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Melatonin is a natural substance within the human body which is released from the pineal gland when the eyes sense darkness. Melatonin is synthesized from tryptophan and helps to regulate the sleeping patterns of the brain. Melatonin is used as a sleep aid and tends to cause less drowsiness than other sleep aids, while still helping to induce sleep. Melatonin has also shown the ability to elicit an immune response. Melatonin can be purchased over the counter and is used for occasional insomnia. Melatonin should not be used daily for more then 1-2 weeks without supervision of a doctor. Use in adults under 18 years of age should be discussed with a doctor.

Check with your doctor before taking melatonin if you are pregnant or have other health conditions.

Adult Dose

Insomnia in Blind People: 0.5 to 5mg by mouth every night.

Insomnia: 0.3 to 5 mg by mouth, 30 minutes before sleeping.

Jet Lag: 2-5 mg by mouth on the night of arrival and for the next 2-5 nights.

Side Effects

Rare Side Effects Include:


Drug Interactions

Nifedipine: Melatonin can decrease the effectiveness of nifedipine.

Fluvoxamine, MAOI's(Parnate, Eldepryl, Nardil, Zelepar, Marplan, Emsam), and tricyclic antidepressants: These drugs may increase the concentration of melatonin.

Valproate, Benzodiazepines: These drugs may decrease melatonin levels.

Some evidence shows that Verapamil can decrease the concentration of melatonin by cause an increased rate of excretion.

Caffeine and Oral Contraceptives: Oral contraceptive and melatonin levels can fluctuate when taken together, check with you doctor before taking melatonin with oral contraceptives. Caffeine may also lead to fluctuations in melatonin levels.

Anticoagulants: When used in combination with anticoagulant drugs, melatonin can cause an increased risk of bleeding.

Immunosuppressants(chemotherapy, steroids): Avoid using melatonin with immunosuppressive agents because melatonin can stimulate an immune response counteracting the effectiveness of the immunosuppressive agents.

NSAIDS(Ibuprofen, Naproxen): NSAIDS may reduce melatonin levels.

By Evan Redmond, Pharm.D.

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