Have you experienced crazy melatonin dreams? One quick look among sleep forums quickly shows that at least one thread about people talking about their nightly melatonin-fueled adventures. What causes this? Why do your dreams are so much more vivid when you take this sleeping aid? And just as important: what to do if you need to take melatonin to sleep, but don’t want the (sometimes nightmarishly) brain hallucinations? You’ll find all the answers in this article.
Melatonin dreams – why does melatonin give you such weird dreams?
Melatonin is the sleepy hormone in your brain. At night, after dark, your brain starts to release the hormone so that your neurological clock gets into night mode.
This has many different effects on your body and brain, but arguably the most important one is that you start to feel sleepy.
If you do not produce enough melatonin, then you won’t feel sleepy. As a result it’s difficult to fall asleep and you suffer from insomnia.
Note: not all insomnia is melatonin related, but a deficit can very well cause insomnia.
Because melatonin regulates your sleep, taking it has an effect on your dreams. This effect is not specific for everyone, but a large percentage of people experience weird dreams when they take this supplement.
Now, before we dive into the possible theories why this happens, let’s first discuss a couple of weird dreams that people have posted on the internet after taking melatonin.
Some examples of weird melatonin dreams
Unsurprisingly, many pages on Reddit discuss melatonin and dreams. Here are some of the interesting ones:
“I normally take melatonin once every few weeks if I’m having trouble sleeping, up until about two weeks ago when I started taking it every night. Roughly 6mgs per night. By day 5 or 6, I started having incredibly vivid, surreal, insane dreams. For instance one of the dreams was just the image of a human head, a mans head. I was looking at it and all of a sudden it starts slowly splitting open down the middle, as if a cleaver was cutting into it from the top, but there was no cleaver and it was very slow and methodical. I could see each layer as it was being pulled apart. No blood spurting or anything, just the layers opening up”Reddit – does anyone else have fucked up dreams?
“It started as me in my last period 8th grade class. I looked at the white board and it said 12/19/14. In my head I was like “wtf it’s 2017 not 2014.” I didn’t become lucid either. The funny part is that my mind came to the conclusion that I must have somehow traveled back in time and I had to re-live the last 2 and a half years of my life. It was crazy how real it felt too, I was sitting at my desk like “fuck how did this shit happen to me.” Anyways class started and I was talking to one of my old friends from middle school. I said to him “dude this is gonna sound crazy but I somehow time traveled.” When this happened the creepiest shit happened. The room went dead silence and all my dream characters stared at me with bug eyes. I got scared and ran out the room. Next thing I know I’m waking up in my bed and sweating like crazy. I get up and tell my mom about what happened. When I started talking to my mom I realised I was super short for some reason, then I looked at my hands and they were gone!! I started screaming and then I woke up for real. I had a false Awakening, I looked it up after the fact but it was scary because I never had one of those.”Reddit – melatonin causes weird dreams
“I found myself in sleep paralysis at one point during the night and decided to stick with it to transition into a lucid experience. Incredibly strange and alien sounds emerged into my awareness and for some reason, I inserted thoughts about Christmas and Santa Claus. I was transported into some grid-like room very similar to the training room in Street Fighter. I was in my bed hovering in this room and jumped out to see three giant sized nutcrackers dancing like robots. I high fived one of them and then I proceeded to see trippy visuals with things like candy canes and reindeer flying past me. I was lucid during all of this.”Reddit – melatonin is absolutely insane
Theories why melatonin enhances dreams
There are several theories why melatonin might enhance your dreams. Science does back some of them, but not everything has been completely tested and researched. So if you’re curious why you get some weird melatonin dreams, here are some possible explanations.
One: melatonin increases your time in REM sleep
Melatonin has been shown to increase REM sleep. REM sleep is the stage of sleep when you process new memories, make associations and regulate your emotions. Dreaming occurs when you’re in REM sleep.
So it only naturally makes sense that if you experience more REM sleep, you will also have more dreams. And since dreams tend to be weird anyway – it might very well be that you just have more dreams. In turn you’re more likely to remember one.
If you remember one out of every 5 dreams, then having 10 dreams, will make it twice as likely that you remember it.
Add to that the fact that virtually every dream is already weird in its own right. That means that taking melatonin does increase the chance of you having and remembering a dream.
Two: melatonin makes you sleep deeper
Now, these theories are not mutually exclusive. It’s very well possible that the real reason is a combination of these factors. That they work together to create an even stronger effect.
It’s also known that melatonin can make you sleep deeper. Since it regulates your internal clock, it shows your body that it’s time to go to bed. This sets off all the sleep mechanisms and your body goes into sleep mode.
If for some reason your melatonin production doesn’t work optimally, taking extra melatonin will make you sleep deeper.
And if you sleep deeper, you will dream more and those dreams will be more intense.
Three: REM rebound
Look, who are the main group of people that take melatonin? Exactly. Those who have sleeping problems. These people are already more likely to not get the right amount of sleep and do not give their brain enough REM stage to recover.
When they finally get a good night’s rest by taking melatonin, the brain goes into overcompensation of REM sleep.
This has been observed in alcoholics who stop drinking. Alcohol suppresses REM sleep, and heavy alcoholics sometimes get 0 of it over a long period of time. At a certain point the need of the brain is just too strong and it tries to force REM – even when the alcohol is awake. This can be very scary and is called delirium tremens.
So the same can happen (albeit in a lesser degree) if you’re sleep deprived. When you finally get the chance to sleep normally again, your brain starts to ramp up the amount of REM sleep that you get. As a result of this overactive sleep stage, you experience very vivid and weird dreams.
Three tips for using melatonin to get crazy dreams
The good thing about melatonin is that it’s relatively harmless. Many people take it for years without problems. There can be some side effects though, so watch out:
- Dependence (meaning your brain gets lazy and doesn’t produce any melatonin itself anymore)
- Drowsiness (take melatonin at night before sleep. Don’t take it if you still need to drive or be responsible in any way)
- Melatonin hangover (if you take melatonin and don’t allow your body to wake up naturally, you might be extra groggy in the morning).
For these reasons it’s a good idea to take melatonin responsibly. The last thing you want is to have your brain become lazy in producing its own sleep hormone.
If you want to experiment with melatonin for getting those crazy dreams, here are 3 tips you can do to increase the chances of success.
For regular sleep enhancement it’s argued that taking more melatonin does not make it more effective. However, if you’re looking for melatonin dreams, it’s recommended to take a higher dosage. You’ll see this in most melatonin dream reports as well.
The regular recommended dosage is somewhere between half and 5 milligrams. For dreams it’s better to err on the higher side. So be sure to take at least 3 grams.
Note, it’s still possible to experience the dreams when just taking a little. Anecdotal experiences however, have shown that there’s a higher chance of experiencing them when going up with your dosage.
Another recommendation that follows from science is to sleep in. After all, it has been shown that the most REM sleep you experience is most of the time in the second half of your night.
You’ve maybe experienced this already in some form or way. For example, whenever I sleep in on weekends and still wake up at my regular weekday waking time – I like to stay in bed for a while extra.
It’s always in this extra 1.5 to 2 hours that my dreams are the craziest. And that I recall them best.
So if you take melatonin at 12 at night – and you need to wake up for work at 6, then you probably aren’t experiencing the best time for melatonin dreams (and dreams that you can recall in general).
So it’s better to try and do this on the weekend when you have on alarm clock waiting for you.
Don’t take it too often
Another good idea is to not take melatonin too often. Save it for a special occasion, or once a week when you can sleep in and actually benefit from all the things that melatonin can do for you.
Also, anecdotal reports have shown that if you take melatonin daily, after a specific amount of time the dream’s will start to get less intense. This can be because your brain habituates to melatonin. It can also be that you’re getting used to the weird dreams. Another reason can be that you are sleeping better in general, and your brain has less need of an REM sleep rebound.
What to do if you need melatonin to sleep but don’t want the dreams?
Some people have the exact opposite problem. What to do if you cannot sleep without melatonin, but you’re absolutely terrified because of the potential nightmares that you might get?
Because melatonin can intensify every dream, if you’re prone to nightmares, this can also make them stronger and more vivid.
One way to counteract this is to take the tips from the previous tips and turn them around.
Try to take as little melatonin as possible for it to work correctly. Don’t take the higher doses such as several milligrams, but rather stay low and try if have a milligram works.
I also recommend in this case to experiment with taking it for longer periods of time.
A little bit more often will probably counteract the weird dreams.
You don’t want to go too far with this, so once a while try if you can fall asleep naturally without melatonin. Once you can do so, do this more often and wean yourself of it. This is a solid approach to reduce the melatonin dreams.
P.S. What’s your experience with melatonin and dreams? Does it make them stronger and more vivid? Share your experiments in the comments!