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Low melatonin associated with uncontrolled seizures

8 Jan 2001

A new study has revealed that some people with difficult-to-control epilepsy have low levels of melatonin, a naturally produced hormone that helps regulate the body's 'biological clock', and that melatonin levels increase dramatically after a seizure.

This has led the reseachers, from Columbia University College in New York to suggest that the hormone may play a role in controlling seizures.

In this study, published in the journal Neurology, the levels of melatonin in the salva of 11 people with epilepsy and 6 people without epilepsy were studied. 

Two major differences were discovered between the two groups.  The melatonin levels of people with epilepsy were low - about half of the level of those without epilepsy.  In addition, melatonin levels in people with epilepsy peaked at around 11pm, three hours earlier than the peak of those without the condition.

However, following a seizure, melatonin levels tripled, to more than 60 per cent higher than the levels of those without epilepsy.

The findings suggest that the taking of melatonin supplements could help control seizure activity as well as help regulate sleep in people with epilepsy. 

The authors of the report howver commented that the evidence is so far "preliminary" and that it is far too early to recommend melatonin to all people with epilepsy.  Further research is needed, they write, to determine whether melatonin use can actually improve seizure control in people with epilepsy that has been unresponsive to other therapies.