The use and misuse of exogenous melatonin in the treatment of sleep disorders

Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2018 Nov;24(6):543-548. doi: 10.1097/MCP.0000000000000522.


Purpose of review: To explore the evidence for using exogenous melatonin in the treatment of sleep disorders, both primary and secondary, in children and adults.

Recent findings: A number of recently published meta-analyses have shown that there is evidence for the efficacy of exogenously administered melatonin in a number of sleep disorders. However, melatonin is likely to be prescribed largely for reasons of perceived minimal side-effect profile and very low cost in situations in which high-quality evidence for its usefulness is not forthcoming.

Summary: There is evidence for the efficacy of melatonin in the management of insomnia and some intrinsic disorders of circadian rhythm in adults and children as well as in reducing sleep onset latency in jet-lag and shift work disorder in adults. Melatonin is used routinely in the treatment of rapid-eye movement sleep-behaviour disorder despite limited trial evidence. Increasingly, dual melatonin receptor agonists are being trialled in a variety of sleep disorders. Long-term adverse effects are currently not fully identified.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System Depressants / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Melatonin / therapeutic use*
  • Parasomnias / drug therapy*
  • Sleep / drug effects
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / drug therapy*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / drug therapy*


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Melatonin