Melatonin Helps Asthmatics Sleep More Soundly

Counteracts effects of steroids that are often used for condition

TUESDAY, Nov. 2, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Treatment with melatonin -- a hormone believed to play an important role in the sleep cycle -- improves slumber for people with asthma, says a Brazilian study in the November issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The study authors, led by Dr. Pedro F. C. de Bruin, of the Department of Medicine at Universidade Federal do Cear in Fortaleza, found improved sleep quality in the treated women as measured with the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. They noted, however, that even when asthma is well-controlled, drugs such as oral steroids used to control the disease can disrupt sleep.

The study included 22 women with mild to moderate asthma. They were divided into two groups. One group of 12 took melatonin, a hormone secreted by the human pineal gland, for four weeks while the other group of 10 took a placebo.

The women in the melatonin group had greatly improved sleep quality, compared to the women who took the placebo. Neither group showed changes in asthma symptoms, daily peak expiratory flow rate, or in their use of asthma medication.

There were no adverse effects reported by the women who took melatonin, the study authors said.

But the researchers concluded that, while melatonin can improve the sleep of asthmatics, further studies looking at long-term effects of using the hormone were needed before they could safely recommend its use for all asthmatics.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about asthma.

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, Nov. 1, 2004
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