Melatonin, everything about the drug that should not be taken as if it were a nutritional supplement

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The latest study by the Spanish Sleep Society (SES) figures at a 14% prevalence of chronic insomnia in the adult population of our country (estimated by the INE at about 38 million in 2022), which means that it has doubled since 2000 and confirms the importance of this disease.

Children are also not immune to problems, mainly difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep (the most common), respiratory disorders, parasomnias, circadian rhythm disorders (adolescence) and restless legs. Globally, they affect 30% in pediatric age (about two million children under 16 years of age).

With this background, interest in using melatonin in the treatment of these conditions has also continued to increase. There are several factors that motivate this trend. It is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland with a circadian rhythm, which helps regulate the oscillation between sleep and wakefulness. To this chronoregulatory effect they add up immunological, antioxidant and oncostatic properties. In addition, it is easily synthesized and administered orally.

Its natural secretion is related to the light and dark changes, along with other external synchronizers, such as diet, social habits and exercise. Its production reduces with age in a relationship inversely proportional to the frequency of poor quality sleep. This fact has reinforced the idea that its deficit is, at least in part, responsible for this type of disorder.

However, the effectiveness of an exogenous administration depends on whether the indication is well made and whether it is taken when appropriate. “You have to give it to whoever it touches, how it touches and with medical supervision because it is a drug,” he summarizes. Oscar Sans, coordinator of the Pediatric Group of the SES. “The success of melatonin has to do with how it is given, but above all when,” he emphasizes. Ainhoa ​​Álvarezneurophysiologist and coordinator of the SES Insomnia Group, which is why she considers the doctor’s intervention essential.

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