Melatonin, Circadian Rhythms, and Sleep

Curr Treat Options Neurol. 2003 May;5(3):225-229. doi: 10.1007/s11940-003-0013-0.


Experimental data show a close relationship among melatonin, circadian rhythms, and sleep. Low-dose melatonin treatment, increasing circulating melatonin levels to those normally observed at night, promotes sleep onset and sleep maintenance without changing sleep architecture. Melatonin treatment can also advance or delay the phase of the circadian clock if administered in the evening or in the morning, respectively. If used in physiologic doses and at appropriate times, melatonin can be helpful for those suffering from insomnia or circadian rhythm disorders. This may be especially beneficial for individuals with low melatonin production, which is established by measuring individual blood or saliva melatonin levels. However, high melatonin doses (over 0.3 mg) may cause side effects and disrupt the delicate mechanism of the circadian system, dissociating mutually dependent circadian body rhythms. A misleading labeling of the hormone melatonin as a "food supplement" and lack of quality control over melatonin preparations on the market continue to be of serious concern.