Scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that 5 mg of melatonin increased total sleep time in healthy adults aged 55 and older.
The research is published in the Journal of Pineal Research and was conducted by author Charles Czeisler et al.
The body naturally produces the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate a person’s sleep-wake cycle between night and day. Melatonin levels peak at night.
But among older people, levels of the hormone are often lower. Exogenous melatonin is sold over the counter and can be taken before bedtime as a dietary supplement, usually in the form of a pill or capsule.
In the study, the team found in 24 healthy, older adults to evaluate whether a high-dose or a low-dose melatonin supplement could improve sleep.
They found that the higher dose had a strong impact, increasing total sleep time compared to placebo by more than 15 minutes for night-time sleep and by half an hour for daytime sleep.
But the low dose of melatonin did not lead to a big change in overall sleep time and the changes that were seen were when sleep was scheduled during the biological day.
Participants taking the 5 mg dose had a big increase in total sleep time and sleep efficiency regardless of whether sleep was scheduled during the day or night.
The authors note that their study will need to be replicated in larger trials and with other doses of melatonin to determine whether a dose between 0.3 and 5 mg may work as well.
The study did not include participants who had a significant sleep disorder and the study’s findings may not be applicable to people who do.
Researchers say that it’s exciting to see evidence that melatonin may have an impact on sleep at night for older adults because we know that so many older people have trouble sleeping.
But before taking a dietary supplement, it’s important for people to talk to their primary care physician and get a referral to a sleep specialist to rule out an undiagnosed sleep disorder.
If you care about supplements, please read studies about supplement that could keep dementia at bay, and Omega-3 supplements may harm heart health for some people.
For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies that Vitamin D can be cheap treatments for COVID-19, and results showing Vitamin K may help cut heart disease risk by a third.
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