Diary / Wellness / Nov 7, 2022
Does Melatonin Cause Weird Dreams?
Written by: Michele Ross
Photography by: Ben Ritter
If you’ve ever had difficulty falling asleep and looked into sleep-supporting supplements, chances are high that you’ve come across or supplemented with melatonin. As someone who’s struggled with insomnia for most of my life, I’ve taken melatonin supplements from time to time and have noticed a recurring trend when I do: More often than not, I have incredibly vivid dreams—which are sometimes even downright strange, scary, or otherwise intense. But does melatonin inevitably cause vivid dreams, or are other factors at play? Keep reading to find out.
How melatonin impacts sleep cycles and dreams
To start, it’s important to note that the body is able to produce melatonin on its own—so it’s not only available in supplement form. “Your body’s natural production is the best source of melatonin and therefore it is best to sleep in a dark room in order to optimize production,” begins Jack Dell’Accio, a Hippocrates Health Certified Sleep Expert and Founder of Essentia Organic Mattress.
As far as melatonin’s influence on sleep and dreams are concerned, Jack Dell’Accio notes that this sleep hormone is known to activate and extend time in the REM cycle of sleep, which occurs approximately every 90 minutes and is linked to vivid dreams. “If your body is naturally producing enough melatonin and you are also supplementing, you may be adding to your REM dream experience,” he explains.
Do melatonin supplements inevitably lead to strange or vivid dreams?
So… was my earlier hunch correct after all? Based on existing research, there’s no definitive proof that melatonin supplementation causes vivid, intense, or “bad” dreams. However, there may be at least a casual correlation between higher melatonin levels and such dreams on account of lengthier REM cycles.
“Dreams are typically linked to personal experiences and emotions, which are unique to each individual,” Dell’Accio shares. Countless factors contribute to how we dream and what we dream about, including but not limited to: stress levels, medications, food and alcohol intake, what we do and see each day, and our memories.
Any number of these factors (plus others, with melatonin intake and natural production among them) can contribute to the content and quality of dreams. “Melatonin, whether naturally produced or by consuming supplements, is likely to support active and extended REM cycles,” he reiterates, which again may contribute to—though not fully cause—vivid dreams.
Should you be concerned about melatonin and vivid dreams?
If your melatonin supplements help you get better quality sleep but may contribute to intense dreams, there shouldn’t be too much cause for concern—that is, as long as you’re not dependent on them to catch your ZZZ’s and these dreams don’t interfere with your mental health and overall quality of life.
(Note: Only short-term use of melatonin is suggested, as the safety of long-term nightly supplementation has yet to be determined. You may also want to look into taking a smaller dosage of melatonin if your dreams are especially intense and/or if you experience other undesired side effects from supplementation, but be sure to consult your doctor with any changes in your medication or supplement regimen.)
Ideally, however, you’ll encourage your body’s natural production of melatonin so that you don’t need to rely on supplements to get better rest… and potentially even have more pleasant dreams. “Focusing on the whole sleep environment—from blocking light and stimulating sounds, maintaining toxin-free air quality, proper pain management, and body thermoregulation—will extend both REM and deep sleep cycles, as well as enhance the body’s natural production of melatonin,” Dell’Accio explains. “This balanced approach for proper sleep quality will have better outcomes than just focusing on melatonin and REM, and will typically [yield] healthy outcomes with lifetime impact.”