Friday, July 17, 2009

A Melatonin Patch May Help Shift Workers Sleep During the Day

A nicotine patch is commonly used by people who want to quit smoking. A small dose of nicotine enters the blood by being absorbed through the skin.

Can this method of “transdermal delivery” be used for a sleep aid such as
melatonin? A new report provides positive results from a small study.

The study involved eight people. They were given an eight-hour opportunity to sleep during the daytime. This simulated the sleep schedule of someone who performs shift work.

Some participants were given a patch with 2.1 mg of melatonin. These participants were able to sleep better during the day; their sleep was similar to natural nighttime sleep.

Melatonin is a natural hormone that is produced by the brain’s pineal gland. It is considered a “darkness signal” for your body and seems to play an important role in sleep.

Melatonin is widely available in the U.S. as a nutritional supplement. When taken at the proper time, it can produce a shift in the timing of your sleep period. Melatonin can be helpful in the treatment of
shift work disorder, jet lag disorder and delayed sleep phase disorder.

But melatonin does have limitations. One is the short length of its effectiveness.

“Melatonin taken orally often wears off quickly, as it is rapidly removed from the body,” study co-author Daniel Aeschbach, PhD, said in a
prepared statement.

Oral melatonin supplements may help you fall asleep during the day; but it may be difficult for you to get a full seven to eight hours of sleep.

The study found that the patch elevated melatonin levels gradually; these levels remained elevated for an extended duration.

“The peak concentration occurred in the early evening, during the latter part of the bed rest,” said Aeschbach. “We know – and shift workers know - that this is a time during which it is particularly difficult to remain asleep.”

Find sleep tips for shift workers on Get help for a sleep problem at an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.

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