For the third of American adults who report getting insufficient sleep, a natural sleep aid like melatonin may sound appealing. After all, it can be bought over the counter and isn’t associated with the addictive qualities or potentially risky side effects of other sleep medications. Now, melatonin is available in a variety of forms, including vape pens and diffusers combined with essential oils like lavender and chamomile. But before you order any of these products, it’s important to be aware of the risks of vaping and long-term melatonin use.
Jennifer Butler, MD, who specializes in sleep medicine at Piedmont Healthcare, told POPSUGAR that melatonin is no longer strongly recommended for treatment of chronic primary insomnia. “Recent clinical studies investigating melatonin’s overall efficacy in improving sleep onset, sleep maintenance, or sleep quality were poor,” Dr. Butler said. If you have insomnia, she recommends seeking guidance from your physician or sleep clinician in order to get to the root cause. For example, Dr. Butler noted that insomnia can be the result of untreated sleep apnea or medical conditions like thyroid disease.
This isn’t to say you should never take the supplement, assuming you’ve cleared it with your doctor — but experts do advise against vaping melatonin. “Many take a supplement if they are having trouble regulating this hormone in their own body, but research has not been done on consuming this in vapor form,” said Rizwan Bashir, MD, a neurologist based in Atlanta. Dr. Bashir explained that an oral supplement takes anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour to be fully absorbed by the liver. “Vaping melatonin can access your lungs and blood stream instantly, and typically these pens offer a lot more melatonin than the body is used to,” he told POPSUGAR. This means that you could be consuming more melatonin than your body is intended to have, which could mess with your circadian rhythm.
“Too much of a good thing can definitely be a bad thing,” Dr. Bashir said. “Is this too much melatonin? There is no research to effectively say yes or no. That should serve as a warning to users.”
Then there’s the issue of vaping itself, which poses its own risks. Khushboo Chokshi, MD, a pulmonologist at Piedmont Henry Hospital in Georgia, told POPSUGAR that one of the biggest dangers of vaping any substance — whether it’s nicotine, THC, or melatonin — is the risk of e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI). Dr. Chokshi described EVALI as a serious condition that can lead to death, noting that lung tissue evaluated from 17 EVALI-related deaths showed damage similar to what’s seen in patients who have been exposed to chemical fumes from a toxic spill. “One of the main issues with vaping is that no one knows what is in the vaping liquids or what exactly is causing the acute lung injuries and deaths,” she told POPSUGAR.
Bottom line: if you’re struggling to sleep, it’s always best to check in with your doctor, instead of trying to treat the problem on your own.