Articles

Melatonin for sleep disorders – Safe and effective?

It’s summertime, and the living is easy. Forget the solstice. For most of North America, this week is the real start of summer – July 1 in Canada, and July 4 in the USA. Vacation time means breaking out of that those usual routines of work and school. I’m amazed after a few weeks of vacation how much sleep my body will accept if given the opportunity, where it will climb from six to nine hours a night within a week. I try not to change my kids’ habits too much, and one area I’m fairly disciplined with is maintaining a predictable sleep/wake cycle, even when they’re on vacation. I’ve learned, mainly through trial and error, that I suffer the consequences when my own kids don’t get enough sleep, or when their sleep cycle is thrown off. It wasn’t always like this. I remember a period of what felt like years when I had to crawl out of my child’s bedroom on my hands and knees so as to not disturb a child who simply would not fall asleep. And when it finally, mercifully, occurred, it would be a brief respite before the cycle began again. The sleepless nights left us all cranky and exhausted. Admittedly I was fortunate, either due to my successful parenting (but more likely mean reversion) and my kids are pretty good sleepers now. I’m reminded of my good fortune when I speak with exhausted and frustrated parents who have children that cannot sleep and are worried about the causes and consequences of persistent insomnia. As a pharmacist I’m regularly asked about insomnia for both kids and adults as there are a number of over-the-counter products available, and many consumers are understandably apprehensive about seeking out prescription products. Tell someone there’s “natural supplement” for sleep and there’s usually a lot of interest. That’s what I’ve seen with melatonin, a hormone that is sold without a prescription in Canada, the United States, and other countries. It is widely perceived as safe and alternative health purveyors like naturopaths, and even some health professionals, may recommend it for treating sleeping problems in both adults and children. Beyond sleeping, some believe melatonin is a wonder drug with efficacy for diseases ranging from chronic fatigue to cancer to irritable bowel.

I never take sleep questions lightly. While in many cases there may be no identifiable causes, insomnia and sleep disturbances can be symptoms of more serious medical conditions. I try to identify the main complaint (difficulty falling asleep, waking up during the night, waking up early, and daytime exhaustion) and identify any possible contributing factors, such as those with breathing disorders (e.g., asthma), on medication (e.g., ADHD drugs, anti-histamines, antidepressants, and some supplements), or developmental disorders (e.g., autism). (I could probably add blogging to that list.) Contributing factors require a detailed evaluation, and I generally advise against any self-medication in all but the most urgent or transient situations. Insomnia may not be the reason for a physician’s visit, but it should be, especially for children with persistent problems. One of the most foolish things health professionals can do is endorse drug treatment (natural or otherwise) before looking for underlying contributors, first.

I never recommend over-the-counter products to treat insomnia in children. Without a physician’s evaluation and recommendation, I strongly discourage parents from administering these products to children. It can be a difficult pitch because products like melatonin are just sitting on the shelf, and are backed by lots of advertising touting efficacy and safety. After all, if melatonin were unsafe, it wouldn’t be sold without a prescription, right?

My concern was partially reflected in a recent column in the Wall Street Journal, entitled “Melatonin: A ‘Magic’ Sleeping Pill for Children?”

Sales of melatonin have risen dramatically over the past five years, according to Nutrition Business Journal. Estimates for 2012 put sales at $260 million; in 2007, the market was just $90 million. Melatonin is available over the counter in the U.S., but in the U.K. and several European countries, the hormone supplement requires a doctor’s prescription.

A handful of companies market melatonin directly for children’s use, offering flavored, low-dose versions of the supplement. One melatonin manufacturer’s website even urges parents to “prepare your child for academic success” by getting him or her to sleep. It cites one study that found “students with C’s, D’s and F’s got about 25 fewer minutes of sleep and went to bed an average of 40 minutes later than A and B students.”

The column takes a fairly critical eye to the pediatric use of melatonin, citing a lack of data as well as what may be unwarranted parental enthusiasm for the product:

“I’ve never seen such widespread abuse of any drug or therapy in all my years of practice,” said Stuart Ditchek, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine. One mother told him that “she lines up her six healthy children nightly to give them their melatonin pill.” Dr. Ditchek believes the supplement should only be used for the most serious sleep and neurological disorders. The concern, he said, is the lack of long-term clinical studies to see how the hormone supplement interacts with other hormones in the body, potentially affecting fertility or sexual development.

Still, the natural=safe idea is hard to shake, especially for a product that is perceived as being safe enough to be sold in health food stores, without restrictions of any kind. Could melatonin be a supplement that actually works?  It’s a hormone with an interesting but brief history – its function wasn’t understood until fairly recently and the gland that produces it (the pineal gland) was originally thought to be an evolutionary vestige without function. In the early 1900′s it was observed that the pineal gland did secrete a substance with physiologic effects, and the hormone itself was named in 1958. By the seventies, melatonin’s role in the circadian rhythm was beginning to be understood. Receptors for the hormone have been identified in the hypothalamus, the pituitary, and in other organs in the body. In humans and other mammals, melatonin secretion by the pineal gland follows the light cycle, being low during daylight hours, surging in the evening and peaking in the middle of the night. This secretion starts in infancy and continues through adulthood, followed by a decline as we age.

The supplement

When consumed orally, melatonin is not consistently or extensively absorbed, so individual responses to doses can vary, which complicates dosing. Supplement doses can push blood levels much higher than any levels that can ever been reached naturally.  Receptors are highly sensitive to high doses, and their activity decreases as a result, suggesting that long-term supplementation may have unanticipated consequences. It appears to have a good short term safety profile, however, and toxicity reports are rare. Supplement doses range from 0.1 – 10mg with most doses at the lower end of this scale.

How did a hormone come to be deemed a supplement? This is difficult to answer based on scientific principles, given melatonin is primarily synthesized in the pineal grand from the amino acid tryptophan, with serotonin produced in an intermediary step. There is no good evidence to suggest that dietary or supplementary tryptophan affects melatonin levels. Diet seems to have no effect on melatonin levels at all. Hormone pills don’t “supplement” any dietary source at all. Another challenge to the “supplement” and “natural” label is the fact that melatonin sold as a supplement is synthesized in a laboratory – there are no reliable natural sources. The consequence of being treated as a supplement, as has been described repeatedly at this blog, is a lowered regulatory bar for safety and efficacy. There is no evidence to show that the different forms of melatonin (e.g., extended-release) are well-absorbed or comparable to products studied in clinical trials. There is also no information to suggest that different brands are equivalent to each other. Given melatonin is inconsistently absorbed, switching brands may affect absorption, and ultimately, effect.

The evidence

Melatonin supplementation does appear to have effects on sedation, fatigue, time to fall asleep and the total sleep duration.  Studies are hard to synthesize, given they include big range of doses, a variety of dosing schedules, and a wide number of underlying conditions. The best evidence seems to be for circadian sleep disorders, where melatonin has FDA orphan drug status for this use. Based on the physiologic effects of melatonin, this makes some sense.

For general sleep disorders, the evidence is mixed. There is some tentative support for use in children, however the evidence base used to make this claim is based on an analysis of six small clinical trials, only one of which was in children with sleep disorders without other contributing cause or underlying medical issue (e.g., behavioral disturbances). This study, only four weeks in duration, noted a significant improvement in sleep onset (57 minutes) with 5mg of melatonin, but no change in total sleep time. Studies in children with secondary sleep disorders showed some improvements in sleep indicators as well, but whether these effects are meaningful isn’t clear.  In all studies melatonin was well tolerated, though none of the studies looked at extended use of the drug. There is also some evidence to suggest that melatonin is effective at helping calibrate the sleep-wake cycle in children with developmental disabilities. But again, it had no effect on total sleep time. Overall the data are inconsistent and often unimpressive.

In adults, a 2005 meta-analysis suggested that melatonin would reduce the time to fall asleep by four minutes, while increasing total sleep duration by 13 minutes. Another 2005 meta-analysis drew a similar conclusion: melatonin was well tolerated but not very effective, improving the time to fall asleep by 12 minutes.  A 2006 meta-analysis looked at secondary sleep disorders, like jet lag and shift work, and concluded that melatonin offered no meaningful benefits beyond placebo. It could be the short half-life of of the supplement that’s a factor. Show release versions or drug-based variants of melatonin (i.e., ramelteon) could plausibly have more meaningful effects.

Despite the array of doses used, melatonin is well tolerated. The most common side effects reported include daytime sleepiness, dizziness and headaches.

There are concerns about long-term use in children. Melatonin’s long-term effectiveness and safety are unclear. Given melatonin is a hormone, and receptors for this hormone are distributed throughout the body (including the sex organs), the safety, particularly during puberty, has not been estabilished. For this reason there’s good cause for caution in children.

There are few comparisons between melatonin and other drugs like the infamous benzodiazepines, or newer agents like zolpidem. Reassuringly, there is no evidence of withdrawal effects caused by stopping melatonin, though there is admittedly a lack of long-term studies that have examined this potential risk thoroughly.

Conclusion

Melatonin is a hormone that is sold as a dietary supplement in some countries and as a prescription drug in others. Regardless of its regulatory status, evidence suggests that melatonin is only modestly effective, and many who use it will not show substantive improvements in their sleep quality.  What is clear is while there’s nothing “natural” about taking huge doses of this hormone, it is well tolerated when used for short-term trials. Its safety in children, or with long-term use in adults, is less clear.  Like other supplements, it’s a victim of a weak regulatory structure.  In Canada and the United States, there’s little conclusive evidence to guide product selection and dosing. Buyer beware.

Posted in: Herbs & Supplements, Naturopathy, Science and Medicine

Leave a Comment (44) ↓

44 thoughts on “Melatonin for sleep disorders – Safe and effective?

  1. windriven says:

    Leave a Reply. Or don’t. Is the Comments section run by Twitter? I have few thoughts that can be expressed in 140 characters.

    1. Chris says:

      Windriven: “Leave a Reply. Or don’t. Is the Comments section run by Twitter? I have few thoughts that can be expressed in 140 characters.”

      Hit the “tab” button. I read that from WLU.

  2. Now, having written one comment, even logging in under a new name, I have no Post button.

    1. Mal Adapted says:

      I’ve discovered that after typing my comment, the Tab key will take me to the “Fill in your details” boxes, one after the other, and a final Tab will unmask the Post button

  3. Dan says:

    To your list of drugs affecting sleep, you should add statins. They have been shown to be connected with sleep problems, especially the ones that have high lipid solubility and cross the blood brain barrier effectively. I am a physician and experienced the problem with simvastatin first hand. My sleep pattern was interrupted several times during the night leading to fatigue and personality changes. This went on for a couple of years I considered that I was developing a mental illness. It never occurred to me that it was a drug side effect (a sad tale for a physician!) until I read an abstract of a post marketing survey done by the UCSD which mentioned that statins had been connected with sleep problems. I stopped simvastatin, which is very lipid soluble, and within one week my sleep pattern returned to normal. Starting pravastatin, which has much less lipid solubility and is thought to cross the blood brain barrier much less effectively, led to no changes in my sleep.

    1. Janet Camp says:

      I’m so glad to see your comment! Especially as you are a physician. I had horrible insomnia for YEARS, correlating to simvastatin use, but never made the connection until stumbling on a mention of it somewhere that I can’t even recall. I too, made a quick recovery after switching to another statin. My doctor was chagrined as she hadn’t known of this side effect, but looked into it and confirmed my source. I sleep normally now, even with aging. This problem needs to have an “alert” sent out to docs–I suffered for so long and tried so many things, sleep studies, meds, even melatonin, to no avail. Even the “sleeping pills” only gave me a few hours sleep, not anything normal.

  4. Very interesting. I have been plagued with crappy sleep for 15 years. I finally relented an went on ambien (10 mg) for several years. Weaning off it was complete hell, but finally I made it. My sleep patterns are still erratic (too much “knowledge worker” stuff, can’t seem to turn my brain off), but, now, having “retired,” I get up and start working at 4 in the morning (I’m a Health IT blogger, see http://www.KHIT.org) if I get irreversibly awake. I now have the luxury of crashing back out whenever I feel the need.

    I still do the melatonin. It seems to help with wafting off to sleep, but, consistent with your conclusions, it helps only modestly so. Can’t separate effects out, either. I too am on Simvastatin (and Lisinopril, and Gabapentin for disc problems — the latter of which is increasingly seeming to be an expensive waste of time and money).

    Keep up the great work. I cruise this site every day (and you are permanently linked on my REC blog).

  5. Dan Kegel says:

    I took melatonin for a while. I concluded in the end that taking a dose of melatonin reset my sleep cycle, i.e. if I took it at time X, I would get drowsy at time X+1 hour, and then be wide awake at time X + 8 hours. I now use a single dose of it to recover from jet lag. Using it for more than that did not seem to be productive (although if I took it at the wrong time, it could very effectively ruin the next day or two by making it harder to sleep at night).

    It’s a drug that should be treated with respect, not thrown into children’s vitamins.

  6. Windy says:

    Many thanks Chris. I’ve passed this on to Paul Ingraham as well.

    Let me know when the next Seattle skeptics meeting is. You can use my screen name at gmail.com if you’d like.

  7. windriven says:

    Chris, windriven@gmail, not windy. I was posting with a new account in an effort to test if the problem is related to screen resolution or login credentials like the moderation problem.

    It seems that I can bloviate at length from my iPad but not from an engineering workstation.

    1. Yodeladyhoo says:

      Lately I’ve been seeing melatonin hyped at doses of about 20 mg per day as treatment for cancer (by a “naturopathic oncologist”).

  8. Stella B says:

    I usually encourage people with sleep issues to start by boosting their natural melatonin production with early morning sun exposure (maybe even combined with exercise!) Some people are quite sensitive to the effect. It may simply be placebo, but the risk level and price are superb.

    Of course, I do get people who look me in the eye and tell me that “it’s been too cold lately” to go outdoors in southern California, to which I invariably respond, “I’m from Chicago.” They get the message. I’m not much of a hand holder.

  9. Anna says:

    Very interesting. I’ve been an “insomniac” my entire life. (I now mostly think my problems aren’t so much insomnia but strong night-owl tendencies, which have conflicted with school and work for most of my life. When I can set my own schedule, I usually sleep just fine — regularly, even!)

    Back in the day (i.e., before skepticism), I gave melatonin a fair shot, but didn’t notice anything too impressive. I also tried valerian root, the “herbal Valium,” and noticed that it did absolutely nothing aside from smell horrible. The only thing that really worked for me was Ambien — I had a prescription with no refills, which allowed me to get through my last semester of college. I was concerned about addiction and did not seek it out again.

    Nowadays I use OTC antihistamines, which are OK, but I do wonder if they have any long-term effects. I would rather not have to take any kind of medication, but sleep hygiene techniques have not been very helpful. It really does seem that I function best when I can choose a later schedule than is considered “normal.” Sigh!

    1. Annette Denietolis says:

      Anna – For what it’s worth…. My 83 year old mother recently saw a neurologist to get tested for Alzheimer’s. The first question the neurologist asked her was: “do you regularly use antihistamines like Benadryl to help you fall asleep?” My mothers said “not regularly, why?”. The doctor’s answer: “Because, Benadriyl is alzheimers in a bottle”. I did a little on-line research and found that there is some connection.

      1. Sean Duggan says:

        Just to clarify, was he saying that Benadryl shows a causal link in Alzheimer’s developing or that its effects include reducing short term memory? The former is, of course, more alarming than the latter (which could be said of a number of depressants, including alcohol).

        Personally, I feel the only “natural supplement” for trouble sleeping is a glass of warm milk.

        1. Sean Duggan says:

          Incidentally, for those curious, I did a bit of poking around and Benadryl is known for causing loss of short-term memory while you use it, but there’s no indications of it causing permanent damage there. So the link is essentially that people who are habitually taking Benadryl may find that they’re suffering short-term memory loss, but the effect is ended by ceasing to take the medicine.

  10. pmoran2013 says:

    I am pleased to see that it is not available in Australia. Possibly works mostly as placebo — if your mind is on a pill that might put you to sleep or you are responsive to suggestion, you may be less likely to ruminate about the things that keep you awake.

    Valerian might be a safer bet for the purpose than poorly understood hormones.

    More info? –. “Those promoting the free and general use of melatonin in the U.S.A. have used unusual features of American law to have melatonin classed as a dietary supplement on the basis that it is found in some plants, and traces are likely to be ingested in animal products.”

    From –

    http://www.australianprescriber.com/magazine/20/4/artid/234

  11. Birdy says:

    At the suggestion of my son’s paediatrician, we tried it with him. She’s rather a skeptical sort, but since we didn’t wish to try any particularly strong sleep-inducing medications with our then 3 year old, she suggested it on the off chance it might help since it was at least *something* we could try.

    Our son has autism and, left to his own devices, sleeps around 5 hours a night. Pretty common issue with autism. The melatonin does not keep him asleep, but 3mg helps him fall asleep in the evening. Because he’s falling asleep at a more ‘normal’ time, he’s more likely to go back to bed and at least attempt to sleep again when he wakes at 3am.

    When he’s gotten off track due to routine changes – big problem for autistic kids – it helps re-establish his sleep schedule, but we never use it more than a week or so at a time since, as you said, there’s really no long-term usage data. I figure in the short term, it can’t be any worse than some of the other medications they use to correct sleep issues in kids.

    I’m doubting it’s a placebo for him, as his receptive language was not at a point where he could have understood the purpose of the pill when we originally gave it to him. I tracked his sleep in a spreadsheet since I like to be as objective as possible in seeing how his therapies go and he was, on average, falling asleep about an hour earlier and staying in bed (though not necessarily asleep) longer. So I think there was some effect, though it’s hardly what I’d call a miracle pill. It does nothing for me at all.

    1. Stephen H says:

      I use spreadsheets to track my own sleep, since I have RLS and severe sleep apnoea. I also realised I wasn’t particularly good at recording exactly when I woke/fell asleep, so I picked up a Fitbit Ultra thingy (there are other brands that do the same – shop around if you’re interested). I strap the device to my wrist each evening before bed (I also wear it all day, as it keeps track of my exercise). It is nowhere as good as a professional sleep monitor, but it does get some idea of when I’m sleeping/awake.

      Once I have tracked the sleep, their website provides the numbers. It’s not enormously user-friendly, so I plug the “time in bed”, “time asleep”, “time to fall asleep” and “times awakened” into my own spreadsheet that I can play with graphs and numbers.

  12. I give melatonin as travel medicine for jetlag, pop one when you need to sleep when you want to sleep, works well.

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      …except, as mentioned in the post, it doesn’t work for jet lag (and in fact, doesn’t work very well at all – an extra 13 minutes of sleep perhaps). But hey, keep selling it, right? Even if it doesn’t work, you can still make money off of it. Who cares if the person buying it is wasting their money, at least you are better off. Keep up the high ethical standards, truly you are a credit to your profession.

      1. Janet Camp says:

        @RLU

        “profession”

    2. Bryan Bartens says:

      I agree with WLU. How do you sleep at night?

  13. jeffjfl says:

    As Scott suggests, the effects of long-term melatonin use are not understood. One possibility is suppression of the body’s own production of the hormone. Melatonin has been widely studied. Some of its beneficial effects are descibed here:

    http://www.lifeextensionretail.com/MagazineArticleDetail.aspx?article=119815

  14. jeffjfl says:

    As Scott suggests, the effects of long-term melatonin use are not understood. One possibility is suppression of the body’s own production of the hormone. Melatonin has been widely studied. Some of its beneficial effects are described here:

    http://www.lifeextensionretail.com/MagazineArticleDetail.aspx?article=119815

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Oh look at that. They conveniently sell melatonin.

      1. eNOS says:

        These spam comments are similar to those that seem to be infiltrating the gawker-based sites after they switched to kinja. They all begin with “As so and so suggests…” I assume they’re bots, but I wonder what peaks their digital interests.

  15. josh brancek says:

    One thing that works for me always is to exercise a lot, I will be tired and will fall asleep!!!

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Hiya Josh,

      You wouldn’t happen to be putting down quasi-plausible comments barely related to the article, mostly to drive traffic towards your own site, would you?

    2. weing says:

      Vigorous sex does the same for me.

  16. Shelley says:

    Put away the computer, ipad etc at night. No video games, no cellphones, or tv in the bedroom (bedrooms are fror sleeping and sex only). Dark, cool room with warm blankets. Exercise no later than 3 hours before bed. No heavy meals late at night. Use a relaxing slow down routine before bed. Maybe some light reading. That’s it. Leave the bed and sit and read if you can’t sleep within about 20 min. Don’t catastrophize it if you can’t sleep – you’ll make the sleeplessness worse. If your sense is that you’re not getting enough sleep, start a sleep diary. Many insomniacs are surprised to see how much sleep they actually get. Try to avoid the meds. Many interfere with REM sleep so you get deep sleep, but miss REM.

    Watch the caffeine. . . .

    1. Janet Camp says:

      That’s fine, except when you do all that and more and you still can’t sleep. See my statin related comment in response to “Dan” who mentions the problem first. There can be many causes for sleep problems, and so-called sleep “hygiene” will have little effect on many of them.

  17. Narad says:

    The real question is how one would break Jetpack in the first place. Personally, I’m not crazy about the fact that it allows WordPress to do undisclosed data mining, since the comments go back through WP even though the site is self-hosted.

    Of course, it could just be swapped out wholesale.

  18. Anna says:

    I’m pretty sure that, to an average reader of SBM, any website called “Life Extension Retail” would be an instant red flag.

  19. Harshendu says:

    I don’t agree with the writer view that melatonin is modestly effective. Infact i myself had suffered from number of insomniacs night. I am in bodybuilding & took melatonin as a supplement, it had improved my sleep quality especially the deep sleep needed for recovery. I can easily sleep 8 to 10 hours now after taking melatonin. So much that when I skip the sleep & reduce the sleep to 6 hours I then have daytime drowsiness. The only truth is its slow absorption, so I take it one hour before going to bed on empty stomach.

  20. Harshendu says:

    Anabolic steroids suppresses the natural production of hormone testosterone, melatonin is not like that which will interfere with body natural production. Instead it is used to correct some deficiencies in natural melatonin production just like iron supplements is used to treat anemia. Overall what i had learnt, to be a successful sleeper you have to create a good sleeping environment & i fully endorse shelley comments. Same sleep-wake time, cool bedroom, meditation,warm milk, melatonin etc works very well.

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Well, there are a couple possible explanations here:

      1) Placebo effect
      2) Spaghetti effect (you’re doing many things that could improve your sleep, but you attribute it all to melatonin)
      3) The statistically average nature of studies obscures the impacts of melatonin in sleep, with some people responding more strongly and others less strongly; you’re a lucky outlier
      4) It interacts with something else you’re doing for bodybuilding, like perhaps juicing and again is more effective in your unique case; this is really 3.5

      None the less, you don’t seem to grasp science. In particular, you don’t seem to grasp why controlled studies are superior to the experiences of individuals.

      Incidentally, your second argument seems to be predicated on the assumption that poor sleep quality is due to melatonin deficiency. Any peer reviewed references for this statement? Iron deficiency, protein deficiency, scurvy, and other real deficiencies can be measured objectively. Any such test that could verify the existence of a melatonin deficiency would surely be cited within the scientific literature.

      But the routine recommendations regarding sleep hygiene are indeed well-substantiated by science.

  21. Harshendu says:

    Dear William, i respect your opinion & i understand that sleep is itself an individualised things. As your several views here i also admit you may know more than me in this regard. Regarding your question on scientific integrity for me,i only say that i am doing ph.d in physics in quantum aspect of crystal growth mathematically & a diploma in nutrition science.while your view on me with respect to 2nd argument is what i want to explain you rather indirectly for melatonin deficiencies. Let us take the examples of atomic physics,had anyone seen atoms or the electrons & nucleus in it with naked eyes? No. But still the spectra from different elements experimentally confirm the suitable mathematical model.Another example is Einstein general theory of relativity which says gravitational field does’nt exist but massive bodies like Sun create a curvaceos space & time in stark contrast to newton theory in strong gravitational regions. The experiment to these hypothsis is verified in perihelion of mercury orbits, the bending of light in strong gravitational region of Sun etc. He had gone to such extreme as saying that time slows down on high gravitational surface of Sun,so had someone gone there to verify the theory? Yet experiment supports theory. Some theory can be verified by experimentation while other assuming on hypothesis yet still correct. So the issue of melatonin deficiencies existing in theoretical hypothesis done on older person which find it difficult to sleep compared to young person. While it is true, that deficiencies of iron or protein can be easily determined but you should also take on account its longer half life. I had done several half life experiment in nuclear physics in which several nuclei which have half life of more than 1 hour is still sometimes difficult to tracks, so imagine how much difficult it is to keep track of melatonin which has half life ranges from 15 to 35 mins only. Same is the case with human growth hormones which haves half life of somewhat from 17 to 45 mins. But HGH can be determined during intermittent fasting(IF) which is not the case with melatonin.So deficiency exist is genuine even if it is yet to properly established. Treatment of jetlag or other insomnia symtoms in many cases is fruitful even if some individual shows as little as 13 mins early response. As is the evidence nothing is absolute in science, there is no sure cures for diseases like cancer,AIDS or as humble disease as malaria but we are better off than peoples who had Suffered these 30 or 40 or 50 years back. At least melatonin is promising even if it is at its infancy or giving best to moderate response from individual to individual and is much better than drugs like benzoziadepedes whose effects diminishes after few months. We must shun skeptical thinking that corporates only thinks of profiteering by selling hypes. Who knows what is waiting ahead but overall we are better than past and must be appreciative of scientific progress.

  22. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Regarding your question on scientific integrity for me,i only say that i am doing ph.d in physics in quantum aspect of crystal growth mathematically & a diploma in nutrition science.

    Ah, then this is an example of the failure of knowledge outside one’s personal knowledge base – like a physicist opining on epidemiology, or an epidemiologist expressing an opinion on gene expression of cutaneous molecules in frogs. You simply can’t compare physics and biology directly, beyond very broad strokes agreements about methodology – need for control groups and pre-identified hypotheses for instance. You can’t compare the two, biology is incomparably messier, a list of exceptions, idiosyncracies and abberations.

    had anyone seen atoms or the electrons & nucleus in it with naked eyes? No. But still the spectra from different elements experimentally confirm the suitable mathematical model.Another example is Einstein general theory of relativity which says gravitational field does’nt exist but massive bodies like Sun create a curvaceos space & time in stark contrast to newton theory in strong gravitational regions.

    Sure, that’s great, but the thing is – people didn’t just believe Rutherford or Einstein, these theories were tested, repeatedly, and passed, using multiple tests a with convergent results. Even though we can’t see or directly test these hypotheses, we have multiple experiments and lines of evidence to buttress them. With melatonin, we’ve also done tests, enough to conduct a meta-analysis (which I don’t know whether exists in physics), and the results were negative – it’s simply not that helpful for most people. To compare it to physics, what would you say if someone said they had tried it out an experiment that proved electrons were positive? Or Mercury is the only planet that didn’t have a gravity well or distort spacetime? Or that the experiments only proved this finding when they did it – would you believe them? Would you change the theories? If not, why would a comparable example in biology not have a similar result? Are you familiar with n-rays?

    So the issue of melatonin deficiencies existing in theoretical hypothesis done on older person which find it difficult to sleep compared to young person. While it is true, that deficiencies of iron or protein can be easily determined but you should also take on account its longer half life.

    But this is a theoretical hypothesis, there’s a multitude of hypotheses that could explain sleep issues in older people. To assume that it is melatonin deficiency is premature, an unwarranted conclusion that should be tested, not assumed.

    As is the evidence nothing is absolute in science, there is no sure cures for diseases like cancer,AIDS or as humble disease as malaria but we are better off than peoples who had Suffered these 30 or 40 or 50 years back.

    Malaria isn’t a humble disease, it’s devlishly complex. In fact, all three of these diseases are incredibly complex, completely incomparable to nuclear decay experiments, or even simple single hormones. Progress is made on all three, in all areas of medicine, but you’re never going to have a solution as simple as scurvy (or melatonin deficiency).

    At least melatonin is promising

    Promising isn’t the same thing as proven, in fact the results of controlled trials suggest it’s not particularly good – an extra 15 minutes of sleep. Your personal experience may be compelling, but it’s at best hypothesis generating (and in fact is several generations behind what is actually known about the hormone).

    much better than drugs like benzoziadepedes whose effects diminishes after few months.

    Absolutely, bennies are pretty terrible drugs and are well below sleep hygiene or low dose antidepressants in terms of recommendations for helping people sleep. It’s recognized, for instance, that it doesn’t make people sleep, it renders them unconscious – part of the reason they aren’t recommended for chronic insomnia. However, bennies, sleep hygiene and low dose antidepressants are all recognized and demonstrated effective as a way of improving sleep in substantive ways, though with benefits. Melatonin isn’t there. At best, it provides 15 minutes extra sleep.

    We must shun skeptical thinking that corporates only thinks of profiteering by selling hypes.

    What, like corporations that sell melatonin? We’ve got a fair amount of evidence, it doesn’t seem to work particularly well.

  23. Raphael says:

    Hello! I am a bioengineering graduate student team that is conducting research on sleep habits and treatment avenues. Would you be willing to share our survey with your network? Thanks for your time!

    Survey: http://goo.gl/PPzcZP

  24. park.au says:

    I think one of the harder things to pin down in determining the efficacy of melatonin is that there are different kinds of sleep disorders. Overall I think melatonin has shown some effect in treating insomnia in the elderly and with delayed sleep phase syndrome but it also shows negative effects on work shift sleep disorder. As such, I agree we need more robust studies done in order to clarify what works and if it actually does work to begin with.

Comments are closed.