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Melatonin Deficiencies in Women

  [ 97 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • April 24, 2002

Maturitas 2002 Apr 15;41 Suppl 1:85-104

Rohr UD, Herold J.

Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, University Hospital, Essen, Germany

The pineal hormone melatonin is the mediator of external light to physiologic adaptation to day and night rhythms, it regulates reproduction in animals but attempts to utilize melatonin in women for contraception have failed.

Melatonin seems to be the natural hormone to facilitate sleep in insomniac patients and causes no hang over. When applied together with benzodiazepine it allows reduction of benzodiazepine without withdrawal effects. It should be applied 2 h before sleeping time in doses between 3 and 5 mg.

Melatonin acts via the gamma-aminobutyric acid- and benzodiazepine receptor explaining its success in treatment of seizures in children and in adults.

Constant application of benzodiazepine reduced the production of natural melatonin in rats, supporting the evidence that long-term application of benzodiazepine in humans does not restore sleeping habits but reduces natural sleeping habits even more. Low melatonin levels were seen in bulimia or neuralgia and in women with fibromyalgia; replacement reduced pain, sleeping disorders, and depression in fibromyalgia and bulimia.

Melatonin profiles are a diagnostic tool to distinguish between several forms of depression, like major depression, winter depression (SAD), unipolar depression, delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS). In patients with a major depression success with antidepressants correlated with an increase in their melatonin profiles but only patients suffering from DSPS can be successfully treated with melatonin. In perimenopausal women melatonin administration did produce a change in LH, FSH and thyroid hormones. Some oncostatic properties are supported by cell culture work and studies in animals.

In Nordic countries indigenous people suffer less from breast and prostate cancer, winter darkness seems to protect. The supposedly increased melatonin levels created the 'melatonin hypothesis'. Epidemiological studies did show that blind people indeed have half the rate of breast cancers, supporting the hypothesis. Controversial results concerning melatonin and insulin resistance and glucose tolerance have been published.

In postmenopausal women application of melatonin reduced glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. Pregnant women should avoid melatonin, since its teratogenic effect is not known. Patients suffering from non-hormone dependent tumors, like leukemia, should avoid melatonin, since tumor growth was promoted in animal experiments. It can be expected that melatonin will receive wide consideration for treatment of sleeping disturbances, jet lag, and fibromyalgia once an oral formulation becomes available in Europe.

PMID: 11955797

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