Melatonin – Review the Latest Research

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What is melatonin? How is it used?

Melatonin is the name of a hormone the brain produces in response to dark. It aids in the time of the circadian cycle (24-hour internal timer) and with sleep. Exposure to light in the dark can inhibit the production of melatonin.

Research suggests that melatonin has other functions in the body besides sleep. However, the implications of these actions are not completely understood.

Melatonin-based supplements to diets can be derived by microorganisms or animals; however, they are usually made synthetically. The following information is on Melatonin supplements for dietary use.

What are the benefits to health of Melatonin?

Melatonin supplements could help treat specific ailments, like jet delay, sleep-wake disorder, sleep disorders among children, and anxiety both before and after surgery.

Jet lag

Jet lag can affect people who fly across different time zones. If you suffer from jet lag, you might not feel as well all over and could experience trouble sleeping, fatigue during the daytime, impaired performance, and digestive issues.

Melatonin supplements can help combat jetlag. This is based on moderate-sized reviews of 2010 and 2014.

  • Four studies involving 142 people discovered that melatonin might be more effective than placebo (an inactive substance) in helping to reduce the overall effects of jet lag that occur after eastward flights. Another study involving 234 people who flew eastward focused on sleep quality and found evidence of low quality that melatonin might be better than placebo in improving the quality of sleep.
  • Two studies involving the participation of 90 people discovered that melatonin might be superior to a placebo for reducing the symptoms of jet lag following a westward flight.

Delayed sleep-wake-phase disorder (DSWPD)

People suffering from DSWPD are unable to fall asleep at regular times and get up in the early morning. They generally have trouble falling asleep before 2-6 a.m. and prefer waking at 10:00 a.m. or 1 p.m.

Melatonin supplements are believed to aid sleep issues in those with DSWPD. However, it's not clear whether the benefits are worth the risks. The study is based on a guideline for clinical practice, a brief review, and an even more recent study.

  • In 2015, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommended that melatonin supplements be administered at specific times to treat DSWPD. The recommendation was not strong and was accompanied by a question mark about the extent to which its benefits are greater than its potential ill effects.
  • A 2016 review that examined a tiny number of participants (52) in two different studies revealed that supplements containing melatonin decreased the time it took for those suffering from DSWPD to sleep compared with placebo. It took just 22 minutes to sleep.
  • A 2018 controlled, randomized study that ran for four weeks and involved 307 patients who suffer from DSWPD discovered that taking melatonin one hour prior to bedtime in conjunction with bedtime at a predetermined time led to a number of improvements. These improvements included sleeping an average of 34 minutes earlier, better sleeping during the first part of the evening, and improved daytime performance.

Children can suffer from sleep disorders.

Children who suffer from sleep problems may adversely affect their behavior, daytime functioning, and quality of life. Children suffering from specific ailments like asthma, atopic dermis and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more prone to sleeping issues than children of other ages.

There aren't any general guidelines for the best method to improve sleep for children. However, the guidelines for specific disorders suggest behavioral therapies like good bedtime routines and parental education as a first treatment option that can be augmented with medications.

  • A review of 2019 looked at 18 studies on Melatonin supplements, which included more than 1,021 children. Most studies were in the small range, and the majority were short (1 up to thirteen weeks). The studies generally showed that melatonin was superior to placebo in improving the time required to fall asleep and sleep quality. Melatonin's effects on daytime performance and behavior weren't as evident because the studies employed different methods of measuring these results. The following table shows the results of a review of the short-term effects of melatonin in children suffering from specific ailments.
    • Children suffering from ASD went to bed 37 minutes earlier and slept longer for 48 minutes.
    • Children suffering from ADHD had a hard time falling into bed 20 minutes before and took 33 more minutes to sleep.
    • Children with atopic skin dermatitis fell in bed 6.8 minutes earlier and were able to sleep for 35 more minutes.
    • Children suffering from chronic sleep-onset insomnia went to bed 24 minutes earlier and slept for 25 minutes longer.

Since there aren't many research studies of children and supplements to melatonin, there's a lot that we don't have a clear picture of the usage of melatonin among children. For instance, there are a variety of questions about which dosage to take and when to administer it the effects of melatonin usage over extended durations, and if the benefits of melatonin outweigh any potential dangers. Since melatonin is a hormone, It is possible that melatonin supplements can impact the development of hormones, such as menstrual cycles, puberty, and an over-production of the hormone prolactin. But we're not sure.

Given these ambiguities, it is recommended that you consult with a medical professional before giving your child melatonin to treat sleep problems.

Anxiety prior to and following surgery

Anxiety and fear of surgery are common in 80 percent of patients.

Melatonin supplements may be useful in reducing anxiety before surgery, but it's not known whether they can help lower anxiety following surgery. This study is a report from a review in 2015.

  • The review of 2015 examined 12 studies that included 774 participants and assessed the effectiveness of melatonin supplements in the treatment of anxiety before surgery, anxiety following surgery, or both. The review revealed solid evidence that melatonin is more effective than placebo in decreasing anxiety before surgery. Melatonin supplements could be as effective as the standard treatment (the antianxiety medication midazolam). However, the evidence regarding the benefits of melatonin in decreasing anxiety following surgical procedures were not all that clear.

Melatonin is a good option for preventing, or even treating COVID-19?

The current research on the effects of melatonin COVID-19 is still in the initial stages. A handful of randomized controlled studies (studies that examine melatonin levels in humans) are currently in progress. At this time, it's too early to determine whether melatonin can help with COVID-19.

Does melatonin ease the symptoms of cancer?

The effects of supplementation with melatonin on symptoms of cancer or the treatment-related side effects are limited and have produced mixed results.

Remember that untested products shouldn't be used to substitute or delay treatments for cancer. Certain products could hinder standard treatments or present special risks to those who have been diagnosed with cancer. Before taking any complementary health treatment, like Melatonin, patients who've received a diagnosis of cancer need to discuss their health care professionals to ensure that every aspect of their treatment will work in harmony.

Does melatonin aid in reducing insomnia?

Insomnia sufferers have difficulty sleeping or being asleep. When the symptoms last for at least a month, this is known as chronic insomnia.

Based on the practice guidelines of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2017) and the American College of Physicians (2016), there isn't convincing evidence to support the effectiveness or security of melatonin supplements for chronic insomnia. It is recommended that the American College of Physicians guidelines strongly recommend cognitive behavioral treatment in the treatment of sleep disorders (CBT-I) as a primary therapy for those suffering from insomnia.

Does melatonin work for shift workers?

Night shifts that require nights can cause employees to feel tired at work. It can be difficult to sleep in the day when a shift is over.

Based on two research reviews, research studies to determine whether melatonin supplements aid shift workers were mostly insignificant or non-conclusive.

  • The review first looked at seven studies with 263 participants. The findings suggested that (1) those taking melatonin can sleep up to 24 minutes longer in the day, but (2) certain aspects of the sleep process, like the amount of time it takes for a good night's sleep, might be the same. However, the research was deemed to be low-quality.
  • The other review focused on eight research studies (5 of which were in the initial review) involving 300 participants to determine if melatonin could aid in promoting sleep among shift workers. The majority of studies are of high quality, with inconclusive findings. The review didn't make any recommendations on the use of melatonin in shift workers.

Do you think it is safe to use Melatonin?

Melatonin supplements are hazardous, especially in higher doses than the body is accustomed to producing. There isn't enough information regarding possible side effects to give a complete picture of the overall safety. Melatonin supplements for short-term use seem to be secure for the majority of people. However, information regarding the long-term security of supplementing with melatonin is not available.

Keep in mind:

  • Interactions with medications
    • Like other dietary supplements, individuals taking medication should talk to their healthcare doctors before taking Melatonin. Particularly, those with epilepsy or those who are taking blood thinner medications must be monitored by a medical professional while using melatonin supplementation.
  • Risk of an allergic reaction
    • There's a chance of allergies to melatonin supplementation.
  • Security concerns for nursing and pregnant women
    • There's been a dearth of research into the safety of using melatonin for breastfeeding or pregnant women.
  • Concerns about safety for older adults
    • The 2015 guidelines issued by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine advise against the use of melatonin by those suffering from dementia.
    • Melatonin is known to stay active in people older than younger people and may cause drowsiness during the day.
  • Melatonin is controlled as a nutritional supplement
    • Within the United States, melatonin is considered to be a dietary supplement. This means it's controlled less tightly by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) than an over-the-counter or prescription drug. In nations, melatonin can be only available with a prescription and is classified as an illegal drug.
  • Some products may not have the information listed on the label.
    • Some melatonin supplements don't contain the ingredients stated on the label. A 2017 study examined 31 melatonin products purchased at pharmacies and grocery stores. In most of the supplements, there was a significant amount of melanin in the product, which was not in line with what was stated on the label. In addition, 26 percent of supplements contain serotonin. It is a hormone that could have negative consequences even at microscopic levels.

Is melatonin safe for children?

In addition to the issues mentioned previously, other aspects concerning the safety of melatonin for children must be considered.

  • Parents considering giving their children melatonin must first consult an expert in health care regarding melatonin usage in children.
  • Parents must ensure the safe storage and use of melatonin supplements.
  • Melatonin purchased over the counter could expose children and teens to the risk of an accidental or deliberate overdose.
    • A 2022 study indicated that U.S. sales of melatonin- widely available in tablet, capsule, liquid, and gummy formulations- increased by about 150 percent between 2016 and 2020. The study's authors said that the rise in melatonin availability, sales, and usage within the United States has likely resulted in increased accessibility to melatonin in children living at home.
    • The study of 2022 also demonstrated that the number of complaints of reports to U.S. poison control centers regarding people 19 years old or younger who were taking melatonin rose from 8,337 in 2012 to 52.563 in 2021. In the 10 years that followed, the number of cases increased yearly. Hospitalizations and serious consequences resulting from melatonin consumption by those aged 19 and under also increased for 10 years. Most hospitalizations involved teens who had taken Melatonin in excess, and the most significant increase in hospitalizations took place among children aged 5 years or younger.

More Information

Melatonin supplements, in average doses, seem suitable for short-term use for children of all ages. However, there aren't many studies that have studied children and melatonin. Additionally, there isn't much data on the long-term consequences of melatonin usage for children. Since melatonin is a hormone, melatonin supplements can likely affect the development of hormones, such as menstrual cycles, puberty, and an over-production of the hormone prolactin. However, we don't know for sure.

Melatonin supplement-related side effects observed in children have typically been minor and include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Bedwetting and urination that is more frequent during the night
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Agitation

What are the adverse consequences of the melatonin?

A review of 2015 on the safety of melatonin supplements showed that only minor adverse effects were observed in short-term studies, which included surgical patients, adults, and critically sick patients. Some of the less severe side effects identified in the studies included:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness

The long-term consequences of using melatonin for long-term use are not clear.

Tips To Consider

  • Keep in mind that although the FDA regulates supplements for dietary use like melatonin, the rules for supplements to dietary intake vary and tend to be less rigorous as those for prescription and prescription drugs.
  • Certain supplements in your diet may interfere with medications or create dangers if you suffer from medical conditions or are planning to undergo surgery.
  • If you're expecting or nursing your child, it's crucial to consult your physician before taking any medication or supplement, such as melatonin.
  • If you take diet supplements, like Melatonin, read and follow the label directions. “Natural” does not always refer to “safe.” If you want more details, read the use of dietary supplements in a responsible manner.
  • Make sure you are in control of your health by talking with your health professionals about any complementary approaches to health that you are using. Together, you can make informed choices.
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