Increasing melatonin use for sleep problems raises concerns

Advocacy Groups | <b>FORCE</b>

Many adults have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. For cancer patients, there are many reasons for sleep problems. Discomfort or anxiety from a cancer diagnosis or from testing positive for an inherited mutation that increases cancer risk can worsen sleep difficulties. Sleep issues may also develop as a side effect of cancer treatment, cancer prevention or menopause.

One sleep-aid that some people try is melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that affects brain function. It helps manage the body’s response to light and dark that, in turn, helps our bodies know when it’s time for sleep.

Melatonin has been available as an over-the-counter sleep aid for many years and is commonly used for jet lag. It is a supplement that is sold over the counter (without a prescription) in drug stores and supermarkets alongside vitamins and herbs. However, there is little evidence that melatonin actually helps people sleep and little is known about how people use melatonin as a sleep aid.

FORCE's XRAY program reviewed a study of melatonin use in which researchers looked at melatonin use among a large group of people in the United States over almost two decades. They had concerns that the contents of melatonin pills varied widely and that users may not know how much melatonin they are taking. Their study indicated that there is a need for better awareness of the safety and side effects of melatonin use among people who use melatonin.

Read our full review to learn more.