Does Melatonin Work?
Melatonin supplements are supposedly useful for many purposes, but does melatonin work? The hormone appears to be effective for treating various sleep disorders, although some may be more responsive to melatonin than others. It may also be effective for alleviating symptoms of nicotine withdrawal or withdrawal from benzodiazepines. For most other uses, there is insufficient evidence to prove the effectiveness of melatonin.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that is popular in supplements, especially for treating sleep disorders (such as insomnia). As with most other supplements, people use melatonin for many different uses. Melatonin supplements are often claimed to be helpful for the following purposes:
- Treating various sleep disorders (such as insomnia, jet lag, and others)
- Treating chronic fatigue syndrome
- Preventing cluster or migraine headaches
- Treating cancer (when used in combination with standard cancer treatment)
- Preventing or treating Alzheimer's disease
- Treating fibromyalgia.
These are just some of the uses for melatonin. Some of these uses are more credible than others.
Melatonin appears to be effective for various sleep disorders. Some sleep disorders appear to be more responsive to the supplement than others. For instance, melatonin seems to be quite effective for treating circadian rhythm disorders in blind people, while it may be less effective for treating sleeping problems associated with shift work.
There is limited evidence that melatonin may work for preventing cluster headaches and for treating prostate cancer and a few other types of cancer when used with other treatments. Melatonin may also be effective for alleviating symptoms of nicotine withdrawal or withdrawal from benzodiazepines (certain prescription anxiety and sleep medications). When combined with a progestin hormone, high doses of melatonin may be useful for preventing ovulation, although it should not be relied upon as a method of birth control.
Since melatonin is closely related to serotonin, a brain chemical that plays an important role in depression treatment, many people wonder if the supplement helps to treat depression. Although it may help relieve insomnia related to depression, it can actually make other depression symptoms worse. There is some evidence that melatonin may be useful for treating seasonal affective disorder ("winter depression" caused by lack of sunlight exposure).
For most other uses, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that melatonin is really effective for these various uses. More research is necessary before any conclusions can be made.