Between 1999 and 2018, the usage of melatonin significantly increased.
A recent study published in JAMA1 that tracked melatonin supplementation between 1999 and 2018 found that use of melatonin has significantly increased across all demographic groups. Researchers used data from 10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) cycles, consisting of 55,021 adults, 52% of which were women, with a mean age of 47.5.
Results showed that the overall reported weighted prevalence of melatonin use increased from 0.4% in 1999-2000 to 2.1% in 2017-2018. This increase began in 2009-2010. Researchers also collected data on how many users reported taking greater than 5 mg/day because 5 mg/day is the recommended dosage for melatonin. They found that prior to 2005-2006, users did not report taking more than 5 mg/day of melatonin, but from that point, prevalence of taking greater than 5 mg/day went from 0.08% to 0.28% in 2017-2018.
While the number of people taking more than the recommended dosage of melatonin remains small, the researchers express concern that this may pose a safety risk, citing other research that found levels of melatonin inconsistent with label claims. Some melatonin products, for example, contain upwards of 478% higher levels of melatonin than those advertised on the label. Because of the increased usage of melatonin and its expanding therapeutic potential, say the researchers, more robust evidence of the ingredient’s long-term safety would be beneficial.
“The prevalence of melatonin supplementation increased significantly over a 20-year period, which tracks perfectly with the growing use of dietary supplements as a safe way to promote health and wellness. In addition, self-reported use of higher levels of melatonin (greater than 5 mg/d) was very low, showing that consumers are using the product responsibly,” says Duffy McKay, senior vice president, dietary supplements for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (Washington, D.C.), in response to the study and concerns about the products overall safety. “Melatonin continues to be a safe and prudent option for consumers who want to support their healthy sleep, especially in scenarios where there is no insomnia and self-care is appropriate. If sleep problems persist, then it makes sense to talk to a doctor and seek medication.”