Melatonin as a Chronobiotic with Sleep-promoting Properties

Curr Neuropharmacol. 2023;21(4):951-987. doi: 10.2174/1570159X20666220217152617.


The use of exogenous melatonin (exo-MEL) as a sleep-promoting drug has been under extensive debate due to the lack of consistency of its described effects. In this study, we conduct a systematic and comprehensive review of the literature on the chronobiotic, sleep-inducing, and overall sleep-promoting properties of exo-MEL. To this aim, we first describe the possible pharmacological mechanisms involved in the sleep-promoting properties and then report the corresponding effects of exo-MEL administration on clinical outcomes in: a) healthy subjects, b) circadian rhythm sleep disorders, c) primary insomnia. Timing of administration and doses of exo-MEL received particular attention in this work. The exo-MEL pharmacological effects are hereby interpreted in view of changes in the physiological properties and rhythmicity of endogenous melatonin. Finally, we discuss some translational implications for the personalized use of exo-MEL in the clinical practice.

Keywords: Melatonin; chronobiotic; circadian rhythm sleep disorders; hypnotic; insomnia; sleep-inducing; sleep-promoting; soporific.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Humans
  • Melatonin* / pharmacology
  • Melatonin* / therapeutic use
  • Sleep / physiology


  • Melatonin