Thousands of people around the world take melatonin to experience wild dreams. But what if you need to take melatonin to fall asleep, but experience horrible nightmares? Why does this happen? And what can you do to stop them? In this article we’ll discuss why melatonin nightmares happen and what you can do prevent them (while still taking melatonin).
Melatonin is a natural hormone in your brain that signals your brain and body that it’s time to shut down and go to sleep. This is great if everything works perfectly. But if you do not produce enough melatonin for some reason, then you lay in bed unable to fall asleep. Or you only get tired by 3 AM while you need to be at work at 9. Taking melatonin as a supplement can be incredibly helpful in these situations.
That is, unless you wake up drenched in sweat because of your extremely vivid nightmare. That you otherwise wouldn’t experience without melatonin.
Melatonin nightmares: why do you get them?
In my article about melatonin and its effect on dreams I discussed 3 theories why melatonin increases your dream-ability and chance of lucid dreaming. In that article I’m speaking to the audience who want to INCREASE the weird dreams. However, the theories behind it work the same. here they are:
- Melatonin increases your time in REM sleep – the more REM time, the more time to experience dreams. Hence you statistically have more chance of experiencing a nightmare.
- Melatonin makes you sleep deeper – sleeping better also increases the depth of your REM sleep. The deeper this is, the more intense your dreams can feel.
- Melatonin causes REM rebound – which type of people are most likely to take melatonin? Exactly. Those with sleep problems. When you finally do sleep well (with the help of melatonin), you’re REM-deprived brain will take every opportunity to get as much of it as possible.
if you’re looking for more information behind these theories (and sources), go check my melatonin dreams article.
it’s very well possible that these 3 theories work together to create the melatonin nightmares effect.
Why do some people get nightmares and others have nice dreams? I don’t know. I guess it’s the natural distribution and that some people are just more predisposed to nightmares than others.
If you’ve suffered trauma, then this often already comes up in dreams without melatonin. So when taking melatonin, this might be intensified.
Can you stop melatonin nightmares?
There are 2 keys to stopping melatonin nightmares. The first one lies in regular nightmare treatment. Here’s what the mayo clinic has to say about lifestyle remedies for treating nightmares:
Establish a regular, relaxing routine before bedtime. A consistent bedtime routine is important. Do quiet, calming activities — such as reading books, doing puzzles or soaking in a warm bath — before bed. Meditation, deep breathing or relaxation exercises may help, too. Also, make the bedroom comfortable and quiet for sleep.
Offer reassurances. If your child is struggling with nightmares, be patient, calm and reassuring. After your child awakens from a nightmare, respond quickly and soothe your child at the bedside. This may prevent future nightmares.
Talk about the dream. Ask your child to describe the nightmare. What happened? Who was in the dream? What made it scary? Then remind your child that nightmares aren’t real and can’t hurt you.
Rewrite the ending. Imagine a happy ending for the nightmare. For your child, you may encourage him or her to draw a picture of the nightmare, “talk” to the characters in the nightmare or write about the nightmare in a journal. Sometimes a little creativity can help.
Put stress in its place. If stress or anxiety is an issue, talk about it. Practice some simple stress-relief activities, such as deep breathing or relaxation. A mental health professional can help, if needed.
Provide comfort measures. Your child might feel more secure if he or she sleeps with a favorite stuffed animal, blanket or other comfort object. Leave your child’s door open at night so that he or she won’t feel alone. Leave your door open, too, in case your child needs comfort during the night.
Use a night light. Keep a night light on in your child’s room. If your child wakes up during the night, the light may be reassuring.
The second key has to do with melatonin itself. I did a lot of research on how to invoke melatonin dreams. So it makes sense that if you want to not have them, you just need to do the opposite.
Take small doses
Most people who accidentally stumble upon the effect of melatonin on dreams take large doses. Ten milligrams is no unheard of. For some reason in the U.S. manufacturers put way too large dosages in their melatonin pills.
Starters should better take half a milligram. Melatonin does not become more effective if you just take a little. The fall-asleep-effect gets cut off somewhere after half to one mg. Unless you’re looking to get crazy dreams.
So be sure to check your dosage per pill (especially if you’re in the USA). And look for a brand that has small dosages.
Take it regularly
People looking for wild melatonin dreams, often report that it loses its effect after taking it for a while. Maybe they get used to the dreams, or there is an adaptation in the brain against such vivid dreaming. I don’t know.
But you can use this knowledge to your advantage if you want to get rid of melatonin nightmares. Taking a little bit on a regular basis can help you. Maybe you’ll get nightmares the first couple of nights, but after that things will slow down. You’ll still experience the sleepy effect, just without nightmares.
Don’t sleep in
REM sleep is predominantly present in the second half of the night. The first half is mainly for deep sleep.
I know that my most vivid dreams are always there on weekend nights. I still wake up at 8 (habit from the working week), but often choose to get another 1.5 – 2 hour sleep. During this part my dreams are the most intense and I recall them best.
So for melatonin nightmares, it’s best to skip this phase.
What are your experiences with melatonin and hangovers? What did you do to make them less intense? Let us know in the comments!