Melatonin Can Treat REM Behavior Disorder

Supplement May Reduce Dream Enactment

Melatonin molecule
Melatonin molecule. Laguna Design / Getty Images

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that is available over-the-counter and is widely used to treat circadian rhythm disorders, seasonal affective disorder, and jet lag. Does melatonin have an unexpected role in treating REM behavior disorder (RBD)?

In fact, melatonin has been effectively used to treat RBD in small research studies. It is thought to promote sleep and may have a role in helping to synchronize sleep patterns, similar to its role in circadian rhythm treatment.

Melatonin seems to be a signal in our bodies that coordinates our sleep and wakefulness to the patterns of light and dark in our environment. Moreover, when people with RBD are treated with melatonin, there seems to be less movement during ​REM sleep, which corresponds to a decreased ability to enact dreams, a feature of the condition.

One of the major advantages of melatonin use is that it has few side effects. The doses used to treat RBD were higher than what is typically used to aid sleep. Some of the side effects noticed at these higher doses included morning headache, morning sleepiness, and delusions or hallucinations. The supplement also seemed successful in patients with Parkinson's disease, Lewy body dementia, and multiple system atrophy -- all conditions that commonly coexist with RBD.

There are a handful of treatment options available to treat RBD, and melatonin may be a safe and effective alternative to consider.


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