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Improve Sleep and Reduce Itching with Melatonin

A recent study found that oral melatonin improved skin symptoms as well as sleep disturbance in children/adolescents with atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic disease that affects the skin. Oftentimes, the skin becomes incredibly itchy for people with AD. Though the results are not extravagant, they are still significant and worth further investigation.

A previous study showed that children with AD have longer sleep-onset latency, greater sleep fragmentation, shorter REM sleep as well as reduced sleep efficiency compared to healthy controls. Importantly, these disturbances in sleep were associated with a decreased melatonin secretion, more scratching movements, and more severe dermatitis. In short, the sleep disturbances increased the likelihood of scratching, which heightened inflammation of the skin. The research group hypothesized that melatonin will improve overall sleep disturbance which will in turn, reduce itching and improve the skin.

The present study examined 38 patients aged 1-18 years old. Criteria included at least 3 days per week of sleep problems and AD that involved at least 5% of their body surface area. The patients were split into two groups, one that received 3 mg of melatonin where the other was given a matching placebo for a duration of four weeks. After four week, the groups unknowingly “switched” roles and received the alternate for an additional four weeks. Results showed that AD severity improved with melatonin by nearly 10% compared with placebo. In addition, sleep onset latency was also reduced by more than half compared with placebo. Overall, more patients stated that dermatitis and sleep both improved while taking melatonin. It is important to note that no adverse effects were reported.

If you have similar symptoms and are interested in trying melatonin, schedule an appointment with Dr. David Kouba at Toledo Clinic Facial Plastics and Dermatology to see if it’s right for you.

JAMA Pediatrics

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