Melatonin: a sleep-promoting hormone

Sleep. 1997 Oct;20(10):899-907.


This review discusses the issue of a dual effect of melatonin on sleep: acute sleep promotion that typically occurs within one hour of administration, and the ability to alter the phase of an underlying circadian pacemaker after a repeated melatonin treatment. The authors suggest that both mechanisms are at work, that they are complementary, and that they may manifest jointly or separately. The review provides some basic information on melatonin, an overview of the literature, and the authors' experience in studying the acute effects of melatonin treatment in humans of different age groups. This review also illustrates the authors' cautious attitude toward melatonin treatment that induces supraphysiologic circulating levels of the hormone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use*
  • Melatonin / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / drug therapy*


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Melatonin