Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Rest easy: MIT study confirms melatonin’s value as sleep aid

01.03.2005


Hormone now commercially available in small doses



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.

Elizabeth Thomson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mit.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Some brain tumors may respond to immunotherapy, new study suggests
11.12.2018 | Columbia University Irving Medical Center

nachricht Climate change and air pollution damaging health and causing millions of premature deaths
30.11.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>