If you struggle to get solid shut-eye, chances are you’ve heard of melatonin-based sleep aids. They come in all shapes and sizes, from pills to gummies to vape pens. While it’s more common to turn to it in oral form for drifting off to dreamland, what’s the deal with the newer melatonin vape products?
Melatonin doesn’t just come in supplement form — it’s actually a hormone that your body naturally produces to help regulate your sleep-wake cycle, says Dr. Vikki Petersen, CCN, a certified functional medicine practitioner, clinical nutritionist, and founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic. Your melatonin levels increase at night to help you feel drowsy in time for bed, and then dip in the morning to help you wake up. Melatonin supplements are a bottled version of the same thing, and are often used to help people who have insomnia, jet lag, or other issues that get in the way of a quality snooze.
Lately, people have been turning to vapes for their dose of melatonin. Vapes, aka a sort of pen or e-cigarette you inhale from, are commonly used to inhale nicotine, weed, or flavored vapor to get the desired effect without actually smoking the substance, says Dr. Brian Koo, MD, a sleep medicine specialist and scientific advisor at sleep fitness company Eight Sleep. And they’re popular — one in five 18- to 29-year-olds reported regularly vaping in a 2019 Gallup survey of 1,525 people.
While vaping is sometimes considered safer than smoking, there are significant safety concerns, says Koo. It can lead to lung injury or disease, says Peterson, and can be toxic to your overall wellbeing, including immune function and heart health. When it comes to vaping melatonin specifically, there’s currently not enough data to show whether it’s OK to try or not. Koo’s recommendation? Play it safe. “Whether or not vaping melatonin is safe over the long term is really not known and thus potentially dangerous,” he tells Bustle.
This lack of information also means that there’s no good way to understand exactly how much melatonin you’re vaping. And when it comes to this sleep aid, you can have too much of a good thing, says brain health specialist Dr. Teralyn Sell, PhD: There are consequences to overdoing it. Too much of the sleep-related hormone can give you a hangover of sorts, which she says can lead to symptoms like lethargy, anxiety, and headaches. Instead, taking controlled amounts of the supplement (often up to about 3 mg per dose) is the way to go, says Peterson.
Inhaling melatonin is also not natural to your body, says Peterson. “The pineal gland in your brain secretes melatonin directly into your bloodstream — your lungs are not involved,” she tells Bustle. “The best melatonin supplement is mimicking what your body does naturally.” Translation: Stick to your pills or gummies.
Bottom line? Skip the vape, says Koo. Vaping is dangerous, and the lack of data about vaping melatonin is reason enough to avoid it. Sell also recommends getting to the root of your sleep issues and practicing good sleep hygiene to address nighttime troubles at their source. “Many people want to skip over poor sleep practice and ‘solve’ the problem with melatonin,” she tells Bustle. “[With] vaping, err on the side of caution and look elsewhere.”
Gallup. (2019). What Percentage of Americans Vape? https://news.gallup.com/poll/267413/percentage-americans-vape.aspx
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Muthumalage, T. (2018). Inflammatory and Oxidative Responses Induced by Exposure to Commonly Used e-Cigarette Flavoring Chemicals and Flavored e-Liquids without Nicotine. Frontiers in Physiology, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2017.01130/full
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Teralyn Sell, PhD, brain health specialist