Melatonin is a hormone involved in regulating the normal 24-hour cycles of the body, known as circadian rhythms. Blood levels of this hormone are low during the day and increase during the night.
Melatonin has many potential uses. Some researchers have found that melatonin may help with sleep problems and jet lag.
Some have suggested melatonin may have a role in causing MS. One study reported that people with high levels of melatonin tended to have a later age of onset, as well as shorter disease duration. This relationship is not well understood, and the implications for melatonin supplementation are unclear.
Melatonin may activate the immune system by stimulating T cells. This poses a theoretical risk for people with MS and other autoimmune disorders. The effects of melatonin on the immune system and MS in general need to be further researched to provide any definitive results.
Melatonin has the potential to help with certain sleep issues, but may have adverse effects for people with MS. It may be reasonable for people with MS to avoid melatonin until further research is conducted. If people with MS choose to use melatonin, they should probably avoid high doses and long-term use.
References and Additional Reading
Bowling AC. Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Multiple Sclerosis. New York: Demos Medical Publishing, 2007.
Bowling AC, Stewart TS. Dietary Supplements and Multiple Sclerosis: A Health Professional’s Guide. New York: Demos Medical Publishing, 2004.
Jellin JM, Batz F, Hitchens K, et al. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty, 2009.
Ulbricht CE, Basch EM, eds. Natural Standard Herb and Supplement Reference: Evidence-Based Clinical Reviews. St. Louis: Elsevier-Mosby, 2005.