Melatonin and Birth Control: Can You Take Both at the Same Time?
Sleeplessness is never fun. You're tossing and turning as the hours tick by. Your eyes become itchy and dry as your brain goes into overdrive. You try to relax—knowing the more you worry about not sleeping, the harder it will come. But no matter what you try, you can't seem to nod off.
If this all sounds painfully familiar, you may have a case of insomnia. And you may find that your doctor (or Dr. Google) suggests taking a melatonin supplement to help regulate your body's internal clock. However, before taking melatonin, it's important to understand how it can interact with your other medication—namely, birth control.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the human body responsible for your sleep cycle. This hormone is produced in the brain's pineal gland.
When functioning properly, the pineal gland produces the right amount of melatonin as the sun sets, signaling to the body that it's time to wind down and eventually doze off. In the morning, the brain stops producing melatonin, signaling to the body that it's time to wake up.
"Exposure to light can affect how much melatonin the body produces," explained Debbie Grayson, a U.K.-based drug-nutrient interaction expert. "Daylight exposure first thing in the morning can support the regulation of melatonin levels and blue light from technology can block the production of melatonin in the evening and negatively impact sleep."
When your melatonin levels are out of balance, you may find yourself struggling to doze off, or struggling to wake up in the morning. For this reason, many people choose to take an over-the-counter melatonin supplement to improve their sleep patterns.
Does a melatonin supplement interfere with birth control?
In one viral TikTok video, for instance, a young man said above the sound of a baby crying, "Did you know that melatonin cancels out birth control? Neither did my girlfriend." Numerous other people have tweeted and posted about the potential effects of melatonin on birth control—but is there any truth to their claims?
So far, scientific studies have been inconclusive. As one doctor told BuzzFeed, "There are no studies in humans that show any issue with melatonin or alcohol and birth control." In fact, in the early '90s, a melatonin-based birth control was trialed, with the results published in the European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology. One 2019 study in Antioxidants, however, did find that melatonin could increase the rate of fertility.
While the studies may be inconclusive, it remains possible that melatonin supplements could have an effect on the efficacy of your birth control. After all, melatonin is a hormone, and altering your hormone levels could have an impact on your natural cycles and reproductivity.
While the studies may be inconclusive, it remains possible that melatonin supplements could have an effect on the efficacy of your birth control.
Plus, different types of birth control might respond differently to melatonin.
"Melatonin supplements and contraceptive pills are both metabolized by enzymes in the liver," Grayson said. "When a number of substances are taken together, this can result in competition for access to the enzymes. The result of this can be that the metabolism of one can be reduced by the other."
In other words, it is possible that taking melatonin alongside a birth control pill could change the way your body metabolizes the pill.
"Depending on the amount of melatonin taken alongside your contraceptive, there is also the possibility that the metabolism of both the oestrogen and progestin hormones would be reduced by the melatonin," she added. "This could result in increased levels of both combined and progesterone-only contraceptives. Whilst there is no evidence of a reduction of contraceptive effect, there is a risk of increased side effects as a result of the interaction."
Does birth control affect your melatonin?
So, it seems melatonin may affect your birth control. Does that mean your birth control also has an impact on your melatonin levels?
The short answer is: potentially, depending on what kind of birth control you use.
A 1987 study in Acta Endocrinologica found that women on birth control had similar levels of melatonin compared to women not on birth control. However, a 1986 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism indicated contraceptives containing progestin tended to increase the natural levels of melatonin in the body.
"We know that oestrogen in combined contraceptives can reduce the metabolism of the melatonin produced by the body and, as a result, increase melatonin levels and possibly improve sleep," Grayson added. So, if you were to take a melatonin supplement alongside birth control (unless you take a progesterone-only contraceptive), you may find yourself excessively sleepy.
So, can you take both birth control and melatonin simultaneously?
Unfortunately, we don't really know enough about all of the potential ways birth control and melatonin can interact to give you a clear, absolute answer. While the current medical guidance suggests both birth control and melatonin are safe when taken at the same time, anecdotal evidence and the lack of conclusive scientific studies indicate that it may be better to err on the side of caution.
If you're concerned about your birth control interacting with your melatonin supplement, you can always try switching to a nonhormonal form of birth control, as this will minimize any potential risk. And, as always, be sure to speak with your doctor before combining melatonin and birth control if you're concerned.