Is anxiety around the current COVID-19 situation making it hard to sleep? Your friends may be telling you to take melatonin, a hormone that regulates your sleep–wake cycle, to make it easier. This dietary supplement uses your body’s own chemistry to help with falling asleep.
But, what exactly is it? And can taking melatonin while on the birth control pill cause bad side effects?
What Does Melatonin Do?
Melatonin by mouth is used to help some people fall asleep. Because it is a dietary supplement, it’s NOT regulated by the FDA although it is easily available at the grocery store.
Without FDA regulation, the amount of melatonin among pills of the same bottle can vary. Predictions of how your body is going to react are hard to make with such variability.
The active ingredient in these pills, the melatonin hormone, is naturally released by the pineal gland in the brain. When the sun sets, changes in lighting tell your brain to secrete this hormone. Anecdotally, 30-60 minutes after you take melatonin, you’ll feel sleepy and ready for bed!
Heads up: For most purposes, you should NOT be taking melatonin constantly. It can help you recover from jetlag (2-5 days) but it is not recommended to take it for multiple nights in a row (no more than 4 weeks for most health issues).
Fun fact: the reason people tell you to limit screen time before bed is because the blue light released by the screens suppresses melatonin production in the brain, making you feel like it’s still daytime. This is why some people use blue light glasses!
Melatonin helps to establish your circadian rhythm (aka your sleep schedule) so this is the main reason people who need help sleeping take it.
What Happens when you take Melatonin with your Birth Control?
Short answer: We don’t really know. There hasn’t been research done on melatonin and birth control pills together.
You may notice many of your medicines include a disclaimer to talk to a doctor when you’re taking multiple at once. This is because the chemical interactions of one may affect those of the other and thus, alter the intended effects.
When the body has multiple medicines in it, the liver has to work harder to break these down, which may decrease birth control efficacy. Symptoms like breakthrough bleeding (a.k.a. spotting) while on melatonin and birth control could mean your birth control is NOT working. Pandia Health’s CEO and Co-Founder, Dr. Sophia Yen has spoken about mixing birth control with other drugs.
Dr. Yen has also addressed how you should go about taking melatonin with and without birth control and many other questions in this Facebook Live so make sure to check it out.
What the Research says about Melatonin
One study found an increase in melatonin levels in women taking birth control. Researchers hypothesized the link between higher levels of melatonin in connection with birth control pills is due to suppression of melatonin breakdown.
A correlation may also exist between melatonin and progesterone; progesterone is one of the female sex hormones and is used in all forms of hormonal birth control. Studies have identified an increase in melatonin in menstrual cycle time points associated with higher progesterone.
Unfortunately, few studies have revealed a relationship between melatonin and birth control. What we do know is that melatonin is responsible for establishing cycles in your body and its impact on one cycle (circadian rhythm) may affect others (like your menstrual cycle).
Make sure you tell your doctor/provider if you use melatonin (or any other supplements) while on birth control.
Melatonin and #PeriodProblems and fertility
The relationship between melatonin and the reproductive system is complicated and still being researched.
Studies of shift workers show more painful periods (dysmenorrhea) and prolonged periods (menorrhagia) when they worked night-shifts. This is potentially due to a disruption of the normal circadian rhythm.
Additionally, it was found that the levels of melatonin of night-shift workers are significantly higher than their counterparts compared to other hormones which may link menstrual dysregulation with melatonin changes.
Melatonin has also been studied in the context of infertility. In some studies that used melatonin in women with unexplained infertility, it was found that the women’s in vitro fertilization outcomes improved!
Whichever birth control option you choose, Pandia Health can help support you in the process. Learn more about how you can get your birth control pill, patch, or ring delivered for FREE with Pandia!
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.
reviewed 6.3.20 sy