Melatonin – More than a Sleep Aid?

In June 2013, melatonin supplementation was found to reduce pain associated with endometriosis.

Forty females with endometriosis between 18-45 years of age received 10 mg melatonin daily or a placebo for eight weeks. The researchers evaluated the subjects for pain, sleep quality and analgesic use. The melatonin supplementation was found to improve sleep quality and pain, reducing the need for pain medicine by 80 percent.

Other studies are finding that melatonin may be effective at fighting cancer and promoting a stronger immune system.

Made in a small gland in the brain, melatonin is a hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycles. While we make melatonin in our brain, we also obtain small amounts of melatonin from meats, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Melatonin is also available as an over the counter supplement.

Our bodies have an internal clock which controls how much melatonin is made for regulating sleep/wake cycles controlling when we fall asleep and awaken. Melatonin usually begins to rise in the mid- to late evening, remaining high for most of the night, with levels that drop during the early morning.

Sunlight affects how much melatonin your body produces. As the sun goes down we tend to produce more melatonin. Bright light, including artificial light will prevent melatonin production which should be increasing around 9 pm.

Melatonin production decreases as we age making it more difficult for older adults with little melatonin to get good sleep. Teenagers also have a temporary shift in their nightly melatonin release with delayed release leading to later sleeping and waking times.

Why is melatonin used as a dietary supplement?
Melatonin supplements are often used for the treatment of insomnia (reducing the time it takes to get to sleep) although they are also used by those who are traveling for the treatment of jet lag.

Scientists are also looking at using melatonin to treat these health concerns:

  • To minimize seasonal affective disorder (SAD)/winter depression.
  • To control sleep patterns for people who work night shifts.
  • To reduce sleep and confusion issues after surgery.
  • To reducing cluster headaches.
  • To treat endometriosis related pain.
  • As a possible anti-aging supplement.
  • To maximize success in cancer treatment.

It has been suggested that the anti-oxidant and free radical properties of melatonin may protect healthy cells from radiation and chemotherapy while working as an agent to make the immune system stronger.

Is taking a melatonin dietary supplement safe?
Melatonin supplements are generally safe in low doses for both short-term and long-term use. Too much melatonin can have side effects such as sleepiness, a lower core body temperature, vivid dreams, brain fog, daytime drowsiness, abdominal discomfort, mild anxiety, irritability, confusion and short-lasting feelings of depression. These symptoms generally resolve when melatonin usage stops. In addition, melatonin supplements can interact with medications, particularly blood thinners , diabetes medicines, birth control pills and immune-suppressants.

For melatonin to be helpful, the correct dosage, method and time of day it is taken must be appropriate to the sleep problem. Taking it at the “wrong” time of day may reset your biological clock in an undesirable direction.

If you would like a consultation with Dr. Crosby about melatonin and its relationship to your condition(s), please contact (636)928-5588.


“Why Aren’t Teens Getting Enough Sleep?” How Much Sleep Do I Need? Gavin ML, Scaivina MT (2009). 2002 by American Society of Clinical Oncology

Melatonin: From Basic Research to Cancer Treatment Clinics
Vijayalaxmi, Charles R. Thomas Jr, Russel J. Reiter and Terence S. Herman
+ Author Affiliations. From the Departments of Radiation Oncology and Cellular and Structural Biology, The University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, TX.

Effects of melatonin and age on gene expression in mouse CNS using microarray analysis. Edward H. Sharman,a,* Stephen C. Bondy,a Kaizhi G. Sharman,a Debomoy Lahiri,c Carl W. Cotman,b and Victoria M. Perreaub Neurochem Int. 2007 January; 50(2): 336–344. Published online 2006 November 21. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2006.09.001 PMCID: PMC1868445 NIHMSID: NIHMS17820

Pain. 2013 Jun;154(6):874-81. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2013.02.025. Epub 2013 Mar 5.
Efficacy of melatonin in the treatment of endometriosis: a phase II, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Schwertner A, Conceição Dos Santos CC, Costa GD, Deitos A, de Souza A, de Souza IC, Torres IL, da Cunha Filho JS, Caumo W.