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Melatonin skin patch improves sleep

July 17, 2009 |  2:47 pm

Melatonin Over-the-counter melatonin capsules are a favorite remedy for people with jet lag or who work night shifts to facilitate daytime sleeping. But a melatonin skin patch, under development, may work even better.

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and a company called Biotek Inc. found that transdermal delivery of melatonin helped the study participants to maintain sleep for several hours during the daytime. The patch may be more effective than melatonin pills because oral melatonin wears off quickly while the dose from the patch lasts longer.

The study, published this week in the journal Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, only involved eight people. They were given a patch containing either 2.1 milligrams of melatonin or no drug. The researchers measured their sleep performance and the melatonin levels in their blood.

The melatonin levels in the blood observed with the active patch resembled natural nighttime melatonin levels, said the lead author of the study, Daniel Aeschbach.

"And, importantly, melatonin levels rose gradually, such that the peak concentration occurred in the early evening, during the latter part of the bed rest. We know -- and shift workers know -- that this is a time during which it is particularly difficult to remain asleep," Aeschbach said in a news release.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times