Melatonin can play an important role in treating sleep issues, which can exacerbate anxiety. However, there is limited research to assess melatonin’s effectiveness in treating anxiety.

Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate circadian rhythms, which cause feelings of wakefulness and sleep. Production of melatonin takes place in the pineal gland of the brain.

Anxiety is a common mental disorder affecting up to 20% of adults yearly. It also affects 1 in 4 children aged 13–18 years.

This article considers the role of melatonin in relieving anxiety, its dosage, and whether it causes any adverse effects.

A person looking at a visualisation of the brain, which uses the hormone melatonin to regulate sleep.Share on Pinterest
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Melatonin is a hormone whose synthesis takes place in the pineal gland. The cells of the pineal gland synthesize melatonin from the amino acid tryptophan.

The synthesis, as well as secretion of melatonin, mostly occurs in darkness during the night. In humans, the secretion peaks between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., then gradually decreases.

Melatonin helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycles and promote sleep. Recent research has indicated other uses of melatonin, including treating age-related cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative disorders.

Several melatonin supplements are available for use in the United States. However, they do not have the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval since the FDA does not regulate supplements.

Learn more about melatonin for sleep.

Few clinical studies have shown the impact of melatonin supplements on relieving anxiety. Most of these studies included people who were undergoing surgery. This is because many people can experience anxiety before or after surgery.

A 2020 review compared the effect of melatonin and a placebo in treating preoperative and postoperative anxiety. It observed that melatonin worked better than the placebo in reducing preoperative anxiety and immediate and delayed postoperative anxiety. A 2017 study indicated melatonin as an effective and safe option for treating people with anxiety following acute coronary syndrome (ACS).

A 2018 study found that the administration of melatonin was more effective in improving anxiety and sleeping patterns than the drug oxazepam in people undergoing heart surgery. Another 2018 study also indicated that melatonin could cause a higher reduction in anxiety compared to alprazolam in people undergoing various elective surgeries.

Melatonin supplements are available as oral tablets, oral pills, transdermal patches, and rectal suppositories.

Research has shown that doses ranging from 0.1–10 milligrams taken approximately 1–2 hours before bedtime are the most effective at improving sleep.

However, the accurate dosage for treating anxiety is still not clear.

People can look for supplements with approval from the US Pharmacopeia (USP), an independent nonprofit organization, to ensure correct dosing.

Learn about if it is possible to overdose on melatonin.

Research is ongoing to determine the exact cause of low melatonin levels. However, a few factors that can lead to its low levels are:

  • Age: Studies indicate that melatonin production decreases with age.
  • Diseases: An older study suggests several diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, migraine, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer, can lead to low melatonin levels.
  • Light exposure: Exposure to light — especially at night — can cause low melatonin levels. Blue light is quite effective in the suppression of melatonin.

Various factors can lead to anxiety. Common causes include:

  • exposure to stressful environments such as family issues or difficulties at work
  • a family history of anxiety or other mental disorders
  • medical conditions such as diabetes, heart arrhythmias, or thyroid disorders
  • overuse of caffeine or illegal substances

Learn more about what causes anxiety.

Most people do not experience side effects when taking melatonin supplements.

The side effects produced by melatonin are mostly mild, but a person should speak with a healthcare professional if they cause issues. Side effects include:

Serious side effects are rare. A person should speak with a healthcare professional as soon as possible if they experience the following symptoms:

People must consult a healthcare professional before taking melatonin since it can interact with other medications such as blood thinners, antidepressants, and blood pressure medications.

People who are pregnant or nursing must also consult doctors before taking melatonin.

Some common supplements and vitamins that can help relieve anxiety are as follows:

  • Vitamin D: Several studies have shown that the intake of vitamin D supplements or foods rich in vitamin D can help with anxiety.
  • Vitamin B complex: Studies show vitamins B6 and B12 play an important role in reducing anxiety.
  • L-theanine: This amino acid is commonly available in green tea. Research has highlighted it has the potential to promote mental health and thereby improve anxiety.
  • Magnesium: An essential mineral that helps to maintain homeostasis. Magnesium supplementation is beneficial for the improvement of anxiety.
  • Omega-3: This is present in flaxseeds and fish. A few studies have highlighted that it can have a beneficial effect on anxiety.
  • Chamomile: One of the most extensively used herbal supplements throughout the world. Very few studies have taken place on the impact of chamomile on anxiety. However, they indicate that chamomile can help to reduce anxiety and is quite safe.
  • Kava kava: This is a South Pacific medicinal plant. Intake of kava root can help relieve anxiety.
  • Valerian: Several studies have indicated valerian roots play an important role in treating sleep problems and anxiety.
  • Lavender: Exposure to lavender in any form can help in the improvement of anxiety.

Anxiety treatment can take place with the help of therapy or medication. People can speak with a healthcare professional to understand the most suitable treatment option.

Therapy

Talk therapy or psychotherapy can be useful for people with anxiety. Two types of therapy for anxiety are:

Medications

The medications that can help treat anxiety include:

  • Antidepressants: Includes serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which can treat anxiety by controlling stress and mood.
  • Benzodiazepines: These act faster than antidepressant medications and can be useful as the first-line treatment for anxiety. However, they cause serious withdrawal symptoms if a person uses them long term, so they are typically recommended for short-term use only.
  • Buspirone: This is a nonbenzodiazepine that can help to treat anxiety. However, its use is not widespread since it takes 2–3 weeks to show results.
  • Beta-blockers: This medication is typically used for high blood pressure but can also help improve anxiety.

People experiencing severe anxiety symptoms, such as a high heart rate, feeling depressed, having sleeping difficulties, or having suicidal thoughts, must visit their doctors.

Doctors can then identify the underlying condition and provide a suitable treatment option.

People undergoing treatment for anxiety must also visit doctors in case they are experiencing any issues with ongoing medications.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Click here for more links and local resources.

Here are some common questions about melatonin and anxiety.

Does melatonin help with panic attacks?

The role of melatonin in helping panic attacks is still not clear and requires further research.

Does melatonin help with insomnia?

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) suggests melatonin as the first-line treatment for insomnia.

Melatonin is a hormone that helps to modulate sleep patterns. Few studies indicate that melatonin can help treat anxiety, especially in people undergoing surgical procedures.

Several supplements of melatonin are available. However, people must only take melatonin on a doctor’s recommendation since it can interact with other medications and produce certain side effects.