust to the new time zone.
Helps Those Who Have Autism
People who have autism cannot produce an adequate amount of natural melatonin in their bodies. Therefore their sleep cycles are affected.
The correct dosage of melatonin can help to improve the sleep cycle. It can also make up for the lack of natural melatonin in the body. Melatonin before bedtime can help those suffering from autism sleep better and for a more extended period. It also improves their condition during the day.
The above benefits of melatonin are valid for almost all patients. But there are a few more special cases where melatonin is primarily effective.
How To Use Melatonin Safely
Melatonin supplements made in the lab have specific benefits and dosages that depend on various factors. These factors include the severity of medical conditions, pre-existing illnesses that may lead to insomnia, and the patient’s age.
While adults can take melatonin in varying doses (as recommended by the doctor), dosage for children and seniors needs to be monitored.
To use melatonin safely, it is essential to take the correct dosage. Apart from that, it would be best if you also understood why you are taking melatonin.
When is Melatonin safe to use?
The melatonin supplements are effective for certain conditions while ineffective for others. So for the safe use of melatonin, you need to take it in the right situation. You can safely use melatonin to treat:
- Delayed sleep phase syndrome
- Non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder
- Any sleep disorder related to fluctuations in blood pressure
- Jet lag
The oral consumption of melatonin is also safe for providing relief when you have migraines or feel anxious before a crucial surgery. Melatonin gel is safe to treat sunburns.
When is Melatonin not safe to use?
However, melatonin can also be ineffective and unsafe in some instances. Melatonin supplements are usually not safe or effective for the following medical conditions:
- Involuntary weight loss, also known as cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Shift work disorder or sleep disorder due to work during night shifts
- To improve athletic ability and performance
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Drug withdrawal, particularly from benzodiazepines
The safest way to use melatonin is by doing thorough research and consulting your doctor. You also need to understand when to take melatonin and what other medications and supplements you can combine. You should consider all aspects before starting to use the supplement.
Things to Remember While Taking Melatonin
Like most medications, you need to take melatonin at the correct time and avoid certain combinations. These will help ensure that you are using melatonin safely and that it is beneficial. So, to use melatonin safely, you need to remember the following points.
Take Melatonin Before Bed
The right time to take melatonin supplements is an hour before going to bed. Usually, your brain sends signals to increase melatonin production an hour or two before you sleep.
So, particularly for seniors or anyone who does not have enough natural melatonin, this is the perfect time to take melatonin. It is also much safer, and the supplement works better when taken before bed.
Take a Small Dose To Treat Jet Lag
Doctors often prescribe melatonin supplements to treat jet lag. However, the dosage is essential. The dose should be between 0.5 to 5 milligrams, depending on the severity of the condition.
Doctors recommend melatonin to treat jet lag if you are traveling across two or more time zones. If your doctor has prescribed melatonin, then take it an hour before bed. You will need to take melatonin for four nights after arrival.
Melatonin Is Not Safe When Taken With Alcohol
To ensure the safe use of melatonin, avoid taking it with any kind of alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is known to affect the natural melatonin levels in the body and can disrupt sleep.
So if you have low levels of melatonin, you cannot combine the supplements with alcohol. Even if you are young, you should avoid mixing alcohol with your melatonin supplements, affecting your sleep-wake cycle.
Do Not Combine Melatonin With Caffeine
Like alcohol, caffeine can also affect the sleep-wake cycle and adversely affect the body’s ability to produce melatonin. People usually consume coffee or caffeinated drinks to stay alert and awake.
Therefore, it is bound to affect sleep and cause sleep deprivation. So if you take melatonin while drinking coffee, it will not work. You will feel uncomfortable, and your sleeplessness may increase.
Drug Interactions Seniors Should Avoid While Using Melatonin
There are a few drugs that you cannot take while using melatonin. It is essential to know these drugs so that you can continue to use melatonin safely.
Contraceptive or birth control pills usually increase the production of natural melatonin in the body. So if you take melatonin supplements with birth control pills, the effects and the side effects will increase.
Melatonin lowers blood sugar levels. So if you take both melatonin and anti-diabetes drugs, your blood sugar levels will become too low.
Drugs used for sedation induce sleep and slow down breathing. However, melatonin also does the same. So if you take both together, the effects may increase and cause prolonged drowsiness.
Anticoagulants or Antiplatelet Drugs
Anticoagulants or antiplatelet drugs are given to slow blood clotting. Melatonin has similar effects. Therefore, combining the two will result in bleeding and bruising.
Fluvoxamine increases the absorption of melatonin. It can also increase the side effects of melatonin.
Immunosuppressants are given after significant surgeries like a transplant. They lessen the activity of the immune system and help the body heal. Melatonin, on the other hand, increases activity. Therefore it might decrease the effects of the immunosuppressants.
Anti-hypertensive medications help to lower blood pressure. Melatonin, too, can help in this case. So, if you take both medications, your blood pressure may decrease too much.
Nifedipine GITS helps to reduce blood pressure. Melatonin may interfere with Nifedipine GITS and render it ineffective.
Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) Substrates
These medications, after consumption, are broken down in the liver. So, their composition might change to make them more effective. However, melatonin can affect the breakdown process and influence the effectiveness of drugs.
Doctors prescribe Anticonvulsants to reduce the risk of seizures. If you combine them with melatonin, these drugs may become ineffective.
Seizure Threshold Lowering Drugs
Doctors usually give these drugs to induce seizures. However, melatonin too can increase the risk of seizures in some patients. Therefore, you should not combine melatonin with seizure threshold lowering drugs as the combination may have dangerous side effects.
Doctors prescribe warfarin slow down the blood clotting process. If you use melatonin with warfarin, the effects of warfarin will increase and may cause bruising and excessive bleeding.
The use of melatonin with methamphetamine will increase the side effects of methamphetamine. If you are already taking melatonin, then let your doctor know so that they can prescribe a drug other than methamphetamine.
Are There Any Side Effects of Melatonin?
While melatonin is beneficial, there are a few side effects. These include:
In seniors, the effects of melatonin stay for a more extended period. This is because doctors usually prescribe long-term use of melatonin. So, a common side effect of melatonin in seniors is daytime drowsiness.
Now, there are a few more side effects of melatonin. However, these are rare. These side effects may seem severe, but they do not occur frequently and are short-lived. These include:
- Mild depression and anxiety
- Slight tremors
- Abdominal cramps
- Reduced alertness
These side effects may occur if the dosage is too high and will diminish once you start taking melatonin safely. However, if they do occur, you should consult the doctor.
Should Older Adults Use Melatonin?
Older adults or seniors are likely to benefit from melatonin supplements. According to the FDA, melatonin is a dietary supplement, and research has suggested that it also has anti-aging properties.
In older people, natural melatonin production may decrease but does not stop completely. Therefore, melatonin supplements simply help to fill in for the deficiency and allow seniors to stay fit.
Healthy individuals, at any age, will sleep better. So along with melatonin, you also need to maintain a proper, balanced diet. Seniors also need to be mindful of the melatonin dosage.
Consult your doctor and stick to the correct dose of medication. Do not consume a higher dose of melatonin if not necessary. In fact, seniors should actually start with a low dose of melatonin. Overdosing on melatonin can cause prolonged drowsiness and other side effects.
As an older adult, you will find it difficult to recover. So, take the correct dose of melatonin for the best benefits.
Correct Dosages of Melatonin
The dosage of melatonin, like that of any other medication, is crucial. To use it safely, you will have to make sure that you are taking the correct dose. The best way to understand what is the right dose is to ask your doctor.
Your doctor will be able to guide you and prescribe the dose that will benefit you. However, there is a general dose for melatonin, and this depends on the age group. Since melatonin is primarily safe for all ages, read on to understand which dose you should take.
Dosage for Seniors
Seniors are most likely to suffer from a lack of sleep. As natural melatonin levels decrease, you will find it difficult to fall asleep. This also results in increased sensitivity to melatonin. Therefore, the dosage of melatonin for seniors needs to be carefully controlled.
You can start with a low dose of about 0.1 milligrams before increasing. But, make sure to consult your doctor before increasing the dosage.
It is crucial to observe the side effects of melatonin before changing the dose. For example, daytime drowsiness was seen in studies on older adults who were given doses of melatonin between 0.1 to 50 milligrams.
The tiredness was due to high levels of melatonin even after sleep. If this happens to you, consult your doctor as the dosage needs to be changed. The doctor will probably give a lower dose or change the melatonin supplement for better results.
Dosage for Adults
Melatonin dosage for adults depends on a few factors. These include medical history, conditions, the reason for melatonin use, and the possibility of interaction with other drugs.
However, a doctor will usually prescribe a dose of melatonin between 0.5 to 5 milligrams. A higher dosage is usually not recommended and is unnecessary. If you are an adult taking melatonin, you should do so at least an hour before bed.
The use of melatonin is usually not recommended for adults who are pregnant or are breastfeeding. But you can still consult your doctor and ask if you can take it in small doses.
It would be best to avoid melatonin when pregnant or breastfeeding because there is not enough research to vouch for the safety of melatonin in such situations.
Dosage for Children
If your child needs melatonin, then it will only be for a short period. Doctors recommend short-term, small doses of melatonin for children. Small doses of melatonin will not have any significant side effects and are safe for your child.
But if the dose increases, even if the pediatrician recommends it, there may be some side effects. You may find your child becoming very agitated, dizzy, or drowsy. They might even complain of getting headaches. Very young children may also start wetting the bed at night.
Pediatricians give melatonin to children who have insomnia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or autism spectrum disorder.
Children who have any of these conditions also suffer from a lack of sleep. Doctors prescribe melatonin or melatonin supplements to improve sleep. The medication can help increase the sleep times by 25 minutes to 48 minutes.
However, for children, doctors do not recommend any particular dosage of melatonin for long-term use. The risks and side effects may increase and become more severe if your child uses melatonin for an extended period.
A significant risk involved in children’s long-term use of melatonin is that it can affect hormonal development. Therefore, a small dosage of melatonin is only used to treat short-term insomnia in children.
Melatonin supplements are safe and can be effective when used correctly. So don’t worry and ask your doctor to prescribe you the proper dosage.
If you are taking melatonin, then don’t forget to share your experience in the comments. You can also encourage others to research and read this article before taking melatonin.