No Melatonin

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No Melatonin?  American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends against its use for insomnia

Hot on the heels of MoodSurfing’s recent exploration of the use of melatonin for insomnia comes a new recommendation from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine that melatonin should not be used for insomnia, either in adults or in children.

The Academy has found a number of problems with the use of melatonin, and has launched a full investigation of melatonin, its packaging and sale, use and misuse, and possible side effects.  Until the investigation is complete, we are all advised to quit using over-the-counter melatonin for insomnia.

Problems found in manufacture

Melatonin is not regulated by the FDA, and is sold without a prescription.  Insomnia can be a symptom of several different problems, some of which can be treated better by other methods.  Several brands of over-the-counter melatonin tablets have been tested, and findings show a large variation in the amount of melatonin in each preparation.  Researchers from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, tested 30 commercially available formulas and found the melatonin content varied from the ingredients labeled on the bottles by more than 10%,1  meaning there can be considerably more or considerably less than the recommended dosage in the formula you are taking.  The research also found that commercially available melatonin preparations contained other ingredients not listed on the label.  Chief among these was serotonin, another hormone that has been implicated in depression and bipolar.  People with bipolar should be especially cautious since taking additional serotonin could have an effect on their mood.

Problems in overuse and overproduction

Melatonin is a hormone that is produced in the brain, and has a number of functions in the body.  Besides helping to regulate the body’s clock and induce calm near bedtime, melatonin also has effects on body temperature and blood sugar.  Its use in young children is particularly concerning since it may affect puberty and development in the adolescent body.  For these reasons, the Academy cannot recommend the use of melatonin as a sleep aid for anyone.  Melatonin is often marketed in the form of “gummy” candies, and children have been known to get and eat more than the recommended dosage, with unknown implications for their health and future development.

CBT is better

For adults, research has consistently shown that CBT led by a trained provider is the best way to treat insomnia, and for children, bedtime routines that take a secure, familiar path and lead gradually to calm and sleep readiness are usually the best.  Insomnia that lasts a long time and does not yield to disciplined circadian rhythm routines should be evaluated by a physician for underlying root causes.

Additional Resources:

Childhood Insomnia

Winter Insomnia

CBT for Insomnia