Melatonin most effective for sleep when taken for off-hour sleeping

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Researchers from the Divisions of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School have found in a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical study that melatonin, taken orally during non-typical sleep times, significantly improves an individual’s ability to sleep.

This finding is particularly important for rotating or night-shift workers, travelers with jet lag and individuals with advanced or delayed sleep phase syndrome.

The findings appear in the May 1, 2006 issue of the journal Sleep.

“Melatonin enabled these participants to obtain an extra half hour of sleep when they attempted to do so during the day, at a time when they were not producing melatonin themselves,” said Charles Czeisler, chief of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and HMS and senior author of the study. “Melatonin did not help these young adults sleep at night, when their body was already producing melatonin. These findings have implications for millions of people who attempt to sleep at a time that is out of synch with the brain’s internal clock.”

The research was supported by the National Institute on Aging, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.