Melatonin for Migraines: new study finds melatonin more successful than prevention medications.
People use melatonin to adjust their circadian rhythm, which is the body’s internal clock. When the sun is up, a spectrum of light called “blue light” prevents melatonin from being released. This helps you feel awake. After the sun goes down, melatonin is released so that you can sleep. Unfortunately, we are exposed to blue light from most of our electronic devices after the sun goes down. This wreaks havoc on our circadian rhythm and our ability to get a good night’s sleep (Blue Light Article).
Poor sleep can trigger migraines and migraines can trigger poor sleep—a vicious cycle (study link). It’s common for chronic migraine sufferers to say that they feel permanently jet lagged, which indicates a broken circadian rhythm. Melatonin supplements are already used for a number of conditions associated with migraines, including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and various sleeping disorders (WebMd link). It now appears that taking a melatonin supplement before going to bed may directly prevent migraines.
A new study found that melatonin was more effective at migraine prevention than amitriptyline (study link). Amitriptyline is the most successful antidepressant for migraine treatment. In the study, 196 migraine patients were divided into three groups: every day, one group received 3 mg of melatonin, another group received 25 mg of amitriptyline, and the last group received a placebo.
At the end of the three-month study, days with migraine were reduced by 2.7 days per month in the melatonin group, 2.2 days for the amitriptyline group, and 1.1 days for the placebo group. While the amitriptyline group had roughly the same number of migraine days from month 2 to 3, the melatonin group continued to drop. And it gets better.
54.4 percent of patients that received melatonin had a greater than 50 percent reduction in migraine frequency. That puts melatonin up there with the strongest migraine prevention drugs, including Botox.
A large study found that 54 percent of Botox patients had a greater than 50 percent reduction in migraines (study link); however, Botox is not approved for episodic migraine (under 15 migraine days per month) because, unlike melatonin, it is not effective compared to the placebo.
Those who received melatonin experienced weight loss and those who received amitriptyline experienced weight gain. The researchers noted that larger doses of amitriptyline could have had success rates comparable to topiramate, but the number of side effects were unacceptable. Topiramate is the most successful anti-seizure medication for migraines and has about the same success rate as melatonin, but comes with side effects such as memory problems, fatigue, speech problems, and altered taste (study link).
Prevention medications can be expensive, but melatonin, which comes with very few side effects, can be purchased for around 10 dollars. It’s still recommended that you speak with a doctor before taking melatonin—especially if you have a health condition (Mayo Clinic link).
Although more research is needed on melatonin for migraine treatment, the availability of a natural supplement with the same strength as prescription medicine is great news for migraine sufferers.
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