Sleep disorders are a group of conditions that affect the ability to sleep well on a regular basis and cause significant impairments in social and occupational functions. Although currently approved medications are efficacious, they are far from satisfactory. Benzodiazepines, antidepressants, antihistamines and anxiolytics have the potential for dependence and addiction. Moreover, some of these medications can gradually impair cognition. Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) is an endogenous hormone produced by the pineal gland and released exclusively at night. Exogenous melatonin supplementation is well tolerated and has no obvious short- or long-term adverse effects. Melatonin has been shown to synchronize the circadian rhythms, and improve the onset, duration and quality of sleep. It is centrally involved in anti-oxidation, circadian rhythmicity maintenance, sleep regulation and neuronal survival. This narrative review aims to provide a comprehensive overview of various therapeutic functions of melatonin in insomnia, sleep-related breathing disorders, hypersomnolence, circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders and parasomnias. Melatonin offers an alternative treatment to the currently available pharmaceutical therapies for sleep disorders with significantly less side effects. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28460563
The circadian rhythm of pineal melatonin is the best marker of internal time under low ambient light levels. The endogenous melatonin rhythm exhibits a close association with the endogenous circadian component of the sleep propensity rhythm. This has led to the idea that melatonin is an internal sleep “facilitator” in humans, and therefore useful in the treatment of insomnia and the readjustment of circadian rhythms. There is evidence that administration of melatonin is able: (i) to induce sleep when the homeostatic drive to sleep is insufficient; (ii) to inhibit the drive for wakefulness emanating from the circadian pacemaker; and (iii) induce phase shifts in the circadian clock such that the circadian phase of increased sleep propensity occurs at a new, desired time. Therefore, exogenous melatonin can act as soporific agent, a chronohypnotic, and/or a chronobiotic. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12622846
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