Does Melatonin Reduce the Efficacy of Birth Control?

By Jennifer Nadel, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
March 8, 2022

If you have ever had trouble falling asleep, you know how frustrating insomnia can be.

With insomnia, you may try different options like relaxing before bedtime or listening to music so you can drift off to sleep.

Yet, you may not fall asleep.

You may have also tried a melatonin supplement. Melatonin supplements help promote sleep. If you are on a birth control pill, you may wonder if melatonin could reduce the efficacy of birth control.

There is not enough research to show the interaction between birth control and melatonin.

Melatonin is a natural hormone made by your body to promote sleep.

Taking its synthetic form can boost your natural melatonin level and may help you get some better shut-eye at night.

This article will explain in detail what melatonin is, if it can make your birth control ineffective and if it is safe to take with birth control.

The article will also cover what supplements interact with birth control as well as when a person on both birth control and melatonin medications should see a doctor.  

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone produced by a small gland called the pineal gland located in the brain. It is released in response to the world getting darker after sundown.

The purpose of melatonin is to help you regulate your circadian rhythm (your 24-hour internal clock) and establish regular sleep patterns. 

According to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) study, melatonin levels start to increase around 10 pm and decrease around 6 am, with your peak times being between 12 a.m and 4 am.

The most common use of a melatonin supplement is for treating insomnia and helping with jet lag.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) says melatonin supplements are most likely going to help with trouble falling asleep at bedtime.

Melatonin can also be used for depression, chronic pain, dementia, and other conditions; however, there is not much research in support of these uses. 

Melatonin is likely safe when taken by mouth by adults for short-term use.

However, not many studies have been done for its long-term use.

There are some possible side effects of melatonin use, such as headache, dizziness, sleepiness, and nausea. Also, there are some precautions you must take if you are taking melatonin.

For instance, health experts advise that you should not drive or use machinery for four to five hours after taking it.

Melatonin is available over-the-counter. The USDA considers melatonin a dietary supplement; therefore, it is not regulated like a drug.

This means that what is available on the shelf can vary widely from brand to brand. It could also mean that what’s listed on the label might not be accurate.

There are a few different forms of melatonin available on the market. You can get it as pills, gummies, liquid drops, diffusers, and vapes pens.

We would caution against the diffuser or vape form as there is no research on if the inhalation of melatonin is safe.

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Melatonin and Birth Control

When taking birth control pills, it’s always important to double-check that any other drug or supplements you take do not interact.

You should always talk with your doctor about all medications and supplements you take to ensure no dangerous interactions are not expected.

Can melatonin reduce efficacy of birth control?

There has not been a lot of research on the combination of melatonin and birth control.

According to the NIH, taking birth control pills (hormonal birth control) seems to increase the amount of melatonin in the body naturally.

This means taking melatonin and birth control might increase the effectiveness of melatonin for you and may also increase its side effects.

The liver is the organ that first breaks down melatonin, and the same applies to hormonal birth controls.

If taken at the same time, there could potentially be a decrease in your birth control’s effectiveness because the liver is working to break down both substances. However, this has not been fully studied.

Is it safe to take melatonin while on birth control?

The safety of taking melatonin with birth control is unknown.

There has been no scientific study done on the effects melatonin has on birth control.

As mentioned earlier, melatonin products are not regulated by the FDA and are not treated as drugs by government agencies. 

Studies have shown that the hormones in birth control can help with insomnia.

The hormones estrogen and progesterone present in birth control pills are also naturally made in your body. Throughout your menstrual cycle, their levels fluctuate.

Progesterone has been shown to reduce limb movements during sleep, increase the amount of slow-wave sleep, and help shorten the time it takes to fall asleep.

Estrogen may also influence sleep. When going through menopause, people who take estrogen are less likely to have trouble with sleeping than people who do not take estrogen.

Because of the effects the birth control hormones have on your sleep, you may get an enhanced effect if you also take melatonin.

This means you may feel drowsier during the day or have increased side effects of melatonin.

As a precaution, talk with your doctor.  

Melatonin is not recommended as a long-term solution for insomnia.

Although it is a naturally occurring hormone in the body, health experts do not advise taking them for more than four weeks.

If you feel you are having trouble sleeping and don’t want to try melatonin, here are some tips to help you fall asleep faster:

  • Avoiding caffeine in the afternoon
  • Avoid alcohol and large meals before bed
  • Do your exercise during the day, not right before bed
  • Stop looking at electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime
  • Create a quiet, dark, and cool environment for sleep
  • Stick to going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends

Other Supplements that Interact with Birth Control

The box your birth control comes in will have a list of medications and supplements that can possibly interact with it.

One of the main supplements to avoid is St. John’s wort which some people take to help with depression, insomnia, and anxiety.

There is research suggesting it can possibly decrease how well your birth control works, leading to an increased risk of pregnancy.

Other supplements that may influence how well your birth control works include:

  • Saw palmetto
  • Alfalfa
  • Garlic pills
  • Flaxseed
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When To See a Doctor

If you have trouble sleeping and are on birth control pills, you should talk with your doctor before trying any new supplements or medications.

Your doctor will be able to help you evaluate how effective your birth control will be with any added medications or supplements.

Your doctor can also discuss additional forms of birth control to help prevent pregnancy.

Because of the lack of research on the topic, your doctor may have other suggestions for sleep aids. Let your doctor know of your concerns so you can make the best decision for your health.

How K Health Can Help

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does melatonin interfere with birth control?
Not much research has been done on this topic. The research that has been done shows that the hormones estrogen and progesterone present in birth control pills may affect sleep, increasing the natural amount of melatonin your body is releasing. Taking a melatonin supplement may enhance the effects of melatonin. This could make you sleepier during the day and also increase the side effect of melatonin.
Why does melatonin cancel out birth control?
Melatonin has not been proven to affect the efficacy of birth control pills. No research has been done specifically on melatonin's effects on birth control. If you are having trouble sleeping, it’s best to talk to your doctor about sleep aids so you can be sure no medication interactions will occur.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Jennifer Nadel, MD

Dr. Jennifer Nadel is a board certified emergency medicine physician and received her medical degree from the George Washington University School of Medicine. She has worked in varied practice environments, including academic urban level-one trauma centers, community hospital emergency departments, skilled nursing facilities, telemedicine, EMS medical control, and flight medicine.