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You don’t have to be a shift
worker or jet setter
to have awkward or non-existent sleeping habits, but both groups suffer quite a bit. Melatonin,
one of the more popular over-the-counter supplements, may be headed toward a
new delivery system, a patch placed on the body with small pulses of the
hormone administered throughout the evening (or day), through your skin!

I’ve written about this
sleep aid
frequently because I get so many questions on it.  Many supplement
companies and health food stores will claim that melatonin is a natural
sleeping aid or nightcap because it “naturally” helps regulate sleep-wake
cycles. Given its wide spread availability today, you’d presume it’s safe and

Is it?

Well, that depends. Melatonin has been shown to help
regulate sleep cycles in certain populations and really help out quite a few
people, but like anything there are pros and cons :

  • The precise mechanism of melatonin secretion in
    the body is not well understood. We do know, however, that melatonin isn’t just
    about sleep-wake cycles. It’s been shown to help regulate the female
    reproductive cycle and may also affect  the onset of puberty. Children who take melatonin can suffer
    a delay in sexual development. (So
    never ever give a child a melatonin supplement.)
  • This new patch study showed that men and women
    had different levels of melatonin in their system with the same dosage patch! So
    a gender difference may apply.
  • Studies have pointed to melatonin’s role in
    regulating blood flow, specifically in constricting
    coronary arteries
  • And it’s been suggested that melatonin can increase depression in people prone to
    the illness.

For the record, melatonin
is a hormone
, and it’s not a
regulated drug under the FDA
. No other hormone is available in the United
States without a prescription. In some parts of Europe, melatonin is available
by prescription only.

If this experimental patch version of melatonin reaches the
market, it could have a much bigger effect on the body than just popping a
pill. The half-life of a melatonin pill is short and it doesn’t last long; a
patch, on the other hand, can deliver small doses throughout its use to keep
the levels in the body consistent for a longer, stronger effect. This might be
great for shift workers who sleep during the day, when the body does not like
to produce melatonin.

The patch has been tested on people who sleep during
daylight hours and work at night.. For this reason, I can see why a melatonin patch could be helpful to those who maintain
schedules opposite to the usual solar day (where the body prefers to be functional).

And I have great respect for those
who manage to live this life for the sake of their careers and my safety (e.g.,
emergency care, pilots, etc.). 
But, even though the patch would be sold as a prescription, it wouldn’t
surprise me to see people getting their hands on it without trying other sleep
hygiene tactics
first, which can be far more effective and healthier
overall for the body, particularly for those of us that can really get our
shut-eye at night.

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™

Click here to see Dr. Breus's list of recommended sleep products. 

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Michael Breus, Ph.D - The Sleep Doctor is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and one of only 168 psychologists to pass the Sleep Medical Specialty Board without going to medical school. Dr. Breus is a sought after lecturer and his knowledge is shared daily in major national media worldwide including Today, Dr. Oz, Oprah, and for fourteen years as the sleep expert on WebMD. Dr. Breus is the bestselling author of The Power of When, The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan and Good Night!

5 thoughts on “Something New in Melatonin?

  1. Dr. Breus emphasizes the potential negative effects of Melatonin supplementation without mentioning the potential positive effects. Studies on rodents have shown that Melatonin supplementation extended life of the rodents. Melatonin has shown statistically significant effects when used as a supplemental cancer treatment. It is a known antioxidant. In short, yes while there may be some negative effects from taking Melatonin, there also may be some even more consequential positive effects.

  2. My son has Autism and has taken Melatonin for 3 years to sleep. Your article has made me nervous about the effects on his sexual development. He has enough issues without that to deal with. I have also read about a link to infertility.Can you please write another article to tell all of the parents of Children with Autism what to do about this? I know a lot of children taking this for sleep disorders caused by Autism and now we may have another problem. Thanks for your help.

  3. What about Melatonin “Spray” dosing? I have been using this type of delivery for about 4 mos. and it seems to be helping me, a long term chronic insomniac. My hx. of migraines though is a concern if there is any relation to the constriction of arteries leading into the neck/head, then THAT would be counterindicated for me, any news there? Thanks Pamela in Plano TX.

  4. I represent the relaxation beverage iChill which is composed of Melatonin primarily – plus Valarian Root, Rose Hips and B vitamins.
    I am not trying to sell you on the product at all but I wanted to make you aware. Click on
    Thank you Doctor.

  5. I’ve read through your post twice now, and I still don’t see how a patch is going to be any better than the pill. Both do the same thing: deliver melatonin. Seems to be a much less invasive thing to just pop a pill than slap on a patch that you have to continue to wear…

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