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Melatonin Serves as Sleep Aid to Patients with Hypertension

Beta-blockers are commonly prescribed for people who suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension) or other cardiovascular related complications. In fact, there are more than 20 million Americans who take beta-blockers on a regular basis. Unfortunately, many of the people who are prescribed beta-blockers also tend to have issues getting to sleep at night.

Doctors theorize that this could be a side effect of the medication due to its suppression of the body’s natural nighttime melatonin production. In a recent clinical study on patients with hypertension conducted by scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), they found that a melatonin supplementation could significantly improve the sleep cycle in people who were taking beta-blockers.

(The results of this clinical study will be available in this month’s issue of SLEEP!)

The First Study on Melatonin Supplements for Patients with Hypertension

In a recent statement from Frank Scheer, the principal investigator for this clinical study and an associate neuroscientist at BWH, he explained that: “Beta-blockers have long been associated with sleep disturbances, yet until now, there have been no clinical studies that tested whether melatonin supplementation can improve sleep in these patients.”

In short, the trial’s research team found that melatonin supplements could be very helpful for people who have been experiencing insomnia due to their beta-blockers. There appeared to be a significant improvement in the quality of these participants’ sleep after taking melatonin.

Analyzing the Participants’ Sleep Patterns

During the clinical trial, the medical researchers enrolled 16 participants who had all been diagnosed with high blood pressure and who were prescribed beta-blockers as a treatment for their hypertension. Over the course of the study, some of the study participants would be given a melatonin supplement before bedtime and the others were given a placebo. In order to avoid any potential bias, the research team was not even allowed to know which pill they were administering.

This clinical trial was conducted over a relatively short period of time, only three weeks. During that time, each of the participants had two separate four hour visits to the lab. While there, the scientists analyzed the sleep patterns of their participants, and what they found intrigued them. The participants who had received a melatonin before bedtime would sleep for an average of 37 minutes longer than those who had been given the placebo. The study results also showed that these participants experienced a significant increase in their sleeping efficiency and an added 41 minutes of time that was spent in Stage 2 sleep, without losing any time from their REM cycle.

Looking Forward

Dr. Scheer, who also happens to spend some time as an associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, went on to explain how none of the study participants showed any of the negative side effects which are usually linked with other sleep aids. Even more incredible, a post study checkup showed no signs of any relapse in the participants after they had stopped taking their medication. The researchers observed a positive carry-over effect from the melatonin on the sleep patterns of the hypertension patients.

Now, this early research has had some very promising results for any people with high blood pressure who are currently on beta-blockers. However, more tests will need to be conducted in order to determine whether there are any other possible reasons that patients who are prescribed beta-blockers could benefit from taking melatonin.

 

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