The Link Between Melatonin and Depression, What Are The Harmful Risks?

Research and interest in melatonin and depression treatment are growing. However, studies show mixed results even in sleep disorders, and any evidence should be carefully examined. Continue to read to learn more about the link between melatonin and depression.


The Connection Between Melatonin and Depression

The use of melatonin supplements is rising among adults despite their adverse side effects and lack of solid evidence of efficacies. Research suggests that melatonin may play a role in other brain and bodily functions, including mood and emotions. However, scientists still do not fully understand these effects. Some people have reported that melatonin supplementation may exacerbate symptoms of depression by lowering their energy levels. However, there is limited evidence to confirm these claims.

Other people have suggested that melatonin supplementation could improve depression symptoms in people with major depressive disorder and other mental disorders. Scientific studies have so far shown mixed results, and more research is needed to see whether melatonin supplementation can be an effective complementary or alternative mental health treatment for depression.

Is Melatonin a Depressant?

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in your body that helps promote sleep. Because of its calming and sedating effects, it’s also called the “sleep hormone.” Your pineal gland releases melatonin into your brain at certain times of the day. It releases more at night and slows production when it’s light outside.

The daily rhythm of melatonin synchronizes the body to the light/dark environmental cycle. Several theories have been raised to understand the intersections between melatonin and depression, in which changes in rest-activity and sleep patterns are prominent. 

There’s no evidence that melatonin causes depression in people with no history of the disorder. Melatonin can also be considered a drug. In the United States, melatonin is considered a dietary supplement. This means that it’s regulated less strictly by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) than a prescription or over-the-counter drug would be. In several other countries, melatonin is available only with a prescription and is considered a drug. [1]

What are the harmful effects of melatonin depression? As melatonin is used for sleep, it brings energy levels down. Weakened energy can contribute to feelings of depression. Lowering one's mood more than the individual is used to can lead to a depressive state.
What are the harmful effects of melatonin depression? As melatonin is used for sleep, it brings energy levels down. Weakened energy can contribute to feelings of depression. Lowering one’s mood more than the individual is used to can lead to a depressive state.

Depression is a term with multiple meanings. As a state, a depressive mood may be an adaptive stress response. Depressed mood states manifest as typical behavioral phenomena (anhedonia, psychomotor disturbance) and dysregulation in neuro-vegetative functions (altered appetite, disturbed sleep), which may result from various physiological events.

As part of a mental disturbance, depressive symptoms can manifest in several conditions, such as unipolar or bipolar mood disorder, substance abuse, and general medical disease. On the other hand, Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), as defined by international guidelines such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the International Classification of Diseases ICD, is a syndromic construct assembled as a distinct clinical condition. According to the fifth edition of the DSM, at least one of the two cardinal symptoms must be manifested to reach a positive diagnosis: depressed mood and loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities.

Of the nine cognitive (e.g., impaired concentration), emotional (e.g., feelings of worthlessness), and somatic symptoms (e.g., psychomotor agitation or retardation, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances) listed as diagnostic criteria, at least five must be present during the same 2-week period, with the symptoms representing a change from the previous baseline. Of note, other medical conditions that can cause the same symptoms must be excluded.

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Depression and Melatonin Statistics

Melatonin is sold as an over-the-counter dietary supplement in a range of doses. But studies have not consistently shown that taking melatonin supplements helps with insomnia, jet lag, or recovery from shift work. It may provide some benefits for people with less-common sleep disorders caused by problems with the body’s internal clock. But more research is needed to understand how and when it can be used effectively.

Does melatonin make you depressed, or does it help the symptoms of the disorder? Many people diagnosed with depression take melatonin to help them sleep. Short-term use of melatonin supplements appears to be safe for most people. However, information on the long-term safety of these supplements, especially for mental illnesses, is lacking. [2]


2.1%

Melatonin use increased from 0.4% of survey respondents in 1999 to 2000 to 2.1% from 2017 to 2018. This trend was similar between men and women and across age groups.

Source: NIH

9.5%

Approximately 9.5% of American adults, ages 18 and over, will suffer from a depressive illness (major depression, bipolar disorder, or dysthymia) each year.

Source: NIH

1 in 5

In 2020, Nearly one in five U.S. adults lived with a mental illness. The most common mental disorders in the US are anxiety disorders, major depression, and bipolar disorder. 

Source: NIH


Melatonin and Depression Facts Sheet

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are among the most common depression treatments. SSRIs are antidepressant medications that affect the balance of serotonin in the brain, a hormone that helps regulate mood, sleep, and other basic functions. However, research has found that SSRIs only improve depressive symptoms in about one in five people living with moderate to severe depression.

Because of this, scientists have trialed melatonin treatment for depression. Melatonin treatment typically involves taking melatonin supplements once or twice a day, including once around bedtime.


What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a natural product found in plants and animals. It is primarily known in animals as a hormone released by the pineal gland in the brain at night and has long been associated with control of the sleep-wake cycle.

Synthetic melatonin is a dietary supplement. Non-FDA-approved Indications for melatonin include insomnia. Despite the lack of FDA approval, melatonin is considered the first-line pharmacologic therapy for insomnia by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). It is relatively safe with a low risk of side effects. 

Take 1 to 3 milligrams two hours before bedtime. To ease jet lag, try taking melatonin two hours before your bedtime at your destination, starting a few days before your trip.

Melatonin is used to treat sleep problems in people aged 55 and over. It can sometimes be prescribed to help prevent headaches in adults. Melatonin is available on prescription only in some countries. But melatonin is sold over the counter (OTC) in health food and drug stores in the United States. It comes as slow-release tablets and a liquid that you drink. [3]

What is Depression?

Depression is a severe medical illness. It’s more than just feeling sad or “blue” for a few days. If you are one of the more than 19 million adults in the United States who have depression, the feelings do not go away. They persist and interfere with your everyday life. Symptoms can include:

  • Feeling sad or “empty”
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Overeating, or not wanting to eat at all
  • Not being able to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Feeling very tired
  • Feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious, or guilty
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

There are effective treatments for depression, including antidepressants, talk therapy, or both.

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Can Melatonin Cause Depression and Anxiety?

There’s no evidence that melatonin causes depression in people with no history of the disorder. But some people do experience side effects. Usually, this includes some mild dizziness, nausea, or drowsiness. But in less common cases, melatonin depression during stress causes:

  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Short-term Depression

So far, the consensus seems to be that taking melatonin can cause temporary symptoms of depression. But it won’t cause someone to show prolonged symptoms typical of a diagnosis of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders.

The interactions between melatonin and depression are complex. While melatonin production may impact behavior - by making us want to sleep, for example - our behavior may also impact melatonin production by determining our light exposure, feeding behavior, and activity levels.
The interactions between melatonin and depression are complex. While melatonin production may impact behavior – by making us want to sleep, for example – our behavior may also impact melatonin production by determining our light exposure, feeding behavior, and activity levels.

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Can Melatonin Cause Depression and Worsen It?

The link between melatonin and mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, isn’t fully understood. A small 2002 study suggests that people with depression might have higher melatonin levels. And a 2006 review of multiple studies suggest that the brains of people with depression often produce more melatonin at night. [4]

Remember, melatonin helps your body prepare for sleep. It makes you feel less energized, a common symptom of depression. If you experience low energy as a depression symptom, taking melatonin could worsen it.

Can taking melatonin cause depression? While short-term feelings of depression melatonin effects are a rare but possible side effect, it’s unclear if it would cause worsening symptoms in someone already diagnosed with depression. Furthermore, most people who take melatonin — including those with and without depression — don’t always experience this side effect.

The complexity and intricacies of our biological clocks and circadian rhythms make it difficult to pinpoint causal effects, and clinical trials for melatonin and depression offer mixed results. If you or a loved one seeks help for insomnia or depression, connect with We Level Up FL for science-based mental health resources.
The complexity and intricacies of our biological clocks and circadian rhythms make it difficult to pinpoint causal effects, and clinical trials for melatonin and depression offer mixed results. If you or a loved one seeks help for insomnia or depression, connect with We Level Up FL for science-based mental health resources.

Does Melatonin Help With Depression?

Does melatonin cause depression, or does it help it? In different locations, the melatonin receptor agonist agomelatine is approved to treat depression in Europe. [5] While treatments for depression are available, scientists have found that their effectiveness varies greatly from person to person. This may be attributable to the wide variety of symptoms that a person with depression can experience – one person’s experience of depression may be very different from another.

A recent systematic review explored the effects of melatonin treatment on individuals living with different types of depression. The results of clinical trials for melatonin and depression are mixed. While some studies found no antidepressant effect, others found significant improvements in depressive symptoms.

In particular, one study found that a combination of slow-releasing melatonin and buspirone had a significant antidepressant effect on depression. Another found that taking melatonin supplements twice daily improved symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.

A separate review of melatonin supplementation’s effects on clients with co-morbid conditions offered mixed results. Two studies found melatonin treatment to improve depressive symptoms in older adults with sleep complaints among individuals with the delayed sleep-phase syndrome. However, several other melatonin and depression studies found no significant effects.

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Can You Combine Melatonin With Other Depression Treatments?

If you take medication for depression and are trying to explore more natural options, such as melatonin supplements, make sure to do so slowly and under the supervision of your healthcare provider. Abruptly stopping medications, especially antidepressants, can cause serious side effects.

If you’re currently being treated for depression, melatonin may be worth trying in addition to other prescribed treatments. However, it may be safer to skip melatonin if you take certain medications, including:

  • Central nervous system depressants, including diazepam (Valium)
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
  • immunosuppressive therapy drugs, including prednisone, methylprednisolone, hydrocortisone, cortisone, dexamethasone, and codeine

Other possible drug interactions include:

  • Anticoagulants and anti-platelet drugs, herbs, and supplements. These types of drugs, herbs, and supplements reduce blood clotting. Combining the use of melatonin with them might increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Anticonvulsants. Melatonin might inhibit the effects of anticonvulsants and increase the frequency of seizures.
  • Blood pressure drugs. Melatonin might worsen blood pressure in people taking blood pressure medications.
  • Central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Melatonin with these medications might cause an additive sedative effect.
  • Diabetes medications. Melatonin might affect sugar levels. If you take diabetes medications, talk to your doctor before using melatonin.
  • Contraceptive drugs. Using contraceptive drugs with melatonin might cause an additive sedative effect and increase the possible side effects of melatonin.
  • Cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) and cytochrome P450 2C19 (CPY2C19) substrates. Use melatonin cautiously if you take drugs such as diazepam (Valium, Valtoco, others) and others affected by these enzymes.
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox). This medication used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder can increase melatonin levels, causing unwanted excessive drowsiness.
  • Immunosuppressants. Melatonin can stimulate immune function and interfere with immunosuppressive therapy.
  • Seizure threshold lowering drugs. Taking melatonin with these drugs might increase the risk of seizures.

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Depression Mental Health Treatment

The good news is, among mental health issues, depression is one of the most treatable. Medications like antidepressants, cognitive behavioral therapy, and electroconvulsive therapy have been proven to improve depression symptoms positively.

The We Level Up FL primary mental health center stands ready to help. The We Level Up FL team can inspire a support system through our mental health treatments to make you feel valuable. You can trust the treatment backed by leading recovery specialists practicing evidence-based therapy. We Level Up FL Treatment Center offers therapy under one roof. Get comprehensive therapy for mind, body & spirit.

Call us now for a free mental health assessment! In addition, for the substance abuse or dual diagnosis approach, our inpatient treatmentinpatient medical detox, and residential primary addiction treatment may be available at our affiliated facility. For more endogenous depression treatment resources, call us about your symptoms, and we can help you determine the cause and develop a treatment plan.

Popular Melatonin and Depression Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can melatonin make you depressed?

    Yes. Too much melatonin can also affect mood. You may feel cranky, anxious or have periods of temporary depression.

  2. Are the side effects of “melatonin depressed next day” typical?

    No, melatonin depression next day is not typical. Less common melatonin side effects might include short-lasting feelings of depression, mild tremors, mild anxiety, abdominal cramps, irritability, reduced alertness, confusion, or disorientation the next day after taking the drug.

  3. Can you take melatonin for depression treatment?

    While melatonin may help with depression symptoms, there’s no evidence that melatonin alone can treat depression. Make sure to keep up with other depression treatment options while trying melatonin, including medication and therapy.

  4. Is melatonin a good antidepressant?

    If you’re prone to depression and anxiety at night or have trouble falling asleep because of anxiety, melatonin might prove a helpful tool. That’s because a racing mind often causes insomnia in people with both conditions.

  5. Should you take melatonin if you have depression?

    It would be best to consult your doctor or mental health professional first. While melatonin may help with depression symptoms, there’s no evidence that melatonin alone can treat depression. Moreover, the side effects of melatonin can worsen depression.

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Sources

[1] Tonon AC, Pilz LK, Markus RP, Hidalgo MP, Elisabetsky E. Melatonin and Depression: A Translational Perspective From Animal Models to Clinical Studies. Front Psychiatry. 2021 Apr 8;12:638981. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.638981. PMID: 33897495; PMCID: PMC8060443.

[2] Use of melatonin supplements rising among adults – NIH/National Institute of Health

[3] Savage RA, Zafar N, Yohannan S, et al. Melatonin. [Updated 2022 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534823/

[4] Varma A, Kaul RK, Varma P, Kalra V, Malhotra V. The effect of antidepressants on serum melatonin levels in endogenous depression. J Assoc Physicians India. 2002 Oct;50:1262-5. PMID: 12568211.

[5] Major Depression – National Institute of Mental health (NIMH)

[6] Depression – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health

[7] Chand SP, Arif H. Depression. [Updated 2022 Jul 18]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430847/

[8] InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Depression: How effective are antidepressants? [Updated 2020 Jun 18]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK361016/

[9] Bains N, Abdijadid S. Major Depressive Disorder. [Updated 2022 Jun 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559078/

[10] Medical Encyclopedia →  Depression – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health