So the night before last, having not slept much in the previous 24 hours, I decided to give the melatonin one last try, on the theory that three’s a charm. The first time I used the stuff, it worked to keep me asleep for seven hours. The second time, as I remarked in my post on this experiment, a half-pill left me feeling “cranky” — that was an extreme understatement. I was on a tear for about 2/3 of the day: everything, but EVERYTHING made me mad as a cat.
But nevertheless, the three- and four-hour nights soon returned, leaving me too tired to function during the day. So I took another pill.
The result was a migraine, an episode of optic neuritis, and swollen ankles. I slept like a rock but awoke feeling just awful! I haven’t had a migraine in years, nor have I had the needle-jab in the eye, which is associated with the migraines, in that long. The needle-jab makes the migraine feel like a fun ride in the park — my god that hurts!!!
Although some people have complained of edema in the ankles following a dose of melatonin, there’s no proof of an association. In fact, it may have been brought on by a pair of new peds I put on to keep the toenail nostrum in place and not get it all over the sheets — those are elastic-y all over and kind of tight. Within five minutes of removing those, the swelling went down.
On the other hand, I’m like a canary in a coal mine where meds and nostrums are concerned: if something has a weird side effect, I will be among the one in 64,000 who get it.
But the headache sure as hell didn’t go away. At one point, too, I got so dizzy I had to sit down.
Among the top side effects of melatonin are sleepiness (check!), irritability (check! in spades…), headache (check!), dizziness (check!), and short-lasting feelings of depression (check!).
I hadn’t made the connection between the snake oil and the depression until I found a reference to it at the Mayo website. For several days after I started trying the stuff, I fell into such a deep blue funk I literally could not work. I just sat here staring that the computer. I have done nothing on Facebook: dropped off the face of the earth in the writers’ group I joined up, and have done no other marketing work at all anywhere else. Nor did I do any work on the book, which is now almost finished.
This interesting piece at the Huffington Post suggests melatonin should be regulated as a drug by the FDA, not as a “dietary supplement” (for godsake!). Many of the formulations you can buy off the shelf contain way more of the stuff than you need to make you fall asleep.
It’s easy to take too much, and most of melatonin’s side effects are the result of just that. While there’s no evidence that too much melatonin could be fatal, or even remotely life-threatening, exceeding the proper dosage can upset the body’s natural processes and rhythms.
“With some hormones, if you take too much you can really put your body in danger,” says Dr. [Richard] Wurtman [the MIT neuroscientist who patented the drug as an insomnia nostrum]. “With melatonin, you’re not in danger, but you’re also not very comfortable. It won’t kill you, but it’ll make your life pretty miserable.”
Yeah. You could say that.
By about 8 p.m., the effects were wearing off. In a haze all day long, I’d fought taking a nap, because anytime I sleep during the day, I’m not gonna sleep at night. But now I began to feel almost revved up…like…say…like it was dawn!
The melatonin seemed to have reversed the time of day. It was like the body wanted to sleep all day long — two or three p.m. felt just exactly like two or three a.m. But now that it was dark outside, the body wanted to spring awake.
So along about 11 p.m. I dropped a half a tablet of Benadryl. That worked: slept 6½ hours and awoke feeling rested and enjoying the illusion of being in control of life.
There it is, then. Don’t let minor annoyances push you to experimenting with over-the-counter nostrums and snake oils. There are worse things than not sleeping at night. And if you have a real ailment? Seek medical treatment…from a doctor. One with “M.D.” or “D.O” appended to the name.