Melatonin for Migraine? Perhaps Not
Migraine sufferers often look to natural migraine remedies as a potential source of migraine relief. Melatonin is a naturally occurring substance in humans, animals and plants and has historically been studied for multiple medical ailments including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease in addition to the more traditional use as a sleep disorder treatment. It has been thought that migraine sufferers might have lower levels of melatonin and several studies have implicated that administering melatonin to migraine sufferers might relieve pain and/or decrease headache recurrence. One possible explanation has been that melatonin may play a role in resetting biological rhythms such as sleep and by doing so, might have a positive effect on migraines and other forms of headaches.
A Controlled Study with Melatonin for Migraine
Recently, researchers in Norway carried out more in-depth research around this issue by conducting a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 48 men and women who were experiencing between 2-7 migraine attacks per month. In this type of study, one group of subjects receives the "real thing"—the active substance being tested, in this case, melatonin. The other half receives a ‘sugar pill’ designed to appear, as much as possible, like the real thing. Individuals in both groups don't know whether they are getting the real treatment or placebo (they are "blinded” to their treatment). Furthermore, the researchers administering placebo and real treatment also do not know which of their patients are getting which treatment thereby making it a "double-blind" study. People were asked to join the study after volunteering, keeping a headache diary and filling out a questionnaire which included an evaluation of their sleep patterns and quality of sleep. In order to enter the study, they had to indicate they were having at least 2-7 migraines per month and be able to tell the difference between a migraine headache and one that that was not migraine in origin. They also had to have relatively low use of other medications including preventive migraine drugs.
People who took part in the study received both types of treatments with a washout period in between. They took either the placebo or the melatonin for 8 weeks, received 6 weeks of no treatment, then switched to the other treatment they had not received for another 8 weeks. The main measurement of success was migraine ‘attack frequency’ and researchers found no difference among the groups in this measure. There was some demonstration of a decrease in the length and severity of the migraines in both groups. While no explanation was proven as cause for these improvements, increased medical care, possible placebo effect or the natural change in their migraine patterns were given as possible reasons. Sleep quality was also assessed and was not found to be positively affected either, except for the relatively small group of people who had listed insomnia in their pre-research questionnaire. Side effects were minimal across all groups.
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