Sleep pp 71-82 | Cite as

Melatonin and sleep-wake rhythm

  • B. Claustrat


Melatonin is the main hormone secreted by the pineal gland. This is not a recently discovered substance, having been identified in 1958 by Lerner et al. [44], and synthesised in the following year. It is a lipophilic compound with an indole structure derived from serotonin using a two-step biochemical process. The role of melatonin, a hormone secreted during the night, is to inform the brain of the alternating periods of day and night, so that the organism is in phase with the light environment. The hormonal message adjusts to variations in the duration of night (scotophase) in the course of the year. Thus in seasonally reproducing animals, modifications in melatonin secretion will prompt mating and the subsequent birth of the litter, at a favourable period of the year. Generally speaking, melatonin participates in regulating rhythmic phenomena, whether daily or annually. The physiological role of melatonin in man is only partially understood and certain data are open to question. Indeed, due to its lack of any known short term toxicity, the substance has been subject to a multitude of studies which are either uncontrolled or involve doses generating blood concentrations far higher than physiological concentrations.


Cluster Headache Circadian Clock Pineal Gland Phase Advance Melatonin Receptor 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. Claustrat
    • 1
  1. 1.Service de Radiopharmacie et de Radioanalyse, Centre de Médecine NucléaireHôpital Neuro-CardiologiqueLyonFrance

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