February 10, 2006

No evidence melatonin relieves jet lag: scientists

LONDON (Reuters) - Melatonin is described as a natural
nightcap but researchers said on Friday there is no scientific
evidence that it relieves jet lag.

The hormone, which is available in over-the-counter
supplements, helps regulate the body's daily rhythms. Shift
workers and air travellers take it to improve their sleep

But scientists at the University of Alberta in Edmonton
Canada found it had no significant impact.

"Our results do not provide evidence that melatonin is
effective in alleviating sleep disturbance in jet lag," said
Nina Buscemi, a research associate at the university, in a
report published online by the British Medical Journal.

Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone, is produced by
the pineal gland in the brain. Research has shown that levels
rise at night and fall in the morning.

Buscemi and her colleagues reviewed 16 trials, involving
more than 500 people in all, to assess the impact of melatonin
on sleep disorders caused by medical problems or lack of sleep
due to working shifts or to air travel.

About 20 percent of Americans suffer from sleep problems,
according to the researchers.

They said short-term use of melatonin seems to be safe but
called for more studies to determine its long-term safety.