• Oral Uses
• Topical Uses Thinning Hair in Women
Melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates sleep. During daylight, the pineal gland in the brain produces an important neurotransmitter called serotonin. (A neurotransmitter is a chemical that relays messages between nerve cells.) But at night, the pineal gland stops producing serotonin and instead makes melatonin. This melatonin release helps trigger sleep.
The production of melatonin varies according to the amount of light you're exposed to; for example, your body produces more melatonin in a completely dark room than in a dimly lit one.
Melatonin supplements appear to be helpful for people whose natural sleep cycle has been disturbed, such as travelers suffering from jet lag. The hormone may also be helpful in various other sleep disorders.
Based on early reports that melatonin levels decline with age, the hormone was briefly marketed as a kind of fountain of youth. However, newer evidence suggests that melatonin levels do not decline with age after all.
Melatonin is not a nutrient. However, travelers and workers on rotating or late shifts can experience sleep disturbances that seem to be caused by changing melatonin levels.
You can boost your melatonin production naturally by getting thicker blinds for the bedroom windows or wearing a night mask. You can also take melatonin tablets.
Melatonin is typically taken half an hour before bedtime for the first 4 days after traveling.
For ordinary insomnia, melatonin is usually taken about 30 minutes to 1 hour before bedtime. To fall asleep on Sunday night after staying up late Friday and Saturday, one study suggests using melatonin 5.5 hours before the desired bedtime.
The optimum dose of melatonin is not clear, but it is probably in the 1 to 5 mg range.
Melatonin is available in two forms: immediate-release (just plain melatonin, also called "quick-release") and slow-release (a special preparation, also called "controlled-release," designed to spread melatonin absorption over many hours). It seems reasonable to suppose that quick-release melatonin helps in falling asleep, while slow-release melatonin helps in staying asleep, but study results are inconsistent on this issue. 1
Reasonably good evidence tells us that melatonin can help people with jet lag
Three small double-blind studies suggest that use of melatonin might reduce symptoms of
Four double-blind studies performed by Saudi researchers reported that melatonin was useful for reducing
A preliminary double-blind study suggests that melatonin may improve quality of life in children with epilepsy, perhaps by improving sleep and reducing medication side effects.
One surprising double-blind study suggests that topical application of melatonin may increase hair growth in women with thinning hair, for reasons that are entirely unclear.
Highly preliminary studies, including unblinded controlled trials, suggest that melatonin may enhance the effectiveness of standard therapy for breast cancer, prostate cancer, brain glioblastomas, non-small-cell lung cancer, and other forms of cancer.
Weak evidence supports a role for melatonin in reducing nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Melatonin?
Melatonin appears to produce sedation comparable to that of conventional pharmaceuticals used for inducing sleep
without impairing mental function.
For example, one double-blind, placebo-controlled study enrolled 320 people and followed them for 4 days after a long plane trip.
Another small double-blind trial found that airplane crews experienced improved rest when using melatonin (10 mg) as compared to placebo, and equivalent benefits as compared to the drug zopiclone.
According to one review of the literature, melatonin treatment for jet lag is most effective for those who have crossed a significant number of time zones, perhaps eight.
Studies of melatonin for the treatment of insomnia related to shift work have yielded mixed results.
Sleep in the Elderly
Mixed results have been seen with the use of melatonin for treating
One small study failed to find benefit for general insomnia in healthy people.
Sleep Problems in Children
A 4-week, double-blind trial evaluated the benefits of melatonin for children with difficulty falling asleep.
Delayed Weekend Sleep Pattern (Monday Morning Fatigue)
Many individuals stay up late on Friday and Saturday nights, and then find it difficult to get to sleep at a reasonable hour on Sunday. A small double-blind, placebo-controlled study found evidence that taking melatonin 5.5 hours before the desired Sunday bedtime improved the ability of participants to fall asleep.
Sleep in Hospitalized Patients
Benefits were seen in a small, double-blind trial of patients in a pulmonary intensive care unit.
Other Sleep Problems and Sleep Problems Among People With Specific Medical Problems
Small double-blind trials have found benefits for improving sleep in people with
Blind people often have trouble sleeping on any particular schedule, because there are no "light cues" available to help them get tired at night. A small double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial found that the use of melatonin at a dose of 10 mg per day was able to resynchronize participants' sleep schedules.
Some individuals find it impossible to fall asleep until early morning, a condition called delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS). Melatonin may be beneficial for this syndrome.
Individuals trying to quit using sleeping pills in the benzodiazepine family may find melatonin helpful. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 34 individuals who regularly used such medications found that melatonin at a dose of 2 mg nightly (controlled-release formulation) could help them discontinue the use of the drugs.
Note : There can be risks in discontinuing benzodiazepine drugs. Consult your physician for advice.
Melatonin has been used with conventional anticancer therapy in more than a dozen clinical studies. Results have been surprisingly good, although this research must be considered preliminary. For example, a double-blind study on 30 people with advanced brain tumors suggested that melatonin might prolong life and also improve the quality of life.
Improvements in symptoms and a possible reduction of mortality were also seen in other studies.
Some evidence suggests that individuals with
Seasonal Affective Disorder
One study found that people with
Melatonin has shown equivocal effects for two conditions related to SAD: subsyndromal seasonal affective disorder (S-SAD) and weather associated syndrome (WAS). According to the one reported study, use of melatonin improved some symptoms but worsened others.
A safety study found that melatonin at a dose of 10 mg daily produced no toxic effects when given to 40 healthy males for a period of 28 days. 37
Melatonin appears to cause drowsiness and decreased mental attention for about 2 to 6 hours after using it and may also impair balance.
Based on theoretical ideas of how melatonin works, some authorities specifically recommend against using it in people with depression, schizophrenia, autoimmune diseases, and other serious illnesses. One study in postmenopausal women found evidence that melatonin might impair insulin action and glucose tolerance, suggesting that people with diabetes should not use it.
Two exceedingly preliminary studies reported by one research group has led to publicized concerns that use of the supplement melatonin might increase night-time asthma.
There is some evidence that melatonin may interfere with the ability of blood to clot normally, at least in healthy volunteers,
Maximum safe dosages for young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with serious liver or kidney disease have not been established.
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Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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