Human aging and melatonin. Clinical relevance

Exp Gerontol. 2001 Jul;36(7):1083-100. doi: 10.1016/s0531-5565(01)00120-6.


Melatonin is a hormone produced mainly by the pineal gland and secreted primarily at night, when it reaches levels 10 times higher than those present in the daytime. The highest melatonin levels are found in children younger than 4 yr; thereafter melatonin levels begin to decline with age. As a chronobiotic, melatonin acts on sleep by phase-advancing or delaying the sleep--wake cycle so that sleep onset occurs earlier or later than usual. Beneficial effects of melatonin have been observed in delayed and advanced sleep phase syndromes. These effects depend on the time that the hormone is administered. Melatonin is also used for jet lag and has been tried in shift workers and night workers to re-entrain their desynchronized rhythms. Melatonin also has free radical-scavenging properties that have primarily been observed in vitro at pharmacological concentrations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Free Radical Scavengers / chemistry
  • Free Radical Scavengers / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Melatonin / chemistry
  • Melatonin / metabolism*
  • Sleep


  • Antioxidants
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Melatonin