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Can Melatonin Cause Nightmares? Here’s What You Need to Know

Key Points:

  • Can melatonin cause nightmares? Yes. Melatonin induces a stage of sleep associated with nightmares.
  • Other measures such as good sleep hygiene can improve sleep quality and are safer than melatonin.
  • Micronutrients such as vitamins and magnesium also contribute to healthy sleep.
Can melatonin cause nightmares: little girl holding a white pill

As a parent, you already know what happens when your kids don’t get enough sleep. Kids need quality sleep to stay healthy, active, and happy. That’s why some parents opt for melatonin supplements to tackle their kids’ sleep problems.

Melatonin can help kids get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. But, it’s been associated with some unpleasant side effects. One question you might be asking is, can melatonin cause nightmares?

This article will explore whether or not taking melatonin can cause nightmares, as well as what you can do if your child experiences this side effect as a result of melatonin treatment. Let’s dive in.

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle. It’s produced by the pineal gland found near the center of the brain. The normal sleep-wake cycle follows a regular pattern known as the circadian rhythm.

You can think of the circadian rhythm as an internal clock that controls the body’s sleep schedule. The circadian rhythm responds to changes in light throughout the day. At night, the pineal gland produces more melatonin, making you feel sleepy. During the day, the levels of melatonin drop and that’s how you manage to stay awake.

For people with sleep problems, melatonin supplements are available as over-the-counter dietary supplements to help boost their sleep quality. More and more people, including kids, are now using melatonin supplements as a sleep aid.

If you’re considering giving your kids melatonin supplements, you may be worried about some of its potential side effects — for example, can melatonin cause nightmares?

Before we look into that, let’s examine why your kids may need melatonin in the first place.

When Should You Give Your Kids Melatonin Supplements?

Can melatonin cause nightmares: little girl covering her mouth while she yawns

Melatonin is produced naturally by the body. However, certain factors and conditions interfere with the timing and amount of melatonin produced. 

Take jet lag for example. Flying across different time zones can throw the body’s system off balance. Melatonin supplements can help to re-establish a suitable sleep schedule for the new location. 

Some mental health conditions also make it difficult to fall asleep. Melatonin supplements can provide the boost needed to sleep better. 

Kids may need melatonin if they suffer from sleep problems due to:

  • Jet lag
  • Circadian rhythm disorders, such as delayed sleep-wake phase syndrome
  • Sleep disorders, such as childhood insomnia 
  • Depression
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

You should consult your child’s pediatrician for medical advice before using melatonin supplements. The pediatrician can help you figure out the cause of the problem and decide if your child needs melatonin supplements.

Can Melatonin Cause Nightmares?

The simple answer is yes. Let’s dive in a bit more to explore the science behind it.

Nightmares are a type of bad dream that are disturbing and frightening. They can happen any time during the night, but they’re more likely to occur in the second half of sleep. So, how can melatonin cause nightmares?

Though the science isn’t yet clear, experts agree that melatonin causes nightmares by inducing a phase of sleep called the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep

There are two phases of sleep: REM sleep and non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep makes up the first phase of sleep and is further divided into three stages. REM sleep follows non-REM sleep and is considered the fourth stage of sleep.

Usually, the two phases of sleep occur in a cyclical pattern. The cycle begins with non-REM sleep, followed by a period of REM sleep, then back to non-REM sleep, and so on. Typically, we spend more time in non-REM than in REM sleep

REM sleep is associated with intense dreams, vivid dreams, and sometimes, nightmares. Here’s where melatonin comes in. Research shows that melatonin increases the duration and depth of REM sleep. Melatonin stimulates the brain to release a substance called vasotocin, which in turn promotes REM sleep.

Spending more time in deeper REM sleep means that you’re more likely to experience nightmares.

Other side effects of melatonin include:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Increased bedwetting
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Mild anxiety

How to Reduce the Side Effects of Melatonin

Not everyone taking melatonin will experience the side effects, but instead of leaving things to chance, you can take steps to reduce the possibility.

One of the most important ways to lessen the likelihood of side effects is by giving your kids the correct doses. Generally, kids need between 1-5 mg of melatonin. An overdose can trigger or magnify the potential side effects. Ensure you store the supplements away from your kids’ reach to avoid accidental overdose.

Also, only purchase products from reputable manufacturers and suppliers. One study found that the melatonin dosages of most dietary supplements varied from what was indicated in the labels.

Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements differently than food and drugs, make sure you do your research to check that the brand you’re buying from is trustworthy, and read the product labels carefully.

Other Ways to Help Your Kids Get Better Sleep

Little boy playing a game on his phone

Before settling on melatonin, there are plenty of other things you can try out to help your little one get some good sleep. Most of these include lifestyle changes that can help them sleep well. 

Sleep hygiene refers to healthy practices that promote quality sleep. Good sleep hygiene is the easiest and safest way to improve sleep quality. Here are a few sleep hygiene practices to try out:

1. Create a Consistent Bedtime Routine for Your Kids

A regular sleep schedule improves sleep quality. Any changes in the sleep schedule alter the circadian rhythm and interfere with the quality and duration of sleep.

2. Reduce Screen Time Before Bed

Smartphones, tablets, and television screens emit blue light. Blue light interferes with melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep. 

Research shows that turning off electronic devices 30-60 minutes before bed can improve sleep. Blue light glasses can come in handy if your kids must use electronic devices late into the night.

3. Create a Suitable Sleep Environment

It’s easier to fall asleep in an optimum sleep environment. The temperature in your child’s room matters a lot. The suitable temperature for good sleep is 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, minimize noise and other distractions in your child’s room.

Other measures that can boost your child’s sleep quality include:

  • Minimizing caffeine and sugar consumption, especially in the evening
  • Regular exercise
  • Spending time outdoors
  • Practicing relaxation techniques, such as sleep meditation
  • Taking light meals for dinner 
  • Avoiding snacks before bedtime

Nutrients That Can Improve Sleep Quality

Two micronutrients that can enhance the quality of sleep are magnesium and vitamins. 

Magnesium helps the brain and body to relax by activating part of the nervous system responsible for relaxing the body. It’s also an essential nutrient for a child’s growth and development.

Vitamin B, D, and E also improve sleep quality. B vitamins are important in the formation of melatonin. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with certain sleep disorders, a good indicator of its role in sleep.

If you don’t want your kids to miss out on the healthy benefits of vitamins, multivitamin supplements are the way to go. For high-quality, natural multivitamin supplements, choose Llama Naturals’ award-winning multivitamin gummies. The gummies are made from organic fruit and vegetables with no added sugar, but they still taste delicious.

Good Sleep Equals Good Health

Mother and holding a jar of Llama Naturals

Sleep is a crucial biological process, and without good sleep, your child won’t have enough energy to face the next day and their health may suffer.

Melatonin supplements are a potent sleep aid that can improve sleep quality. But since melatonin is a hormone, it comes with a lot of side effects, including nightmares. Ensure you stick to the right dosage for your child’s age group if you’re going to use melatonin.

You can also try out healthy practices such as good sleep hygiene. With regards to supplements, magnesium and several vitamins are effective in boosting sleep quality.

Getting the right high-quality supplements doesn’t have to be a hassle. Llama Naturals produces the best plant-based multivitamin gummies for kids. 

Llama Naturals’ gummies are organic and made from real fruit and veggies, slow-cooked to retain all the nutrients. They’re free from any added sugar or artificial sweeteners, as well as artificial colors or flavors, preservatives, gluten, and other common allergens.

Though they contain no added sugar, the gummies still taste great and your kids will love them. Choose Llama Naturals for the perfect balance of healthy and delicious.

Llama Naturals is a plant-based nutrition brand that has created the World’s First Whole Fruit Gummy Vitamins that are made with no added sugar and whole-food vitamins. They are USDA Organic, Vegan, Gluten-Free, free of common allergens, and are slow-cooked on low heat to retain rich phytonutrients & fruit flavor. It’s a win-win gummy vitamin that the whole family will love.