Published On: September 27, 2023
Reviewed On: September 27, 2023
Updated On: September 27, 2023
Anxiety annually affects millions of people worldwide — it’s widely considered the United State’s most prevalent mental health condition. If you’re experiencing anxiety and looking for natural relief, you might have heard about the potential advantages of using melatonin for anxiety. Melatonin is a hormone that plays a critical role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle (aka the circadian rhythm).
It’s commonly used as a sleep aid for those with sleep problems, but does melatonin help anxiety? Read on as we uncover everything about melatonin.
Reader’s note: Be sure to talk to your therapist, psychiatrist, and/or doctor before you start melatonin (especially if you have mental health concerns). While melatonin is an over-the-counter supplement, there may be serious side effects that can affect your mental health in unexpected ways.
As the sun sets each day, your body naturally secretes melatonin to induce sleepiness. Melatonin production occurs within the pineal gland, a small endocrine gland located deep in the brain. Melatonin levels naturally decrease during daylight hours, so the body and brain know to be awake and alert. Beyond affecting the circadian rhythm, melatonin can act as an antioxidant that studies show can lower oxidative stress in the brain.
Melatonin’s primary role is to regulate sleep patterns to avoid sleep disturbance. Understanding how it works offers insight into how we can use this natural remedy for anxiety-related sleep issues.
Anxiety disorders — like generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and panic attacks — can significantly impact sleep. Mood disorders like these have been connected to sleep issues, including difficulty falling or staying asleep, which leads many people to wonder, can melatonin help with anxiety?
Expert Insight““Anxiety can result in issues with sleep, insomnia, and restless sleep. Sleep aids such as melatonin can help alleviate anxiety as well as help with sleep. It is best to talk to providers before starting any sleep medication, as well as melatonin.”
When we experience heightened stress or anxiety, the body releases stress hormones like cortisol, which can disrupt the circadian rhythm. Stress affects our sleep cycle in several ways — and recent research has linked anxiety to sleep issues. Anxiety can impact aspects of sleep through:
Poor sleep can have numerous consequences on mental health. It can affect more than just anxiety, too. Not getting adequate sleep can impact your general psychological well-being. Lack of sleep can lead to:
Learn more about the relationship between sleep and mental health.
There’s growing interest in understanding the connection between melatonin and anxiety relief. Research examining the effects of melatonin on mental health conditions like anxiety shows that melatonin might be considered an alternative or additional treatment for conditions associated with anxiety.
Numerous studies have looked into the effectiveness of melatonin supplements in treating anxiety. Some findings suggest melatonin can help by improving sleep quality, creating a preventative effect on depression and anxiety symptoms.
Melatonin works relatively quickly when used to promote sleep. Most people report feeling the supplement’s effects within 30 minutes to an hour after taking it. That said, it’s essential to know that melatonin and anxiety improvement might not be as quick. While it can help you fall asleep faster or stay asleep longer, its impact on anxiety likely won’t be dramatic or immediate.
Despite promising evidence that supports melatonin might be beneficial for anxiety, we must remember that there are limitations in the research. Studies with small sample sizes or conducted over shorter periods might not offer us the full picture.
Notably, much of the research we have focuses on melatonin’s effect on sleep quality rather than examining its impact on anxiety symptoms over the long term. More extensive research is needed before we can definitively link melatonin to being beneficial in treating anxiety.
If you’re considering taking melatonin, anxiety symptoms might improve, but you should understand how to use it in your daily routine. Consider the following before you start taking melatonin for anxiety and talk to your doctor first:
Like all supplements, melatonin has possible consequences and side effects. Common side effects of melatonin include:
In rare cases, there have been more severe reactions, including allergic reactions like hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat. If you see any indications of an allergic reaction, get medical help immediately.
Melatonin can interact with other medications, including:
Expert Insight“Melatonin is a natural supplement which can be bought over-the-counter to help with sleep. It assists with controlling the body's rest cycle and side effects are limited. Make sure you talk to your providers before moving ahead with starting melatonin or any other sleep aid.”
Some people should not take melatonin due to other conditions or health conditions. For example:
Taking melatonin for anxiety might help alleviate some of your symptoms, but it may not always be enough. Anxiety can be incredibly challenging and taxing, and Talkspace can provide a convenient, affordable, and accessible way to receive therapy for anxiety. With the help of our experienced and licensed therapists, you can learn effective coping strategies for managing anxiety symptoms.
Reach out to Talkspace today to learn how to deal with anxiety. You don’t have to live with the challenges anxiety presents.
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Bisma Anwar is the Team Lead for the Talkspace Council of Mental Health Experts. A major focus in her work has been anxiety management and helping her clients develop healthy coping skills, reduce stress and prevent burnout. She serves on the board of a non-profit organization based in NYC called The Heal Collective which promotes advocacy and awareness of mental health issues in BIPOC communities.