The Use of Melatonin for the Treatment of Insomnia

Biol Signals Recept. Jan-Apr 1999;8(1-2):84-9. doi: 10.1159/000014574.


The pineal product melatonin is involved in the regulation of the sleep/wake cycle in humans. In blind individuals and in people travelling through time zones, melatonin rhythms are sometimes unsynchronized with the diel cycle, and nocturnal sleep may be disturbed. Low or distorted melatonin rhythms have repeatedly been reported in middle aged and elderly insomniacs. Melatonin administration effectively synchronized the sleep wake cycle in blind individuals and in subjects suffering from jet lag and advanced sleep onset in subjects suffering from delayed sleep phase syndrome. In elderly insomniacs, melatonin replacement therapy significantly decreased sleep latency, and/or increased sleep efficiency and decreased wake time after sleep onset. In addition, melatonin substitution facilitated benzodiazepine discontinuation in chronic users. These data show an association between melatonin rhythm disturbances and difficulties to promote or maintain sleep at night. Specific melatonin formulations may be useful to treat circadian-rhythm-related sleep disorders and age-related insomnia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Circadian Rhythm / drug effects
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Humans
  • Melatonin / deficiency
  • Melatonin / physiology
  • Melatonin / therapeutic use*
  • Sleep / drug effects
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / etiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / physiopathology


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Melatonin