melatonin for anxiety, is melatonin good for anxiety

Melatonin for Anxiety: Does It Work?

Last modified on February 9th, 2023

Does melatonin for anxiety work?

There is some evidence that melatonin might be good for anxiety.

There can also be side effects and other things to know about using a melatonin supplement to treat anxiety symptoms.

Why Would You Use Melatonin for Anxiety?

Melatonin is a hormone, and your body produces it naturally. Specifically, the pineal gland produces melatonin.

The pineal gland is located in your brain and regulates sleep patterns.

When it’s dark, your body produces more melatonin, which helps you fall asleep. When it’s light, you produce less.

You can also take melatonin as an over-the-counter supplement to help you if you have sleep problems.

Melatonin may have both direct and indirect effects on anxiety as well.

What the Research Says

There have been a few studies that have given the indication melatonin might help with anxiety.

Examples include:

  • In an animal study in 2017, melatonin increased brain levels of GABA. Higher GABA levels are associated with reduced anxiety and a calming effect on the brain. Some anxiety medicines, like benzodiazepines, also increase GABA levels in the brain.
  • There was a review of clinical studies in 2015. Before surgery, melatonin was compared to midazolam, a benzodiazepine, or a placebo sugar pill. The melatonin worked the same as prescription anxiety medicine before the surgery and was better than the placebo.
  • A 2018 study found melatonin worked as well as alprazolam to mitigate anxiety before surgery.
  • There was also a study that looked at the effects of melatonin in older people with mood and sleep disorders. That study found that melatonin was more effective than a placebo in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety and improving sleep.

It would make sense that the use of melatonin could potentially alleviate anxiety if you consider the role of GABA in both sleep and anxiety disorders.

GABA helps your body not just relax but also fall asleep soundly and stay asleep.

When you have low GABA and are more likely to have anxiety, you’re more likely to have disrupted sleep.

In one study of people with insomnia, GABA levels were nearly 30% lower in those individuals than in those with sleep disorders.

Above are research studies looking at direct links to melatonin for anxiety.

There are indirect links as well.

Melatonin can be helpful for sleep disorders. Getting enough sleep is significantly linked to mental health.

When you sleep every 90 minutes, you’re moving between four phases of deep sleep. By the fourth phase, your body is creating changes that prepare your nervous system for the coming day and boost your immune system.

When there are disturbances in your sleep cycles, it affects your brain.

Effects of not getting enough quality sleep include:

Taking melatonin can help you get the sleep you need for overall mental and physical health.

That can reduce anxiety because your brain is healthy and ready to take on the day.

What is Anxiety?

When we’re experiencing stressful situations, it’s normal to feel anxiety, and anxiety is a response that helps us stay aware and alert.

An anxiety disorder goes well beyond those normal feelings to stress, however.

Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Nervousness or tension
  • Having a sense of impending doom or panic
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Concentration problems or brain fog
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Uncontrollable worries
  • Avoiding things that trigger anxiety

Anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common of these disorders. It’s characterized by excessive, pervasive worry about everyday activities. The worry is out of proportion to the actual situation. It’s common for someone to have generalized anxiety disorder and other types of anxiety or depression.
  • Panic disorder includes episodes of sudden anxiety or terror. Panic attacks usually peak within minutes and may include intense physical symptoms like heart palpitations and shortness of breath.
  • Social anxiety is also called social phobia. Someone with social anxiety will likely experience high levels of fear and anxiety in social situations because of fear of embarrassment or being judged by others.

Are There Side Effects?

If you’re considering melatonin for anxiety or another reason, it’s largely safe, and there aren’t any known serious side effects.

Melatonin, unlike some over the counter and prescription sleep aids, doesn’t seem to lead to dependence or withdrawal symptoms either.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak to your doctor before taking melatonin for anxiety or sleep.

You should talk to your doctor about any supplement before taking it.

Some people may experience mild symptoms, such as headaches, nausea, or dizziness.

There is some concern among doctors that long-term melatonin use could reduce your body’s natural production, but there is currently no evidence or research available indicating that’s the case.

Melatonin can interact with some medicines, including blood thinners and blood pressure medications, and it can also interact with other medicines causing sleepiness.

Taking Melatonin for Anxiety During the Day

The big downside of using melatonin for anxiety is that you should only take it before bed. It is probably not a good idea to take it in the daytime for a panic attack or short-term anxiety relief.

Melatonin needs to be taken in the evening, and even at low doses, it can cause daytime sleepiness if you take it any other time.

If you take it at night, depending on how fast your body clears it, you may still feel some residual sleepiness in the morning.

How Can You Take Melatonin to Help Anxiety?

If you’re considering taking melatonin for anxiety, the typical dosage is 1 to 10 mg daily, but there isn’t a standardized optimal dose.

Taking a higher dose than 10 mg doesn’t show any benefits.

What’s most important is that first, you follow the dosage instructions of the product itself. You should also look for high-quality melatonin supplements.

You can also naturally increase your melatonin levels without taking a supplement. For example, stop watching electronics for a few hours before bed. Blue light can disrupt your sleep, and artificial light reduces your brain’s melatonin production.

A lot of natural light during the day can also help your sleep-wake cycles.

Final Thoughts

Melatonin for anxiety may work, but you should speak to your doctor.

Melatonin should be taken right before bed, so it’s not a good supplement if you’re worried about daytime anxiety.

Along with directly impacting GABA levels to alleviate anxiety, melatonin can also help you get better sleep quality, which can help reduce anxiety symptoms.

It’s also important to note that anxiety is a common mental health disorder.

If you are experiencing it, you should speak to your doctor. A doctor can help you uncover the underlying cause of your anxiety and create a treatment plan.

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Ashley Sutphin Watkins
Ashley Sutphin Watkins is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She's a medical content writer, journalist and an avid researcher of all things related to health and wellness. Ashley lives near the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee with her family.
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