Does Melatonin Cause Vivid Dreams?

If you have trouble sleeping, you might have thought about giving melatonin supplements a try. But did you know melatonin might cause vivid dreams? Read on to find out more about the benefits of melatonin, its side effects, and how it is connected to dreaming.

By Sahajiya Halder
25 Aug 2021

Melatonin supplements have become increasingly popular as sleep aid, as some research suggests that melatonin can help with primary sleep issues such as delay in falling asleep and jet lag. A review of 19 studies published in PLOS One shows that melatonin may decrease the time taken to fall asleep by an average of 7 minutes, increase total sleep time, as well as improve the overall quality of sleep.

The sleep hormone, melatonin, is produced naturally in your body by the pineal gland in the brain. It regulates your body’s circadian rhythms—your internal clock. Melatonin levels rise in response to darkness, signalling to your body that it is time for sleep.

Some studies also suggest melatonin might help with eye health, gastrointestinal issues, and human growth hormone production, but sufficient research regarding these effects is still limited and not extensive, and hence requires further exploration for more concrete results.

The Link Between Melatonin And Vivid Dreams

A growing number of people who have taken melatonin supplements have been talking about experiencing vivid and often bizarre dreams. Although there has not been enough scientific research regarding this topic, social media sites such as Reddit are full of testimonies of strange and graphic dreams, sometimes convincingly real in their intensity.

A study published by Sleep and Hypnosis found that in a two week experiment which compared effects of melatonin against a placebo on dreams, participants experienced higher levels of “dream bizarreness” from melatonin.

Your sleep can be broadly categorised into two types– rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Most dreaming happens in the REM part of sleep. Research such as the study involving clinical trials that was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism shows that melatonin can increase REM sleep. This increase in the dreaming stage of sleep may account for the vivid dreams associated with taking melatonin. A study from Medical Hypotheses, which dealt with memory, REM sleep and melatonin, found that melatonin releases vasotocin, a neuropeptide that is associated with REM sleep. Vasotocin helps in erasing recent memory during dreams. An increase in levels of melatonin would increase levels of vasotocin, which could lead to more vivid dreams during rapid eye movement sleep.

On the other hand, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in 2018 found that taking melatonin helped some people to control experiencing nocturnal visual hallucinations.

Melatonin supplements are generally considered safe for short term use. Reviews of studies in Complementary Therapies in Medicine as well as in Clinical Drug Investigation suggest that it is mostly safe and does not have addictive effects.

However, it is prudent to consult your doctor about whether it might be beneficial for you, and to follow recommended dosage and instructions. It is also important to keep in mind that it may react with some medicines such as anticoagulants, anticonvulsants and immunosuppressants, and can cause side effects such as headache, dizziness, nausea, and daytime drowsiness. More research is required to determine its effects on children and during pregnancy.


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