July 27th, 2015 by Tori Hudson, N.D.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted mostly by the pineal gland in response to the normal variations in the circadian cycle. As a dietary supplement, melatonin is one of the most common nutraceutical supplements that individuals try for self-treatment of their sleep problems and many trials have been done to assess its effectiveness in treating primary sleep disorders.
Primary sleep disorders are sleep problems that are not associated with a medical condition, substance use or a psychological disorder. Nine percent of Americans report insomnia and thirty-five to forty percent have problems falling asleep or are excessively sleepy during the day.
The current paper is a meta-analysis of melatonin for the treatment of primary sleep disorders. Nineteen studies involving 1683 individuals were included. Melatonin was significantly effective in reducing the time it takes to fall asleep (sleep latency) as well as increasing total sleep time. Trials that used higher doses of melatonin and conducted over a longer duration demonstrated even greater effects on these two sleep issues, and overall sleep quality was also significantly improved in melatonin users. Doses in adults included in the study were as low as 0.1 mg/day and as high as 5 mg/of. Three studies were in children and doses used were as low as 0.05 mg/kg and up to 5 mg/day.
While the results of this meta-analysis demonstrated what might be considered only modest results with supplementing melatonin in individuals with primary sleep disorders and improvement in sleep latency, total sleep time and sleep quality, these results support the use of melatonin as a nutrient intervention for many folks with chronic sleep problems. Multi-ingredient formulas that contain herbs that have demonstrated efficacy (ex/ valerian, passion flower, lemon balm, hops), along with melatonin may provide the opportunity to help more individuals.
Ferracioli-Oda E, Qawasmi A, Bloch M. Meta-Analysis: Melatonin for the treatment of primary sleep disorders. PLOS ONE 2013; 8(5)