Consider The Evidence: Med/Peds Journal Roundup

February 22, 2006

Melatonin meta-analysis: Back to counting sheep?

Filed under: BMJ, melatonin, sleep — medblog @ 3:46 pm

BMJ 2/10 – Although Melatonin continues to be one of the most widely used supplements for sleep, its popularity seems to be driven by anecdotal evidence than RCTs. A meta-analysis in the BMJ looks at more than 30 trials with melatonin, and concludes that it is pretty much useless for anything related to sleep. Travelers, shiftworkers, and insomniacs are just going to have to keep getting refills on their Ambien until the next natural sleep-aid fad comes around.

Efficacy and safety of exogenous melatonin for secondary sleep disorders and sleep disorders accompanying sleep restriction: meta-analysis
Nina Buscemi, Ben Vandermeer, Nicola Hooton, Rena Pandya, Lisa Tjosvold, Lisa Hartling, Sunita Vohra, Terry P Klassen, Glen Baker
BMJ 2006;332:385-393, doi:10.1136/bmj.38731.532766.F6



  1. Actually, research has found melatonin sleep aids to be highly effective – but only in small doses. Current preparations that are being sold have about 10 times the effective dose causing it to be effective for only a few days. When the brain gets an excessive amount of melatonin, it becomes immune to its effects rendering melatonin ineffective.

    Comment by sleep talk — February 6, 2007 @ 9:30 am

  2. I think the research evidence on melatonin as a sleep promoter is at best mixed. Many studies on the subject are not placebo controlled, randomized controlled trials, or do not have adequate study size – and the results of these studies should be interpreted with caution. This meta-analysis also attempted to address studies regarding true secondary sleep disorders, and does not address less pathologic sleep problems. However the BMJ analysis does show that the quality of evidence for the use of melatonin in sleep disorders from rigorous scientific trials is poor.

    Comment by medblog — February 6, 2007 @ 9:13 pm

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