Melatonin • Sleep hormone as a drug?

Melatonin is a hormone that the body produces itself and that influences the day-night rhythm – including sleep. Read here how useful it is to use it in the form of a spray, tablets or capsules.

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What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone that is involved in controlling the various functions of the day-night rhythm. The body produces the hormone mainly in the pineal gland (epiphysis) in the brain, but smaller amounts also in the retina of the eye and in the intestine. As a drug, it is used to treat sleep disorders.

The melatonin level fluctuates during the day. When it is dark, more melatonin is released, so that people become tired. In addition, melatonin production decreases in the course of life: infants produce the most melatonin, from puberty onwards production decreases with each year of life.

To produce melatonin, the body needs the amino acid tryptophan, which is found in various foods such as eggs, cherries and soy. From this, the body first produces the happiness hormone serotonin and then melatonin.

Melatonin as a dietary supplement

Melatonin can also be supplied to the body externally in the form of spray, tablets or capsules. There are many over-the-counter preparations available in stores, but they are rated as critical by experts. Melatonin is a pharmacologically active substance that, according to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, should by no means be viewed as a dietary supplement and should be taken on your own. Various preparations with melatonin are approved as medication in Germany, which must be prescribed by a doctor.

Areas of application (indications) for melatonin

Melatonin as a medicinal product is approved for:

  • short-term sleep disorders (insomias) with poor sleep quality

  • Sleep disorders in children and adolescents aged 2 to 18 years with autism and / or Smith-Magenis syndrome (after all other measures for sleep disorders have been exhausted)

In addition, there is what is known as off-label use, i.e. use for indications for which the drug is not approved after careful risk-benefit assessment:

  • Difficulty sleeping from jet lag or shift work
  • Parasomnia (abnormal sleep behaviors such as grinding teeth or nightmares)

Application and dosage of melatonin: spray, capsules, tablets

In pharmacies, preparations with melatonin are available with or without a prescription as capsules or tablets of 1 to 5 milligrams. There is also melatonin in the form of a spray, combined with other active ingredients that are supposed to make it easier to fall asleep. Which application form is possible in which dosage should be discussed individually with a doctor and not decided on your own.

The recommended dose of melatonin is 2 milligrams daily. The tablets or capsules should be taken one to two hours before bedtime. It can be taken for up to three months.

Melatonin: contraindications

Melatonin must not be used in certain diseases or situations:

  • pregnancy and breast feeding period
  • Hypersensitivity to the active ingredient melatonin
  • Liver disease
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Kidney dysfunction (only after consultation with a doctor)

Side effects of melatonin

Taking melatonin capsules can cause several side effects:

In addition, the use of melatonin can affect driving and using machines.

Drug interactions

Melatonin interacts with some drugs. Therefore, those who take certain medications are not allowed to take melatonin:

  • Fluvoxamin
  • Cimetidine
  • Estrogens
  • Carbamazepine
  • Rifampicin
  • Benzodiazepine, Zaleplon, Zolpidem, Zopiclon

Smokers should also refrain from taking melatonin, as the combination of melatonin levels in the body drops significantly. Alcohol reduces the effect melatonin has on sleep.

Study situation on melatonin

Studies show that melatonin can help you fall asleep. However, these effects are very small, because the studies only shortened the time to fall asleep by ten minutes, which is not helpful for many people in the case of severe sleep disorders. The quality of sleep seems to be better in some people when taking melatonin.

People with dementia often have difficulty sleeping. Therefore, a study looked at the effects of melatonin on dementia. However, it was not found to be any more effective than placebo.

Based on the current state of studies, experts do not recommend melatonin across the board for sleep disorders, as there are proven more effective agents. In addition, the measures for sleep hygiene should definitely be implemented in the event of sleep disorders.

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Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by

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