Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team
For people who have trouble falling asleep, each night might feel like a never ending battle. In an attempt to solve these sleeping difficulties, more people are leaning towards melatonin supplements in the form of pills, liquids or through the recently discovered melatonin vape pen or diffuser.
Melatonin is a naturally produced hormone released by the pineal gland in the brain that regulates the sleep cycle. Melatonin is known as the “sleep hormone.” When night falls, the eyes detect the reduced lighting and signal the brain to secrete this hormone which helps to establish your circadian rhythm (a.k.a. sleep schedule); this is the primary reason people with insomnia and other sleeping difficulties may often turn to melatonin supplements.
Oral melatonin supplements, such as gummies, liquids and tablets are among the most popular forms of melatonin and are widely available over the counter at local drugstores. It usually takes between 30-60 minutes to feel the effects of the hormone but newer melatonin vaporizers have been designed to cut the absorption period down to mere seconds.
Recently, melatonin has become available in a variety of new forms, including vape pens and diffusers combined with essential oils like lavender and chamomile. While essential oils can give off soothing aromas, experts caution folks to think twice before taking a puff as there are risks associated with melatonin use and the effects on one’s birth control and reproductive health. For instance, certain oral contraceptives such as the birth control pill and mini pill, may impair sleep and raise levels of stress hormones.
Fluctuations in hormones can decrease the quality of your sleep especially during the first days of your period and even during menopause. Some women experience a rise in their body temperature at the beginning of their period cycle, which causes changes in their sleep pattern; others might feel more restless in the days prior to their period as their body temperature adjusts.
Pro tip: make your #PeriodsOptional using birth control to help alleviate the dreaded symptoms associated with periods such as migraines and mood swings.
In an attempt to aid them with their sleeping struggles, women may take melatonin pills or inhale a gaseous version with the new method of vaping. A recent article by Rolling Stone highlighted several companies offering trendy melatonin vape products – however, medical professionals are concerned by the lack of scientific studies on these products.
One company, Cloudy, supplies melatonin diffusers that do not have any of the artificial flavorings or drugs found in other vape products; instead, their diffusers contain all-natural and vegan ingredients, including lavender and chamomile, which are known to produce effects of relaxation. This potentially makes these diffusers safer aromatherapy devices and one of the fastest-acting over-the-counter sleep aids on the market.
Doctors do NOT recommend consuming melatonin (pills) as a long term solution. Supplements are often used to help people recover from jetlag, typically for 2-5 days, but they are not meant to be taken for more than four weeks, especially if mixed with other drugs. That being said, there are NO clinical studies on the use of melatonin vaporizers and diffusers, and their effect on birth control and other medications.
What are the side effects of melatonin supplements?
A 2012 survey by the National Institutes of Health found melatonin to be one of the most commonly used supplements among adults. As of now, melatonin is still categorized as a dietary supplement, and, thus, is NOT regulated by the FDA; without FDA regulation, the total dosage of melatonin among pills of the same bottle as well as in vape pens can vary.
It is therefore hard to make predictions on how different bodies will react based on such inconsistencies. Melatonin supplements can also have different effects based on how much food a person has eaten recently. There is no consensus of what the optimal dosage of melatonin is although it is advised to avoid extremely high doses. A typical dose of melatonin in supplements is between one and three milligrams, but whether this is appropriate or not for each individual depends on factors like age and sleep issues.
People who take too much melatonin can experience drowsiness and a reduced core body temperature. Extremely high levels of melatonin can also contribute to headaches, fatigue, nausea, and effects on human reproduction.
Studies show that melatonin can play a role in the regulation of many reproductive processes such as puberty, pregnancy, and female gonadal (ovary) function. However, melatonin itself won’t knock you out; it merely lets your body know that it is night-time so you can relax and fall asleep easier.
Is mixing melatonin with your birth control safe?
No one knows for sure – no scientific study shows the effects of melatonin and birth control pills together. However, as a precaution, folks are suggested to consult with their doctor if they’re taking multiple types of medicine simultaneously, such as oral contraceptives and melatonin supplements. Chemical interactions of one medicine may affect others and thus, alter the intended effects.
When the body is processing multiple medicines at the same time, the liver is working harder to break them down. With melatonin, the liver could be exposed to various chemicals that can eat up the hormones in birth control, which may decrease birth control efficacy. There are two hormones in birth control pills: estrogen and progesterone.
Low doses of estrogen can increase the risk for blood clots as well as contribute to breakthrough bleeding; if one is experiencing spotting while mixing melatonin and birth control, this could indicate that the birth control is NOT working. Furthermore, contraceptive drugs that interact with melatonin may increase the natural melatonin dosage in your body as well as trigger the side effects of melatonin.
When melatonin is inhaled through a diffuser, it is transported through the lungs and later released into the bloodstream, and may not affect your liver to the same extent. Nevertheless, it has yet to be scientifically proven that vaping melatonin is any safer than consuming it through pills, gummies, or liquid products. Melatonin vape pens and diffusers are still a new invention and concerns have surfaced regarding the long-term health consequences of reliance on a device that puts you to sleep within minutes.
As found in this study, a connection may also exist between bodily produced melatonin and progesterone; progesterone is one of the female sex hormones that is also used in many forms of hormonal birth control. The researchers identified a significantly higher melatonin level at certain menstrual cycle points when combined with an increased dosage of progestin caused by birth control pills; this suggests that there may be a positive relationship between melatonin and progesterone.
Melatonin & Reproductive Health
A recent study in 2019 addressed the possible outcomes of melatonin supplements consumed by women with unexplained infertility, and who were undergoing fertility treatment. Although the researchers provided evidence that showed women’s in vitro fertilization outcomes improved, the findings should still be treated with caution due to the limited sample size of women.
Moreover, a study regarding the combination of naturally produced melatonin and shift worker’s period cycles was conducted back in 2013. When they worked night-shifts, they showed to have more painful periods (dysmenorrhea) as well as prolonged periods (menorrhagia). This could potentially be due to a disruption of the normal circadian rhythm. Additionally, the levels of melatonin of night-shift workers were significantly higher than their counterparts compared to other hormones, which could link menstrual dysregulation with melatonin changes.
Overall, though, the research is still ongoing with no conclusive results. If you are uncertain, check out this Facebook Live where Dr. Sophia Yen, our CEO and co-founder, addresses how you should go about taking melatonin with and without birth control. Plus, make sure to sign up to get your birth control delivered for FREE with Pandia Health.
Create a profile on our site and we’ll have one of our expert birth control doctors help you get the best care possible. If you need a new prescription and you live in AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, NV, TX, WA, or WY, we can write you one for free; if you already carry an active prescription, we can easily transfer it for you. Sleep well and stay on birth control!
Disclaimer: The above information is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment.