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How Safe is Melatonin?

Take caution when using sleep aids

With the change to Daylight Savings Time, some people might be reaching for a sleeping aid.

If you can’t fall asleep at night you are not alone. A Consumer Reports survey found that 80 percent of adults in the U.S. struggle with sleep at least once a week. And everyone has his or her own way of dealing with insomnia. Instead of taking a sleeping pill, millions of people reach for the dietary supplement called melatonin, but it’s not without risks. Consumer Reports explains what you need to know.

Melatonin is a sleep hormone that is naturally produced by the body and is also available as a popular supplement. Studies show that it can be helpful, but only for some people in certain situations, such as when they’re jet-lagged or they’re trying to sleep after working a night shift. For people 70 or older, the supplement might help because their body might not produce enough melatonin on its own.

But there are lots of other people using melatonin. So, is it safe?

You should never take a dose of more than 10 mg., and you should take no more than .2 mg to .5 mg.

Taking more than what your body produces could cause you to be sleepy and mentally or physically slow the next day. Because melatonin isn’t regulated like prescription and over-the-counter drugs, look for labels from ConsumerLab.com, NSF International, USP, or UL. They provide some peace of mind that a product contains what’s on the label.

Also, check with your doctor before starting melatonin. It can interact with blood pressure and diabetes drugs. And be aware of possible side effects. After taking melatonin, some people report dizziness or nausea, or say they’re drowsy the next day. So it’s best not to drive when using it.

Consumer Reports says there’s not enough research to know whether melatonin is safe to use for longer than three months.

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