Rumors are spreading saying that taking melatonin supplements may interact poorly with oral contraceptives. But does melatonin cancel out birth control? Gaby Vaca-Flores, RD, takes a closer look.
Many of us use melatonin to ease ourselves to sleep. However, new stories are emerging questioning whether melatonin impacts the efficacy of your birth control. Here’s the 411 on melatonin, plus what you need to know about taking melatonin and birth control together.
How does melatonin work?
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate our circadian rhythms, aka our internal 24-hour clock. It works by responding to darkness to let our bodies know it’s time to wind down and prepare to fall asleep. Naturally, the amount of melatonin your body produces levels down during the daytime or when exposed to light, even throughout the night.
Benefits of Melatonin
Melatonin is popular for helping people fall asleep. Establishing a regular and restful nighttime routine boasts plenty of benefits in itself, including:
- Improved mood and stress levels
- Clarity of mind
- Getting sick less often
- Healthy weight management
- Lowered risk for certain health conditions
Another point worth mentioning is melatonin’s role in some of our body’s vital functions. According to a 2017 review on melatonin, this hormone has a physiological hand in:
- Supporting normal fetal development during early stages of pregnancy (talk to your doctor before supplementing with melatonin if you’re pregnant)
- Regulating blood pressure and cardiovascular functions
- Protecting the gastrointestinal tract against ulcers
- Collagen synthesis and bone mass regulation
There are also claims that this miracle hormone can help you feel better in more ways than simply feeling well-rested. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health suggests that melatonin can help people suffering from certain sleep disorders and even anxiety. However, they acknowledge that more research is needed to support melatonin’s efficacy to address these conditions.
Should You Supplement with Melatonin?
Melatonin is naturally secreted by our brain’s pineal gland to support our sleep cycle. But as we age, melatonin levels gradually decline, which can potentially result in frustration due to restless nights.
People who have trouble falling asleep often turn to melatonin supplements to get their sleep cycles back on track. You can find both natural and synthetic melatonin supplements on the market. Natural formulas source melatonin from the pineal glands of animals, including cattle. On the other hand, synthetic formulas create melatonin in a lab, thus offering a vegan option.
Do melatonin Supplements affect birth control?
Savita Ginde, MD, told POPSUGAR that the pineal gland, in addition to being responsible for producing melatonin, also regulates important female hormones that impact fertility and the menstrual cycle. Ginde explains that “while there are no definitive studies, one can propose that taking or adding external melatonin could impact natural cycles, whether it’s natural sleep cycles or natural hormonal cycles.”
Additionally, concerns on taking both melatonin and birth control are centered around the risk of producing too much melatonin. A 2012 review found that taking birth control results in higher levels of nighttime melatonin due to the absence of catalyzing enzymes that normally break it down. The liver is responsible for metabolizing both melatonin and hormonal birth control. Taking them together can be stressful on the liver and can lead to improper breakdown of one or both hormones, thus possibly putting birth control’s efficacy at risk.
As a registered dietitian, I always like to look at the what the science has to say. In this case, the truth is that there’s little concrete evidence that proves that melatonin cancels out birth control. Despite the lack of conclusive research, it’s always smart to check in with your prescribing doctor before taking melatonin supplements if you’re on birth control (or any other medications for that matter).