Melatonin May Not Help Rotating Shift Workers

Taking melatonin does not appear to help workers on rotating shifts adjust to working nights, the findings from a US study suggest. Melatonin is thought to help regulate daily or "circadian" rhythms and the sleep-wake cycle. It is available in supplement form, the hormone has been touted as a remedy for insomnia, jet lag, and sleep problems related to night shift work.

The body normally produces more melatonin in darkness than in daylight. And studies have shown that, in night shift workers, this cyclical waxing and waning of melatonin levels gets thrown off kilter. Unlike permanent night shift workers, however, those working rapidly rotating shifts do not see a disruption in melatonin production. So, while melatonin did not appear to help individuals adjust to their rotating shift, it might help people permanently assigned the night shift.

Annals of Emergency Medicine September 1998;32:334-340.

Dr. Mercola's Comment:

As I have mentioned previously, one must be cautious with melatonin. It really should only be used in individuals with jet lag or who have permanent night shifts. Individuals who have rotating night shifts do not appear to benefit from this treatment.

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