Some studies (mostly molecular) give hints that melatonin could be beneficial for oxidative damage and protection of mitochondria, and therefore perhaps beneficial for MS. Are there any side effects of melatonin that should prevent us from taking it? Thanks!
Thanks for your question on the use of melatonin to prevent oxidative damage in MS. We asked Dr. Dennis Bourdette, Chair of the Department of Neurology at Oregon Health & Science University to comment on this, as he is an expert on the subject. Here is his response:
While there is some evidence that melatonin may have anti-oxidant effects and anti-oxidants may be beneficial for MS, melatonin can have side-effects if taken improperly. Melatonin has an important biologic role in setting our brain's internal clock and in particular in modulating our sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin levels rise about the time we normally go to sleep and causes drowsiness.
For this reason, taking melatonin at bedtime can help some people who have difficulty falling asleep. It may also help to re-set one's internal biologic clock when traveling to different time zones, i.e. help in overcoming "jet lag" and helping "shift workers."
Melatonin has also been used to help treat seasonal affective disorder by taking it in the evening and using light therapy in the morning. Taking melatonin at times of day other than one's usual bedtime runs that risk of altering one's normal sleep rhythm and may cause daytime drowsiness. I therefore strongly recommend not taking melatonin except at bedtime and really one should only be using it to help with sleep induction in people with sleep disturbance.
Dennis Bourdette, MD, FANA, FAAN
Chair and Roy and Eulalia Swank Family Research Professor
Department of Neurology
School of Medicine
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