Melatonin–No Known Adverse Side Effects

Melatonin has none of the negative side effects associated with traditional sleep medications. To begin with, it does not significantly disrupt the sleep architecture. In 1974 a group of researchers concluded: “Melatonin-induced sleep, behaviorally as well as by its polygraphic pattern, strikingly resembles natural sleep.” Subsequent studies have supported this finding.

Nor does nature’s sleeping pill interfere with a person’s memory or performance the next day. In an afternoon sleep study conducted at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, a group of young men were assigned randomly to receive either a 1-, 10-, or 40-milligram dose of melatonin. The men took their pills and then two hours later were encouraged to take a nap. Four hours later, all of the men who had taken the 40-milligram dose were still sound asleep and had to be awakened. Shortly after awakening, the men were given tests of their performance memory, and fatigue. According to one of the investigators, Rod Hughes, Ph.D., “Test results suggested that melatonin had no carry-over fatigue and no negative effects on memory or performance.”

Another reason that melatonin is such a superlative sleep aid is that it does not lose its effectiveness over time. Melatonin may become a more effective sleep aid with chronic use. In an Israeli study, researchers gave 2-milligram doses of melatonin to elderly volunteers for two months. At the end of the treatment period, the volunteers fell asleep even more quickly than they did after one week of treatment.

Amazingly, even fractions of a milligram of melatonin can enhance sleep. Richard Wurtman, M.D., a longtime colleague of mine from MIT, demonstrated this fact in a series of studies that spanned ten years. In a study published in 1995, they gave volunteers either 1-milligram or 0.3-milligram doses of melatonin. Even these minute quantities decreased the amount of time it took volunteers to fall asleep, the smaller dose being just as effective as the larger one.”

Excerpted from Melatonin: Your Body’s Natural Wonder Drug, Chapter 8, pages 100-102.