Melatonin is a sleep hormone some people supplement to help with their sleep cycle. Research has also explored melatonin as a way to reduce seizures in people with epilepsy.
The brain produces melatonin as a response to darkness. This can help induce sleepiness and help a person follow a 24-hour sleep cycle. As such, melatonin supplements may help people experiencing sleeping difficulties.
Epilepsy is a brain condition that can cause repeated seizures. Medications can help manage the condition. Some of these drugs may affect sleep.
Therefore, melatonin supplements may help reduce these side effects. However, more research is necessary to confirm whether melatonin can help manage epilepsy.
This article explains the possible link between epilepsy and melatonin, whether supplementing may help, and how to manage epilepsy long term.
According to a 2016 review, research estimates that
However, treatment with more than one drug, called polytherapy, can sometimes cause disruptive side effects, such as dizziness, daytime sleepiness, and behavioral changes.
Some research has proposed melatonin as an option with low side effects for supporting epilepsy medication.
A 2023 observational study involving 20 children with epilepsy suggests a link between sleep and epilepsy. Epilepsy seizures might interfere with sleep, and sleep disturbances could make epilepsy worse.
In the study, supplementation with 4 milligrams (mg) of melatonin improved sleep quality and reduced daytime sleepiness.
However, melatonin did not directly reduce seizures. Larger studies are necessary to confirm this potential link.
However, no hard evidence based on high quality studies has confirmed this.
This means it is not possible to reach a firm conclusion about whether melatonin can help people with epilepsy.
However, some small, recent studies found that melatonin may show some promise alongside epilepsy treatments pending larger, higher quality research.
According to the
- feeling sleepy
No research has explored the long-term side effects of melatonin.
However, the WHO identifies several medical issues that can trigger epilepsy, including:
- brain trauma for a child during pregnancy or birth, such as not getting enough oxygen during delivery or a low birth weight
- congenital abnormalities that cause brain development issues
- head injury
- a stroke that reduces brain oxygen
- brain infections, including meningitis
- genetic conditions,
such asautosomal dominant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy (ADNFLE)
- brain tumors
Epilepsy is treatable in most people with the condition.
Certain lifestyle strategies can help people manage their epilepsy. These
- getting sufficient sleep
- exercising regularly
- trying to identify and avoid potential triggers
Doctors might also recommend low carb, high fat, moderate protein eating plans for managing epilepsy, which they start and oversee in a hospital. Examples include:
Antiepileptic drugs can stop seizures in around 70% of people with epilepsy, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. These drugs reduce the risk of excessive brain signals that can lead to seizures.
A wide range of antiepileptic drugs is available since there are many types and causes of epilepsy. Finding the right drug may take some trial and error.
Epilepsy that is resistant to medications may be treated with surgery.
Brain surgery can help stop or reduce seizures. Epilepsy treatment centers thoroughly assess people with epilepsy to see whether they qualify for surgery.
People are suitable candidates for surgery if they meet several criteria:
- the seizures happen in a single part of the brain and not the whole brain
- the seizures do not respond to medication
- the seizures happen in a part of the brain that will not cause severe issues with daily function if a surgeon removes it
Epilepsy surgery aims to either remove, disconnect, or modify parts of the brain and nervous system to reduce seizures.
It is advisable people speak with a doctor after their first suspected seizure.
A person may not have epilepsy. A seizure can have many underlying causes or may just be an isolated event. A medical professional can help determine why a seizure happened and arrange treatment where necessary.
People who witness someone else having a seizure should call 911 in the following circumstances:
- The person having the seizure has never had one before.
- The seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
- The person has several seizures, one after another.
- The person has sustained an injury during a seizure.
- The person is struggling to breathe.
Some research has suggested a link between melatonin and epilepsy. Epilepsy and sleep may interact. Some studies have suggested melatonin as a low risk complementary therapy due to its possible protective effects on the brain and sleep-promoting qualities.
However, the research quality is low, and the results are inconclusive.
Melatonin carries a risk of mild side effects, but it is still a good idea for a person to speak with a doctor before trying melatonin to manage epileptic seizures.
A range of treatments, including medications, dietary and lifestyle interventions, and surgery, are available to treat epilepsy.