If you have ever struggled to sleep for any length of time, you might have considered trying melatonin supplements. This well-known sleep aid has been available in pill and tincture form for many years, and many users swear by it for a good night’s rest.
As with any new product designed to be taken into the body, medical professionals and others have concerns about this new dosing method. But what exactly are melatonin vapes, and are they a safe alternative to taking a pill or a drop of melatonin tincture? Let’s explore those questions and see what all the fuss is about.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in the brains of humans and other vertebrates. It helps to regulate the body’s circadian rhythms of sleep-wake timing and blood pressure. The more melatonin in the brain, the easier it will be to fall (and stay) asleep. Reduced or irregular melatonin production in humans commonly leads to insomnia, broken sleep, or unusual sleep cycles.
In human infants, the production of melatonin in the brain stabilizes at the age of around three months. After this, hormone production follows a 24-hour cycle (approximately) and is at its highest levels between midnight and 8 am. This is why new parents often look so tired for many weeks after the birth of their child; there is no natural sleep-wake cycle in place, so newborns wake and sleep according to other needs, such as hunger or comfort.
As we age, the production of this “sleep hormone” changes several times, most notably in our teens. In our teenage years, nightly melatonin production is delayed, leading to being awake later and having trouble waking early. After stabilizing for most of our adult lives, the amount our bodies produce starts to taper off as we reach late middle age. It never recovers, which explains why older people generally sleep less or suffer broken sleep more often.
Melatonin might also be a factor in regulating weight gain, supporting the immune system, and even acting as an antioxidant, but studies into these additional properties have been inconclusive. However, there is little doubt that having the correct amount of melatonin is crucial to our long-term health and well-being.
Why Are People Vaping Melatonin?
Melatonin was first isolated from the glands of frogs in the 1950s. Following the discovery of its production and use by the human brain years later, it was synthesized for use in sleep aid medication. The first example of such a medication was Melzone in 1996. It has since become a popular and widely-used sleep aid supplement, particularly for people in their fifties or older.
So perhaps the simplest answer to this question is to have a better night’s sleep. But why people are choosing to inhale it rather than taking it in a pill or tincture is another question.
Proponents say that vaping is a more controlled way to take melatonin and that you can more easily tailor your dose to what you need. You don’t need to take a whole tablet dose when you might only need a couple of puffs to send you off to sleep. Vaping a substance also delivers it to your bloodstream (and therefore to your brain) quicker than by ingestion of a pill.
Opponents of vaping melatonin argue that dosing is, in fact, less controllable and that you know exactly how much of the hormone is in a tablet but not how much is in each puff of a vape. The very idea of vaping this hormone is so new that there are zero long-term studies and few studies of any kind into the potential dangers.
There is also a feeling of experimentation, which perhaps isn’t particularly helpful to the vaping-as-smoking-cessation cause. Vapes are now being used to inhale several seemingly odd things, including caffeine, vitamins, and essential oils. Many things, opponents argue, which have never traditionally been inhaled directly and which could cause unknown damage.
Is Vaping Melatonin Legal?
In the United States, Melatonin is classed as an over-the-counter dietary supplement. Therefore, it is entirely legal to sell, buy, and use in almost any way you desire, including in a vape. The majority of worldwide Melatonin vape sales are likely in the U.S. There have been calls to reclassify melatonin as a medication recently, but it’s not currently controlled by FDA regulation.
In other countries, including the United Kingdom and most of Europe, melatonin is legal but much more controlled and is commonly unavailable without a prescription from a health professional. It would range from difficult to impossible to buy a vape containing melatonin at a store within these countries, and we could find no example of a melatonin vape available on prescription in any European country.
Some countries, such as Australia, allow the sale of melatonin over the counter, but only to those over 55 and not in a vape. Considering Australia’s current crack-down on vaping in general, it is unlikely that you’ll ever legally be able to buy a melatonin vape there.
Are Melatonin Vapes Safe?
Melatonin is a naturally produced compound found in the human brain. It can also occur naturally in cherries, plums, bananas, rice, herbs, and olive oil, among other foods. It has been available in supplements and prescribed as a sleep aid medication for decades. But does all of that mean that it is safe to vape?
Unfortunately, the answer is that science doesn’t know how safe it is to inhale this hormone in vapor. It is too new a thing to have been studied in any great detail (we could find no published studies into the potential dangers or benefits of vaping melatonin,) but you are unlikely to find a single doctor who would recommend vaping melatonin as a safer or better alternative to taking a pill or tincture.
Vaping involves heating, and just as heating standard nicotine vape liquid creates trace amounts of other chemicals, heating synthesized melatonin may do the same. However, even the answer to this fundamental safety question is hard to answer due to lack of study.
One of the main arguments for choosing to vape over ingesting is that the user feels the results faster, which is pretty tenuous. It’s not as if taking a pill 30 minutes before bed is so complicated or arduous that replacing it with something that doesn’t need to be remembered makes any sense. When weighed against the unknown but potential risks that could be involved in inhaling the substance, a pill still feels like the safest option if you’re having trouble sleeping.
Possible Side Effects of Using Melatonin
There are several known side effects of taking too much melatonin in any form, ranging from strange dreams to nausea, fainting, blurred vision, and in rare cases, anaphylaxis. If you decide to try this sleep aid supplement, through a vape or in a pill/tincture, here are some side effects to look out for.
Common Minor Side Effects:
- Feeling tired during the daytime
- Stomach ache
- Feeling irritable or restless
- Dry mouth
- Dry or itchy skin
- Arm or leg pains
- Strange dreams
- Night sweats
Some of these common side effects can be mitigated by staying hydrated, taking the dose on a full stomach, and avoiding alcohol. But if you are worried or the side effects persist, stop taking the supplement and speak to your doctor.
Serious Side Effects:
- Feeling depressed
- Blurred vision
- Fainting or passing out
- Bleeding that is slow to stop
- Unexplained bruising
- Blood in urine
- Anaphylaxis (blue lips, swollen throat/tongue, struggling to breathe)
If you suffer any of these side effects after a dose of melatonin, stop taking it and speak to a medical professional. In the case of anaphylaxis, seek emergency medical treatment.
Melatonin Vapes Vs. Diffusers – What’s the Difference?
Melatonin vapes and melatonin diffusers look very similar, which often leads to confusion about how each is used and which is better for getting a dose of the sleep aid hormone. Neither contains nicotine, but there are some significant differences to be seen.
A melatonin vape most commonly looks like any other small disposable vape, with a standard flattened mouthpiece. Just like when using a normal vape, the user places the mouthpiece to their lips and draws on the device like a cigarette. It is generally recommended that you do not draw too heavily on a melatonin vape.
A melatonin vape will also include other ingredients like Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin, to allow the liquid to be aerosolized, along with flavoring ingredients. You will not see PG or VG listed as ingredients in a diffuser.
Melatonin diffusers are commonly thinner than a vape and, confusingly, often look more like a cigarette or a cig-a-like vape than a disposable vape. Diffusers do not have a shaped mouthpiece or drip tip as they are not designed to be inhaled directly. Instead, a puff of vapor is created, often by squeezing a rubber end cap, which is drawn into the mouth. It should then be exhaled through the nose without taking it into the lungs.
Melatonin diffusers commonly include other ingredients that can aid sleep, including lavender and chamomile. They can also have flavorings such as menthol or berry added. One of the most popular brands is Cloudy, which also produces diffusers designed to help focus or be calm.
The Bottom Line
If you have gotten this far, you will know that melatonin vapes (and diffusers) are simply an alternative way to take this well-known sleep aid hormone. As for the question of whether melatonin vapes are safe and whether inhaling heated melatonin is safe, the jury is still out. Much more research is needed into the potential effects of a substance that, although naturally produced by our body, people are increasingly taking in an unnatural way.