DENVER—Taking melatonin supplements may help improve sleep and quality of life during the first three months of treatment in hemodialysis (HD) patients. Those benefits, however, do not appear to continue in the long-term.

Sleep disorders are common in dialysis patients because of disturbances in their biological clocks. Researchers from the Netherlands previously showed that giving dialysis patients melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles, can improve sleep over a short period of time (12 weeks). In this current study, the researchers examined long-term effects of exogenous melatonin on sleep and quality of life (QoL) in HD patients.

The researchers, led by Marije Russcher, PharmD, a hospital pharmacist at Meander Medical Center, Amersfoort, Netherlands, conducted a one-year, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with melatonin 3 mg in 70 HD patients. Objective sleep measurements were taken at baseline and at three, six, nine, and 12 months. QoL was measured using the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form-36 questionnaire and melatonin concentrations curves were sampled in saliva at baseline and at six months.

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At three months, the previously shown beneficial effect of exogenous melatonin on sleep onset latency (SOL) was confirmed. The researchers observed a trend in improvement in sleep efficiency (SE), actual sleep time (AST), and actual awake time (AAT). However, at 12 months, none of the measured sleep parameters differed significantly between the melatonin group and the placebo group.

At the end of the 12-month study, the investigators noted a positive effect on social functioning and a trend in improvement of mentality.

Dr. Russcher said more research is needed to determine the optimal dose for HD patients, but these patients may want to consider using melatonin for its potential short-term benefits.