Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rest Easy: MIT Study Confirms Melatonin's Value As Sleep Aid

Date:
March 13, 2005
Source:
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology
Summary:
A new study by MIT scientists and colleagues confirms that melatonin is an effective sleep aid for older insomniacs and others. Misuse of the hormone had led some to question its efficacy, but the latest work (published in the February issue of Sleep Medicine Reviews) could jump-start interest in the dietary supplement and help more people get a good night's sleep.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- A new study by MIT scientists and colleagues confirms that melatonin is an effective sleep aid for older insomniacs and others. Misuse of the hormone had led some to question its efficacy, but the latest work (published in the February issue of Sleep Medicine Reviews) could jump-start interest in the dietary supplement and help more people get a good night's sleep.

In earlier research, scientists led by Professor Richard Wurtman, principal investigator for the current study, showed that only a small dose of melatonin (about 0.3 milligrams) is necessary for a restful effect. Taken in that quantity, it not only helps people fall asleep, but also makes it easier for them to return to sleep after waking up during the night--a problem for many older adults.

The researchers also found, however, that commercially available melatonin pills contain 10 times the effective amount. And at that dose, "after a few days it stops working," said Wurtman, director of MIT's Clinical Research Center and the Cecil H. Green Distinguished Professor. When the melatonin receptors in the brain are exposed to too much of the hormone, they become unresponsive.

As a result of these inadvertent overdoses, "many people don't think melatonin works at all," said Wurtman, who is also affiliated with the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. This belief, coupled with potentially serious side effects related to high doses such as hypothermia, has earned the hormone a bad reputation in some quarters--"and something that could be very useful to a lot of people isn't," said Wurtman, who said that he and his wife have been taking melatonin every night for about a year now.

To determine conclusively whether melatonin works or not, the scientists in the current study analyzed 17 peer-reviewed scientific papers about the hormone. To be included in this study, or meta-analysis, the experiments reported in each paper had to satisfy specific criteria. For example, each had to be placebo-controlled and include objective measurements on at least six adult subjects.

"A meta-analysis essentially tells 'yes' or 'no'--that a treatment does or does not have a significant effect," Wurtman said. "When a meta-analysis says 'yes,' there should no longer be any controversy about whether the treatment works."

The melatonin meta-analysis delivered a definitive "yes."

Wurtman notes that some of the 17 studies included in the analysis involved very high doses of the hormone over long periods, a "situation where we know it's not going to work." Yet the meta-analysis still showed that the hormone's positive effects on sleep "are statistically significant."

When Wurtman first discovered the efficacy of small doses of melatonin, he and MIT patented its use for dosages up to one milligram. Because the FDA defined the hormone as a dietary supplement, however, manufacturers were free to sell it in much higher dosages, "even though we knew they wouldn't work," Wurtman said.

As a result, until recently the hormone was commercially unavailable to the public in small doses. "People who knew that small doses were best often bought the high-dose pills, then divided them with a knife," Wurtman said. "But that's not very accurate."

The company Nature's Bounty has since licensed the work, and now the hormone is easily available in the effective dosages.

Wurtman's colleagues in the meta-analysis work are Amnon Brzezinski of Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Israel; Mark G. Vangel, a visiting scientist at the Clinical Research Center; Gillian Norrie and Ian Ford of the University of Glasgow in Scotland; and Irina Zhdanova of the Boston University School of Medicine.

###

The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Center for Brain Sciences and Metabolism Charitable Trust, and the Womens' Health Center of Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. "Rest Easy: MIT Study Confirms Melatonin's Value As Sleep Aid." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 March 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050308134331.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. (2005, March 13). Rest Easy: MIT Study Confirms Melatonin's Value As Sleep Aid. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050308134331.htm
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. "Rest Easy: MIT Study Confirms Melatonin's Value As Sleep Aid." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050308134331.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) A new study finds most crimes committed by people with mental illness are not caused by symptoms of their illness or disorder. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) NBC's "Today" conducted an experiment to see if changing the size of plates and utensils affects the amount individuals eat. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) A recent report claims personality can change over time as we age, and usually that means becoming nicer and more emotionally stable. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) In the U.S., there are more than 11 million couples trying to conceive at any given time. From helping celebrity moms like Bethanny Frankel to ordinary soon-to-be-moms, TV personality and parenting expert, Rosie Pope, gives you the inside scoop on mastering motherhood. London-born entrepreneur Pope is the creative force behind Rosie Pope Maternity and MomPrep. She explains why being an entrepreneur offers the best life balance for her and tips for all types of moms. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins