The United States has one of the world’s largest melatonin marketplaces, if not the largest. However, given that the National Institutes of Health estimates that 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disturbances, this may not be a surprise. Nonetheless, figures from the National Health Statistics Report reveal that the population taking melatonin increased between 2002 and 2012, and that percentage has continued to climb, particularly in recent years. While there are several methods to consume melatonin, such as over-the-counter tablets and fruit-flavored candies, people have recently begun inhaling (yes, inhaling) melatonin. You’re not alone in raising an eyebrow at that.
Melatonin diffusers, also known as melatonin vaporizers or vape pens, have been making their way across social media, popping up in influencers’ TikToks as the secret to getting a good night’s sleep. People appear to be convinced that these vape pens help you fall asleep faster and sleep better than melatonin pills or chewable. And melatonin diffuser companies like Health vape back up this claim, saying on their website that all you need to do is take a few puffs or hits of their “modern aromatherapy gadget” to go to sleep.
Sounds a bit silly enough. But are melatonin diffusers legitimate — and safe? Here’s everything you need to know about inhaling your way to sleep before you try one of these devices.
What Is Melatonin, Again?
Melatonin is a hormone made by our bodies and controls how and when we sleep. It tells our circadian rhythm (our body’s clock) when we should sleep and wake up. There are many reasons why someone might not be able to sleep when they should or have to sleep at an odd time, such as jet lag, working night shifts, pulling an all-nighter, etc. Some people naturally have less of the hormone in their bodies. Melatonin could help get your body back on track when your sleep schedule is messed up or you can’t sleep because of stress or anxiety.
Most people don’t know that this bedtime supplement is also essential for other body functions, in addition to helping them sleep better. It has been used to boost the immune system, treat inflammation, help the heart, and do many other great things to help you look and feel your best.
What Is a Melatonin Diffuser, Exactly?
Melatonin diffusers are a relatively new addition to the field of sleep aids, and each one is unique. In general, they include a liquid (including Melatonin) that, when breathed, changes into a mist or vapor. According to the company’s website, Health Vape’s Melatonin vape warms up to the temperature required to turn the liquid composition into an inhalable vapor.
Sounds familiar? That’s because Melatonin diffusers work like e-cigarettes or Juuls. Breathing Melatonin is not the same as vaping an e-cigarette, which includes nicotine, propylene glycol, flavorings, and other substances. Indeed, melatonin diffuser maker Health Vape emphasizes on their websites that vape pens have Melatonin and a handful of other relatively safe substances. For example, Health Vape’s Melatonin vape (Buy It, $19.99) contains Melatonin (157 mg), Passionflower (157 mg), Chamomile (157 mcg), Valerian Root (157 mcg), L-Theanine (157 mcg), Peppermint, Mandarin Orange, Cassia.
The most appealing feature of melatonin diffusers is that you can instantly feel their effects. When concentrated Melatonin is breathed, it is promptly absorbed in your lungs and swiftly enters your circulation. When a melatonin tablet is taken, it must first be metabolized or broken down by the liver. This longer process is why specialists recommend taking it up to two hours before night, according to a National Library of Medicine article. (In the interim, you may try unwinding with a peaceful yoga routine.)
According to Dr. Friedman, melatonin pills or gummies, if taken immediately before going to bed, might disrupt your sleep patterns because they take several hours to work. So, if you take it at 10 p.m. before going to bed, you may raise your melatonin production around midnight while sleeping, making it more challenging to get up in the morning. On the other hand, melatonin diffusers supposedly eliminate the possibility of morning grogginess by delivering relaxing, drowsy effects nearly instantaneously. The critical word here is “theoretically,” as so much about these popular pens is still unknown.
Is a Melatonin Diffuser Safe to Use?
While melatonin diffusers seem fantastic in principle, you might want to listen to what an expert says about melatonin diffuser safety before making any conclusions. “Vaping anything [typically] has inherent negative effects,” says Dr. Friedman. Sure, most melatonin diffusers don’t include pharmaceuticals such as addictive nicotine or the hazardous substances hidden in e-cigarettes (think: vitamin E acetate, a popular component in vaping goods linked to lung illness). However, lately, vaporizers have been studied, and none have examined melatonin diffusers.
Not to add, breathing anything into your lungs that’s not oxygen might come with hazards. (Unless you’re using, for example, a nebulizer or natural inhaler for medical reasons like asthma.) Even while Inhale Health claims the vaporized combination contains “pharmaceutical-grade chemicals,” you’re inhaling a mist with unclear safety, efficacy, and legality. Plus, the long-term health implications of breathing vapor, regardless of its composition, are not yet fully recognized, observes Dr. Friedman. And that’s the actual problem.
Another issue? These gadgets are named “diffusers” and “aromatherapy devices” rather than “pens” or “vapes,” which may give them a health halo. At this time, it’s well-established that vaping is harmful. And while melatonin diffusers employ the same principles as vape pens, their moniker can make them appear more like a healthy equal to aromatherapy diffusing and less like vaping. What Is Popcorn Lung, and Can Vaping Cause It?
Experts say melatonin is the safest and most effective method to sleep, but like other supplements, it’s not for everyone. Talk to your doctor about how to fall asleep if you can’t stop counting sheep.
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