Article written by
Dipak HemrajHead of Research and Education
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
It’s likely OK to use melatonin and cannabis together. Still, because both are used to treat insomnia and sedative effects, you might experience increased side effects, including dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, difficulty concentrating, impaired thinking, and loss of motor coordination.
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What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that your body secretes to maintain your sleep-wake cycle or biological clock. Melatonin is an over-the-counter (OTC) dietary supplement in the U.S. and is often used as a sleep aid.
In people, melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain responsible for synchronizing circadian rhythms, including sleep-wake timing and blood pressure regulation. In plants, melatonin defends against oxidative stress, and melatonin in both animals and plants. Melatonin also has potential neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties, but the mechanism behind how it works as such is unknown.
In humans, melatonin production decreases as they age, leading to later sleeping and waking times. Blue light also suppresses melatonin production, making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
Uses and How It Works
Melatonin is commonly used for treating conditions known to interfere with sleep quality, including:
- Jet lag
- Shift work sleep disorders in night workers and those with alternating work schedules
- Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder (N24). This is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder where a person’s biological clock fails to synchronize to a 24-hour day. They find themselves gradually sleeping later and later until they suffer from sleep issues, including extreme sleep deprivation. This disorder primarily affects blind people but may also result from other health problems.
Melatonin is primarily used as a supplement to remedy sleep problems and help users get a good night’s sleep but it also shows potential as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Melatonin is also available in an extended-release (melatonin XR) version.
The precise science behind how melatonin works is complex, and some parts are not well understood. However, we know that melatonin binds to specific melatonin receptors M1, M2, and M3.
The sleep promotion effects of melatonin have been tied to the activation of the M1 receptor. The M2 receptor is responsible for phase-shifting the internal circadian clock to follow the Earth’s natural light-dark cycle and vasodilation. When melatonin binds to the M1 and M2 receptors, nerve activity reduces, allowing you to relax and drift off to sleep. Melatonin levels are usually highest at night, between 12 and 8 a.m.
MT3 serves a detoxification role in the liver, heart, intestine, kidney, muscle, and fat. In vertebrates like mammals, melatonin secretion is regulated by activating the beta-1 adrenergic receptor by norepinephrine (noradrenaline), a neurotransmitter partly responsible for the body’s flight-or-fight response.
Potential Benefits and Risks of Mixing Cannabis and Melatonin Supplements
Although there may be a moderate drug-drug interaction when mixing cannabis and melatonin, it is not uncommon to see hemp-based, full-spectrum CBD products combined with melatonin to help users get a good night’s rest. However, these are products with little-to-no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), so melatonin’s sedative effects as a natural sleep aid may be enhanced if combined with cannabis higher in THC and other cannabinoids like cannabinol (CBN).
- Using a mixture of marijuana and melatonin may help you get to and stay asleep.
- Cannabis also increases the production of natural melatonin, so you can lower the dose of melatonin you need for the desired effect.
- There is little proven harm in mixing melatonin with cannabis or CBD.
- Mixing cannabis with melatonin can increase the chances of experiencing adverse side effects and melatonin overdose. Melatonin overdose is not deadly but can leave you feeling groggy than usual in the morning and potentially cause nausea.
- Melatonin can increase the amount of time spent in REM sleep, whereas cannabis decreases the amount of time spent in REM sleep but increases the amount of time spent in deep sleep. It is not known what sort of effect this has, if any.
- Melatonin is not ideal for the long-term management of insomnia.
Why Mixing Cannabis with Melatonin Supplements Can Help You Feel Better
Although it is possible to take too much of both cannabis and melatonin, there is unlikely to be any danger if you do so. Indeed, it is possible to utilize cannabis to reduce the need for melatonin (and vice-versa), which could help increase melatonin’s efficacy in the long term as lower doses are needed. This can also reduce the chances of melatonin overdose as well.
Another potential advantage (even though it is listed as a possible risk above) is that, as melatonin can increase REM sleep and cannabis can increase deep sleep and reduce REM sleep, using both in conjunction could help return balance to sleep and improve REM sleep in cannabis users. However, this is not known for sure, and there could be both positive and negative effects on the sleep cycle when mixing cannabis and melatonin.
The Bottom Line
Combining melatonin and cannabis can increase the sedative effects, so the two work in synergy. Although there is little research on the concurrent use of both, there is no evidence to suggest that using melatonin and cannabis together is majorly harmful.
There are many anecdotal reports of people using the two together successfully, and several products are available on the market that combines phytocannabinoids and terpenes with melatonin. Appropriately dosing is key to ensuring that both negative effects do not outweigh the positives.
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