Melatonin's Effectiveness Remains Murky

FEBRUARY 01, 2005

New evidence released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) concluded that melatonin does not work in treating a majority of primary sleep disorders.

The federal agency said that melatonin supplements do not appear to affect sleep quality, wakefulness after sleep onset, total sleep time, or percentage of the time spent in rapid eye movement sleep. All are key criteria for an effective treatment for sleep problems such as insomnia.

AHRQ's review suggested that melatonin in oral doses are relatively safe when taken for the short term, over a period of days or weeks, and is safe at relatively high doses and in various formulations. The agency, however, said the safety of melatonin supplementation when used for the long term remains unclear.