Skip to content

Asthma Health Center

Melatonin Supplements May Worsen Asthma

People With Nocturnal Asthma Cautioned to Avoid Melatonin
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Health News

Sept. 8, 2003 -- Treating jet lag or insomnia with melatonin supplements may actually make matters worse for people with asthma.

A new study suggests that melatonin supplements may make asthma symptoms worse in people who already suffer from nocturnal asthma, or asthma that naturally worsens at night.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain that helps regulate the body's circadian rhythms, or body clock. Levels of the hormone peak at night, and this association with sleep has lead many to use melatonin supplements as a remedy for jet lag or insomnia.

But melatonin has also been shown to increase inflammation of the airways in animal studies, which can make it harder to breathe. That prompted researchers to look at whether melatonin might play a role in worsening nocturnal asthma symptoms.

Rise in Melatonin Linked to Nocturnal Asthma Symptoms

In the study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers followed seven people with nocturnal asthma, 13 with non-nocturnal asthma, and 11 healthy individuals. After establishing a normal sleep schedule for seven days, researchers took small blood samples every two hours from the sleeping patients on the eighth night and analyzed their melatonin levels.

The study showed that people with nocturnal asthma had the highest levels of melatonin and the biggest decrease in lung function during the night. Melatonin levels peaked at about 67.5 among nocturnal asthmatic people, 61.1 in non-nocturnal asthmatic people, and 53.5 in healthy people.

"For patients whose asthma worsens at night, we found that higher levels of naturally occurring melatonin are associated with impaired lung function," says researcher Rand Sutherland, MD, MPH, of National Jewish Medical & Research Center, in a news release.

"These findings suggest that melatonin naturally produced by people with nocturnal asthma increases inflammation in their airways, leading to worse lung function," says Sutherland. "Given that previous work has shown that melatonin promotes inflammation in the cells of both nocturnal and non-nocturnal asthmatics, any person with asthma should be cautious about taking supplements that would further raise their melatonin blood levels."

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

Take the WebMD Asthma assessment to get Personalized Action Plan

Start Now

Today on WebMD

Lung and bronchial tube graphic
5 common triggers.
group jogging in park
Should you avoid fitness activities?
 
asthma inhaler
Learn about your options.
man feeling faint
What’s the difference?
 
Los Angeles skyline in smog
Slideshow
man in a field with allergies
Slideshow
 
Woman holding inhaler
VIDEO
Slideshow Allergy Myths and Facts
Slideshow
 

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Man outdoors coughing
Article
Lung and bronchial tube graphic
Article
 
10 Worst Asthma Cities
Slideshow
runner
Article