Eat a Brownie and Overdose on Melatonin

Did you catch the NYT front page article yesterday on new snacks that deliver a walloping dose of the hormone melatonin? 8 mg per brownie. People, this is massive. This is madness. And it’s available at Walmart, 7-Eleven and the Harvard Coop.

Where’s the voice of reason, here? Even the NYT seemed to think it was just fine, and perhaps a better choice than Xanax for the stressed-out.

A better way to approach melatonin is to start with the question: Are you low? Common complaints of low melatonin include:

  • poor sleep: agitated, with or without restless legs, superficial, full of anxious thought
  • muscle tension, especially at night
  • premature aging in adults or precocious puberty in kids
  • fatigue
  • anxiety, lack of serenity
  • seasonal affect disorder

If you’re low in melatonin, you can pick it up at your local health food store and see if it helps you with your symptoms.  However, I start at 0.5 mg, not 8 milligrams!

If it doesn’t help your sleep, for instance, your problem is probably not low melatonin.

Melatonin is made in your body from serotonin, and you can make more with the help a little Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C. Other methods to raise melatonin: increase morning sunlight exposure, and maximize darkness at night. Evacuate your bedroom of those nasty LED lights on alarm clocks and your other electronic toys.

While we’re on the subject of massive doses, what are the signs you’ve gotten too much? Waking up after only 3-4 hours of sleep. Intense feeling of your own heart beat when you wake up, perhaps with excessive sweating. Great difficulty falling back to sleep. Feeling groggy in the morning. Very lucid dreams, almost uncomfortably so.  Sleeping excessively 9 to 11 hours.

In short, if you need melatonin, take a smaller dose than Walmart is offering.



  1. Kelly thompson on May 23, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    These side effects of too much Melatonin remind me a bit of symptoms I attributed to Prozac. Might there be a connection?

    • Sara Gottfried MD on May 23, 2011 at 7:50 pm

      Yes, indeed! Melatonin is made from serotonin, so too much serotonin feels much the same as too much melatonin since they are derived similarly. Great noticing!

  2. Jenn on May 25, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    So, is there a way to bring down melatonin/seratonin levels if you have too much naturally?