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May 9, 2006

Melatonin Supplements May Promote Daytime Sleep

Topics: Health Issues

Melatonin, a hormone involved in the regulation of the sleep/wake cycle that is released by the brain primarily during the hours of sleep, may help night shift workers get more rest during daylight hours, according to the findings of a small study published in the journal Sleep. However, even when given melatonin during the day, daytime sleep still falls short of the quality and quantity of nighttime sleep. In addition to helping daytime workers have a more restful sleep, Melatonin is known to have an association and relationship with cancer, which has been shown in many studies assessing links between shift work and cancer rates. The association between melatonin levels and cancer progression has suggested to some that melatonin may be a modifier of cancer progression..

"If for reasons of being a shift worker or due to travel across time zones you have to sleep at a strange hour, this is precisely when taking melatonin will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer," lead investigator Dr. James K. Wyatt, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, told Reuters Health.

"The findings really point out how important our brain's 24-hour clock, also called the circadian system, is to being able to remain awake and alert throughout the day (and) how the circadian system can therefore get in the way of attempts to sleep during the day."

"We believe melatonin is directly suppressing your body's 24-hour clock and in particular suppressing the circadian system's drive for wakefulness...in some ways dampening that wake-up signal," Wyatt said. However, when melatonin was taken during the nighttime hours, when the body usually produces its own melatonin, no additional benefit was observed.

It appears to be a chase in which "more is not better," Wyatt said. "If you're trying to sleep when your body wants you to, taking a pill of melatonin will provide no additional benefit."

Regarding melatonin's possible role in cancer, researchers say that the results are so compelling that cancer funding agencies should be eager to support clinical trials to evaluate its therapeutic role in a variety of cancers.

Besides being released by the brain primarily during the hours of sleep, melatonin is also available as an oral supplement. As always, you should consult with your physician before taking any supplement or medication.

Related readings:

  1. Estrogen-signaling pathway: A link between breast cancer and melatonin oncostatic actions.
  2. Summary of international symposium entitled "Low frequency EMF, Visible Light, Melatonin and Cancer"

  3. Horrobin DF Brief report on a conference on "Low frequency EMF, Visible Light, Melatonin and Cancer"

  4. Portier CJ Decisions about environmental health risks: what are the key questions and how does this apply to melatonin? Stevens RG Cologne International Symposium - May 4-5, 2000
  5. Light pollution, reproductive function and cancer risk.

  6. Melatonin May Be A Hazard For Elderly Women
  7. Melatonin and Cancer Treatment

Posted by Richard at May 9, 2006 12:21 PM



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