Melatonin and Epilepsy

Written by Kimberly Holland | Published on July 17, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George T. Krucik, MD, MBA on July 17, 2014

Understand how melatonin levels affect epilepsy.

Epilepsy Treatment Overview

Traditional epilepsy treatments can sometimes have unpleasant side effects like dizziness, fatigue, and upset stomach. The side effects rarely develop into anything worse or serious, but they can be uncomfortable and most people with epilepsy would like to avoid them.

Some traditional seizure medications aren’t effective, and some may even become less effective over time. Doctors will typically try a number of treatments to find one that works best for their individual patient.  

Melatonin is a promising treatment that has been studied in recent years. The hormone has shown some positive signs in preventing seizures. Learn more about it and speak with your doctor before you start taking it. 

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced in the brain. It’s also available in a synthetic form. The supplemental form of melatonin is often used as an alternative medicine for a variety of conditions.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), melatonin helps regulate the body’s internal body clock. It plays a very important role in informing our bodies when it’s time to fall asleep and when it’s time to wake up. The body produces more melatonin at night, or when it’s dark. The body produces less of the hormone around bright lights.

Melatonin supplements can help return the body to an appropriate sleep cycle. Some people take the synthetic form of the hormone to help their bodies adjust from jet lag, work schedule changes, and sleep problems.

The hormone is used less commonly as an alternative treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), irritable bowl syndrome, and epilepsy.

Melatonin and Epilepsy

People who have epilepsy have lower than average melatonin levels. According to the National Library of Medicine, when a seizure occurs, melatonin levels increase dramatically. Low melatonin levels may contribute to seizures, and melatonin supplements might reduce seizures. Several researchers and scientists have tested the theory. 

Certain clinical tests have looked at how melatonin affects seizures and the results have been mixed. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one study showed that children who took melatonin supplements at bedtime experienced reduced seizures. According to the UMMC, the seizures the children did experience were also shorter than seizures they had when they were not taking the hormone.

But not all studies support the use of melatonin. According to NIH one study found that people who took melatonin actually had more seizures.

What Health Professionals Say

Medical professionals and researchers have not yet approved melatonin as a successful treatment. Overall, the evidence is mixed and doesn’t quite support melatonin as an epilepsy treatment.

Talk To Your Doctor

Talk with your doctor if you are interested in trying melatonin as a treatment. It’s very important not to take medicine without your doctor’s approval.  Mixing melatonin with other epilepsy medications can be dangerous.

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