Friday, February 10, 2006

Melatonin Not Effective For Insomnias

Melatonin useless for sleeplessness - study

Paris - People who buy melatonin in the belief that it will cure jet lag or other forms of sleeplessness are wasting their money, a study published in Saturday's British Medical Journal (BMJ) says.

Melatonin is a hormone secreted in the pineal gland, a small organ about one centimetre long located at the base of the brain. It is indirectly stimulated by light received through the eyes.

The gland plays a key role in circadian rhythms - the body's state of alertness in response to daylight or darkness - and from this has been born the "alternative" therapy of taking melatonin rather than a sleeping pill to compensate for disrupted sleep.

Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada reviewed 32 studies in which melatonin was tested on people with secondary sleep disorders (sleep problems associated with medical, neurological or substance misuse) and sleep disorders arising from jet lag or shift-work disorder.

Melatonin was ineffective in treating either kind of disorder, they say.

In the case of secondary sleep disorders, individuals who took melatonin boosted their duration of sleep by just 1.9 percent - less than 10 minutes in an eight-hour spell in bed - and this was so tiny as to be statistically insignificant.

As to whether melatonin is safe, the authors say it appears to be so, at least with short-term use.

Further work, though, is needed to see whether melatonin can be safely used for longer spells.

Related: The Sleep Racket: Who's making big bucks off your insomnia?


Blogger Nurse Practitioners Save Lives said...

I think it's the quality of sleep and not necessarily the quantity that helps people. I have terrible sleep during the night but when I'm able to get about 4 or 5 hours between 7:30-11:30 or so on my days off, I function better. I work the day shift so it's not a matter of my rhythm being off but that I am "hyper-alert" from years of abuse as a child. P.S. From what I can tell, you have put a link to me somewhere but I can't find it on your blog?? I will be putting one on my link page as well.. Thanks!

3:31 PM  
Blogger coturnix said...

I am assuming that the link was a part of the Grand Rounds from a couple of months ago.

Quality of sleep is very important, as you stated correctly.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

As a consistent user of Melatonin I have to say the study is bunk! Within 30 minutes of taking 1.5 mg of Melatonin I am sound asleep.

This is not a placebo effect, as I am able to fall asleep without it when exhausted (like after a 12 hour shift)

A drug rep has been pushing a melatonin-like drug to my doctor and since he knows I use Melatonin, he wanted my response so he gave me samples.

Pure garbage. Didn't even touch me.
And of course, it was ten times as expensive as melatonin. I told him it was garbage and he told the drug rep (who wanted to take him on a cruise, for CEUS) and said no to the cruise!
(I have a great doc).

I will be going over to look at the study later tonight.

Don't mess with my Melatonin, baby!

The only side effect of Melatonin is vivid dreams, and as long as they include Harrison Ford, I'm a happy woman........

9:38 PM  
Blogger coturnix said...

The studies and meta-studies keep coming out with contradictory results. This is far from resolved. I am sure melatonin works for some individuals and for some disorders, and not for others. I remain agnostic until there is something stronger that I see the whole field agrees with.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

My experience: ditto to both "improved quality of sleep" and "more vivid dreams".

The researchers were looking at the wrong metric.

11:36 PM  
Blogger Nortius Maximus said...

And I see no indications that they checked alertness or vigilance or mood.

I have successfully used melatonin to "get sleepy"; I have noticed that I seem to be wakeful after fewer hours of sleep that started with a melatonin dose than my "baseline" length of sleep.

I think agnosticism and a search for meaningful differences are both prudent for someone in coturnix's shoes. Science is hard-won and it's hard for humans to stay pancritically rational.

Plus, as is clear from other stuff linked to here, neurochemistry, affect, mood, pain and health are all deeply intertwingled. "T'ain't nothin' simple!"

10:43 PM  
Anonymous nbm said...

Am late catching up with Circadiana. Have missed lots of good stuff!

Exciting that NortiusMax tells what I, too, experience! I've never seen it said before tho I'm in contact with many who use melatonin regularly. Namely, I sleep a bit more than 8 hrs when allowed to sleep on my natural schedule, about 3-11 a.m., sleeping in even later some days. To keep my day job I force it earlier with melatonin + light box and am always a bit sleep-deprived. And, dagnab it, I can't even make up on weekends as I can't sleep longer than 7 hours.


1:46 PM  

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