Melatonin Supplements Beneficial for Insomnia among Elderly
Previous studies have yielded conflicting results about the benefits of melatonin supplements in regulating the sleep cycle of elderly individuals. To investigate this further Jennifer Brault, MD, a resident in psychiatry at the University of Ottawa and her colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of nine studies which involved almost 300 patients.
Their investigation showed that over-the-counter melatonin supplements significantly improved sleep onset latency in patients aged 55 or older. Melatonin also improved total sleep time and sleep efficiency. The results were similar to the effects of benzodiazepines, which are medications used as sedatives.
The doses used in the studies ranged from 0.1 mg to 10 mg, and there appeared to be no difference in outcomes based on dose. They did not observe any impact of melatonin on waking after sleep onset. There were very few side effects noted.
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the brain and it is involved in regulating the sleep-wake cycle by causing drowsiness and lowering the body temperature. Its production decreases as people age, and many elderly individuals suffer from sleeping problems, leading to daytime sleepiness, memory problems and mood changes.
Although melatonin has a vital role in regulating circadian rhythms and has been reported to have sleep-inducing effects, previous studies in elderly patients have yielded conflicting results. The author believes that since there was substantial heterogeneity in the nine studies included in the meta-analysis. There is a need for more studies which may include looking at subjective data contained in sleep logs to find out if participants felt they had an improved sleep or if they had more energy the following day.
Susman, E. Melatonin Can Help Seniors Get More Sleep. Medpage Today.