Evaluating the role of melatonin in the long-term treatment of delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS).


Dagan Y, Yovel I, Hallis D




Chronobiol Int


Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) involves a mismatch between the usual daily schedule required by the individual's environment and his or her circadian sleep-wake pattern. Patients suffering from DSPS are treated with chronotherapy, light therapy, or melatonin administration. While chronotherapy and light therapy are demanding and difficult treatments that usually lead to compliance problems, melatonin administration is a relatively simple and easy treatment option. Previous studies carried out on relatively small samples of DSPS patients have shown that melatonin has a sleep-promoting and entraining action when taken in the evening. The present study, which accompanied routine treatment in our sleep clinic, examined the efficiency of melatonin treatment in a relatively large population of DSPS subjects by means of subjective reports. The 61 subjects, 37 males and 24 females, were diagnosed with DSPS by means of clinical assessment and actigraphy at our sleep clinic. Their mean pretreatment falling asleep and waking times were 03:09 (SD = 86.22 minutes) and 11:31 (SD = 98.58 minutes), respectively. They were treated with a 6-week course of 5 mg of oral melatonin taken daily at 22:00. A survey questionnaire was sent to the home of each subject 12- 18 months after the end of the treatment; the survey investigated the efficiency of the melatonin treatment and its possible side effects. Of the patients, 96.7% reported that the melatonin treatment was helpful, with almost no side effects. Of these, 91.5% reported a relapse to their pretreatment sleeping patterns within 1 year of the end of treatment. Only 28.8% reported that the relapse occurred within 1 week. The pretreatment falling asleep and waking times of patients in whom the changes were retained for a relatively long period of time were significantly earlier than those of patients whose relapse was immediate (t = 2.18, p < .05; t = 2.39, p < .05, respectively), with no difference in sleep duration. The implications of these findings, as well as further research possibilities, are discussed.