Anyone who takes hormonal birth control and the sleep aid melatonin may experience an increase in melatonin’s side effects.
Meanwhile, taking melatonin may reduce some symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and slightly boost fertility. However, confirming this requires further research.
Below, learn what current findings indicate about possible interactions between melatonin and hormonal birth control, as well as the effects of this supplement on fertility and the menstrual cycle. We also explore some alternatives to melatonin.
It signals to the brain and other organs that the environment is darkening or growing lighter, influencing when the person sleeps and wakes.
Conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes and medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and beta-blockers stop the body from producing melatonin during the night. This can make falling and staying asleep difficult.
Taking supplementary melatonin may help improve sleep in children and adults. However, check with a healthcare provider before giving melatonin to a child.
Studies indicate that the hormones — progesterone and estrogen — in a combined birth control pill help promote sleep. For this reason, a person taking hormonal birth control and melatonin may experienced more pronounced sleep-related effects.
Progesterone and estrogen are naturally present in the body, and their levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle.
The hormone progesterone increases the amount of slow-wave sleep, reduces the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, and reduces limb movements during sleep. Researchers also believe that progesterone helps dilate the airways, which may help reduce symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.
Estrogen may also help promote sleep — people who are starting to go through menopause who take estrogen are less likely to have trouble sleeping than those who do not. Also, research in rats suggests that estrogen promotes REM and non-REM sleep.
While evidence concerning the effects of hormonal birth control on sleep has been somewhat inconsistent, research suggests that people taking oral contraceptives do not snore as much and sleep better than peers who do not take these contraceptives.
Also, people who have gone through menopause and take combined hormonal therapy may not experience as severe sleep apnea or other sleep complaints as peers who do not take the therapy.
Overall, because both hormonal birth control and melatonin promote sleep, it is possible that taking both may increase the risk of sleepiness during the day and other side effects of melatonin.
Some of these side effects include:
- headaches and dizziness
- feeling irritable
- dry mouth
- dry or itchy skin
- pain the limbs
- night sweats
- strange dreams
- blurry vision
- fainting or feeling faint
- blood in the urine
This is a partial list of possible side effects. It is important to talk to a healthcare provider before taking melatonin, birth control, or both.
Melatonin may boost fertility — somewhat. A 2019 study found that a dose as small as 3 mg per day slightly increased the chances of becoming pregnant or having a live birth among people undergoing in vitro fertilization due to difficulty conceiving.
Meanwhile, the same study indicated that a drop in melatonin levels may adversely affect fertility.
Similarly, an animal study found that melatonin helped improve fertility in mice after their fertility started to decline with age. Confirming this effect in humans, however, requires further research.
Research indicates that a natural decrease in levels of melatonin may lead to symptoms of PMS.
During the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, when the egg travels toward the uterus, the body produces less melatonin. This may increase the risk of trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and having restful sleep.
A 2017 study suggests that the decrease in melatonin may contribute to some symptoms of PMS, including sleep disturbances, bloating, and mood changes.
Therefore, people who experience these symptoms may benefit from a melatonin supplement during this phase of their menstrual cycles. A typical dose is 1–5 milligrams (mg).
Anyone who takes melatonin should do so about 1 hour before bed and begin with a low dose. Keep an eye out for any side effects and increase the dosage gradually, if necessary. Do not take a dose higher than 5 mg unless a doctor recommends it.
Below, learn about alternate ways to have lasting, quality sleep.
Mind and body practices
These practices, also called relaxation techniques, can help people with insomnia.
Helpful techniques may include:
Also, avoid caffeine, alcohol, and screen time before bed.
It is worth noting that currently no research indicates that acupuncture helps treat insomnia.
Other dietary supplements
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) class melatonin as a dietary supplement.
Other supplements that some people take to help with sleep include L-tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan, better known as 5-HTP. However, researchers investigating the effects have arrived at inconsistent conclusions. Overall, there is not enough evidence that these work.
In addition, L-tryptophan may contribute to eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome, a condition that causes severe muscle pain and can result in death. Speak with a doctor before taking this supplement.
One traditional herbal remedy for insomnia is chamomile. While people have used this, especially in tea, for generations, there is currently no evidence that it helps with sleep.
Anyone allergic to ragweed or other plants in the same family should avoid chamomile to prevent an allergic reaction.
Meanwhile, some people use valerian, a herb that may have sedative properties, to enhance their sleep. However, research into its effects has arrived at inconsistent findings. It is also not clear whether it is safe to take valerian over long periods.
Another herb that may be a sedative is kava kava. However, researchers have linked it to an increased risk of severe liver damage.
Note that it is not advisable to take any herbal products during pregnancy without first consulting a doctor. These may be especially unsafe for newly pregnant people.
Other complementary sleep aids
A person may find that aromatherapy, inhaling diffused essential oils, such as lavender, helps with sleep. Also, some homeopathic products might enhance sleep.
It is worth noting, however, that there is no scientific evidence that these techniques help with sleep disorders.
Also, consult a doctor before using any essential oils during pregnancy.
Medication for insomnia includes benzodiazepines, melatonin receptor agonists, and orexin receptor antagonists. Anyone taking benzodiazepines should do so for at most a few weeks, as there is a risk of dependence.
Most of these medications cause side effects, and it is important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each option with the doctor.
Good sleep hygiene
To maximize the chances of falling asleep quickly and getting lasting, high-quality sleep:
- Keep the bedroom cool, quiet, and free from artificial light and electronics.
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same times each day, even on the weekends.
- Do physical activity during the day.
- Avoid napping in the afternoons.
- Eat meals at regular times each day.
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants.
- Use relaxation techniques before going to bed.
If difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep and is negatively affecting the quality of life, let a doctor know.
Melatonin and other sleep aids — even other supplements — can interact with medications. Consult a doctor before trying them.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps the body fall sleep and stay asleep.
Research indicates that it may also boost fertility slightly and that a natural dip in melatonin levels may cause or worsen PMS symptoms.
No direct evidence shows that melatonin interacts with hormonal birth control, but taking both may increase the risk of melatonin’s side effects.
For anyone who needs to enhance their sleep, a range of techniques, remedies, and medications may help, and a doctor can provide crucial guidance.