The vitamin aisle is looking a little more colorful these days. That’s because a newer form is growing in popularity: gummy vitamins. These chewable supplements seem to be all the rage these days. Kids love them, and adults aren’t embarrassed to admit they love them too. And they’re great for those who have trouble swallowing pills.
If you’re one of the 35% of Americans who wrestle with sleep problems, you’ve possibly considered a sleep aid like melatonin. These supplements also come in a bite-size form, but can they really help with your slumber troubles? Are they safe? Or will you bite off more than you can chew?
First, it may help to understand what melatonin is before you pop one in your mouth.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that our brain’s pineal (a small, pea-shaped) gland produces that regulates our body’s circadian rhythm or body clock and helps us transition from sleep and wake. Some people inherently have less melatonin, but there are many things that can mess with our clock—things like technology right before bed, stress, what we eat and drink and the environment in which we sleep.
“A lot of people who suffer from poor sleep may be desperate for a quick fix and may assume supplements are a safe and effective measure to take,” said Joyce Lee-Iannotti, MD, a neurologist and sleep medicine specialist with Banner Brain & Spine. “While sleep gummies may help induce sleep, they aren’t a magic chew, especially if you’ve got an unresolved or underlying issue.”
Given melatonin’s role in sleep, you may assume grabbing a bottle of melatonin gummies is no big deal but there are some things to consider first. Before you take a bite and hit the hay, here are five things to keep in mind about sleep gummies.
1. Sleep gummies aren’t a long-term fix
While there is some evidence that short-term use of sleep gummies could be effective for those with temporary jet lag, delayed sleep-wake disorders and some shift workers, there’s not resounding evidence for long-term use. And in some cases, you may just be masking another problem.
“Your insomnia or sleep troubles could actually be related to sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, a periodic limb movement disorder, anxiety or depression,” Dr. Lee-Iannotti said. “In these cases, melatonin won’t help – it will only mask it. When these issues are treated, oftentimes the insomnia resolves. But if left untreated, these issues may worsen or even lead to complications.”
To help determine your risk for sleep apnea, fill out our free Sleep Apnea Profiler.
2. Sleep gummies have side effects
They may come over the counter and seem harmless, but sleep gummies aren’t without some uncomfortable side effects.
“Even at low doses, some side effects include morning drowsiness, headaches and dizziness,” Dr. Lee-Iannotti said. “In children, it can cause agitation and increased bed-wetting.”
For these reasons, make sure you don’t drive or operate heavy machinery for five hours after taking melatonin.
3. Sleep gummies aren’t for everyone
Sleep gummies, used conservatively, are generally safe, however, some people should talk to their doctor before taking them. These include:
- Pregnant or nursing mothers
- Those on blood pressure medication or blood thinners
- Those with type 1 diabetes or autoimmune diseases
- Those with epilepsy
4. Not all sleep gummies are created equal
Like other vitamins lining the shelves of your local pharmacy, sleep gummies aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which means they aren’t tested for safety or effectiveness and could contain some hidden ingredients. They can also vary greatly in dosage.
“One study found major inaccuracies with what was listed on the label and what was actually found in each dose,” Dr. Lee-Iannotti. “Some even add serotonin, which can have drug to drug interactions and pose health risks.”
If you are going to purchase melatonin gummies, look for supplements that have been certified by third-party groups like the National Sanitation Foundation International or the U.S. Pharmacopeia for its stamp of approval.
5. Talk to your doctor first
Short-term sleep gummies can act as a sleep aid, but could mask underlying issues, pose some potential health risks and shouldn’t be taken long-term. Before you reach for a bottle of sleep gummies, make sure you talk to your doctor first.
To help reduce your reliance on sleep aids, you may want to consider some lifestyle changes as well. Things like sticking to a regular bedtime routine, limiting caffeine and making your bedroom cool and comfortable can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. For more helpful tips, check out “How to Get Better Sleep at Night.”