Is Melatonin Safe for Sleep Problems in Schizophrenia?

Taking melatonin can benefit people with schizophrenia. But a doctor will be able to tell you about possible side effects.

How we sleep can directly impact our mental and physical health. For example, sleep can be critical to your recovery and symptom management when you’re not feeling well.

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that causes you to experience one or more of the following symptoms:

Sleep problems, including insomnia, can be an issue for people with schizophrenia. Talking with a doctor about effective medications is vital to address your symptoms.

When you experience poor sleep, schizophrenia symptoms may worsen and be more challenging to manage. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you may wonder whether melatonin is a safe option.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by your pineal gland. But one 2017 review Indicates that schizophrenia causes a lower production of natural melatonin, which may lead to disruptions in your sleep-wake cycle.

Symptoms of sleep-wake disorders, such as insomnia, include:

  • difficulty falling asleep
  • difficulty staying asleep
  • poor quality of sleep

To receive a diagnosis of a sleep-wake disorder, the above must occur.

In a 2019 study assessing those diagnosed with schizophrenia and related disorders, 80% of participants received a sleep disorder diagnosis, the most common being insomnia (50%) and nightmare disorder (48.3%).

Melatonin is a widely available dietary supplement designed to treat insomnia and other sleep-related concerns. Even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate or approve its use, many doctors may recommend melatonin as a first-line treatment for insomnia because it’s relatively safe.

A recent review of studies found mixed results regarding the effects of melatonin on sleep in people diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Talking with a doctor before treating your insomnia symptoms at home is essential. They can assess the reasons behind your insomnia, including having the wrong medication dosage or poor sleep hygiene (such as sleeping in the daytime). They can help you find solutions based on the specific causes of your insomnia.

Benefits

The same research also highlights the other potential benefits of melatonin besides improved sleep quality. For example, it may help with the side effects of antipsychotic medications, such as:

Effects on your metabolism

A small 2014 study reported that in people taking olanzapine for first-episode schizophrenia, those taking melatonin had less weight gain and lower triglyceride levels (a type of fat) than those not taking melatonin.

Tardive dyskinesia (TD) symptoms

The review outlines mixed results for using melatonin to relieve tardive dyskinesia (TD) symptoms. One study found that a dose of 10 mg per day helped decrease symptom severity.

But more recent findings suggest an even higher dose produces no more significant effects than the placebo. More research is needed to understand how melatonin impacts TD symptoms.

Overall, more research is needed to make definitive statements on the benefits of melatonin therapy for people with schizophrenia.

Side effects

When you first receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia, your doctor may recommend a second-generation antipsychotic medication such as aripiprazole (Abilify) or olanzapine (Zyprexa).

Some of the common side effects seen with this class of medication may worsen when taking melatonin. For your safety, consider seeking advice from your doctor before taking new medications or supplements.

Taking melatonin with your antipsychotic medication can increase specific side effects like drowsiness and dizziness. But there isn’t evidence that melatonin prevents antipsychotics from treating your symptoms or that it can cause serious harm.

When you can’t sleep, that lack of rest can make the symptoms of schizophrenia unbearable.

Research shows that suicide is a leading cause of premature death in 12% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia. In addition, the likelihood of suicidal thoughts and behaviors grows with sleep disturbances.

If melatonin isnt successful in improving your sleep, there are other options.

Better sleep hygiene

Specific lifestyle changes may help you sleep better, such as limiting:

  • caffeine
  • alcohol
  • smoking
  • daytime naps

Adding a regular exercise program and a healthy diet may also help.

Therapy

Various types of therapy available can also help manage insomnia symptoms. These include:

When you don’t get the sleep your body needs, it can be hard to get through the day. And you may find it tougher to manage your schizophrenia symptoms.

Medications and other treatments may help with insomnia. For example, the supplement melatonin may help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep.

But if you’re experiencing difficulty sleeping, talking with a doctor is helpful as melatonin isnt right for everyone.

Also, other strategies, like improving sleep hygiene and incorporating relaxation techniques, may be helpful. When you prioritize your sleep, you’re not only prioritizing shuteye, but you’re also putting your physical and mental health first.

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