Melatonin's Benefits and Risks as a Therapy for Sleep Disturbances in the Elderly: Current Insights.
Aging is accompanied by circadian changes, including disruptive alterations in the sleep/wake cycle, as well as the beginning of low-degree inflammation ("inflammaging"), a scenario that leads to several chronic illnesses, including cancer, and metabolic, cardiovascular, and neurological dysfunctions. As a result, any effective approach to healthy aging must consider both the correction of circadian disturbance and the control of low-grade inflammation. One of the most important prerequisites for healthy aging is the preservation of robust circadian rhythmicity (particularly of the sleep/wake cycle). Sleep disturbance disrupts various activities in the central nervous system, including waste molecule elimination. Melatonin is a chemical with extraordinary phylogenetic conservation found in all known aerobic creatures whose alteration plays an important role in sleep changes with aging. Every day, the late afternoon/nocturnal surge in pineal melatonin helps to synchronize both the central circadian pacemaker found in the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) and a plethora of peripheral cellular circadian clocks. Melatonin is an example of an endogenous chronobiotic substance that can influence the timing and amplitude of circadian rhythms. Moreover, melatonin is also an excellent anti-inflammatory agent, buffering free radicals, down-regulating proinflammatory cytokines, and reducing insulin resistance, among other things. We present both scientific and clinical evidence that melatonin is a safe drug for treating sleep disturbances in the elderly.
Nat Sci Sleep. 2022 Oct 14;14:1843-1855. doi: 10.2147/NSS.S380465. PMID: 36267165; PMCID: PMC9578490.