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Many know melatonin as an over-the-counter sleep-inducing supplement. Yet, melatonin is actually a hormone made inside your body. It is produced by a brain structure called the pineal gland situated slightly above the middle of your brain. Melatonin helps regulate your circadian rhythm—your very own internal clock. People experiencing mild sleep problems like occasional insomnia, sleep work disorder, or jet lag opt to take melatonin supplements to help them sleep. It is such a popular supplement that melatonin intake has increased in the US 4 times since 2000. Melatonin works as a signal for your body, telling it’s time to sleep. While taking melatonin is mainly considered safe, some have reported experiencing nightmares when using melatonin. Can melatonin cause nightmares?
Melatonin and nightmares
Nightmares are unpleasant dreams we experience during the REM stage of sleep. Scientists do not know why we have nightmares. Yet, certain factors like melatonin usage may increase the chances of having bad dreams. Why does melatonin cause nightmares? There are reports tying melatonin usage to vivid and sometimes unpleasant dreams. However, sleep expert Dr. Michelle Drerup is doubtful: “There’s no conclusive evidence as to how exactly your dreams are affected by taking melatonin supplements,” she says in her interview with Cleveland Clinic. Then why are there so many people experiencing bizarre dreams when using melatonin? Research shows that melatonin intake can increase REM sleep duration, the sleep stage where dreams occur. Spending more time in REM sleep may increase your chances of having vivid dreams, Dr. Drerup argues.
Managing your nightmares
Suppose you experience nightmares after taking melatonin supplements. In that case, you may not be leaving enough time between taking the supplement and falling asleep. Jesse Lyon, a dream interpreter and hypnotist, suggests you wait at least 20 minutes to go to bed after taking melatonin. This way, you allow yourself to process the day’s weight off your shoulders, thereby decreasing your chances of having nightmares.
Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a sleep specialist, has another suggestion: keeping a dream journal. He says that keeping track of your dreams may help you understand whether or not melatonin supplements cause your nightmares.
Millions of people use melatonin supplements to fall asleep. Although there are some reports linking melatonin intake to nightmares, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest melatonin supplements cause them. However, melatonin increases your time in REM sleep, where you have the most vivid dreams. Therefore, it may increase your chances of having vivid, bizarre dreams. Experts suggest keeping a dream journal to understand your dreams better and keep track of the relationship between your dreams and melatonin intake. With the help of Dreambook, an online dream journal app, you can always keep a structured record of your dreams. You can use Dreambook to save, track, analyze and interpret your nightmares without restrictions.