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Sleep disorders and melatonin rhythms in elderly people

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 16 July 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:167
  1. I Haimov,
  2. M Laudon,
  3. N Zisapel,
  4. M Souroujon,
  5. D Nof,
  6. A Shlitner,
  7. P Herer,
  8. O Tzischinsky,
  9. P Lavie
  1. Sleep Laboratory, Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion- Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa
  2. Israel Neurim Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Tel Aviv, Israel Department of Biochemistry, George S Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv Maccabi Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Tel Aviv
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Lavie.
  • Accepted 3 February 1994

Biological aging is often associated with problems with sleep and daytime napping.1 There is considerable evidence linking melatonin, produced by the pineal gland, with the sleep-wake cycle. When administered orally to humans or animals it enhances sleep2 and has a synchronising effect on circadian rhythms. Circulating melatonin concentrations decrease in old age, and its time of secretion is delayed.3 We examined whether sleep disorders in old age were associated with changes in concentration of 6-sulphatoxymelatonin, the major urinary measure of melatonin.

Patients, methods, and results

The study population comprised four groups: (a) eight independently living patients with insomnia (four men, four women, mean age 73.1 (SD 3.9)); (b) 15 patients with insomnia (five men, 10 women, mean age 82.1 (8.8)) who had lived a minimum of six months in a nursing home; (c) 25 elderly patients without sleep disorders (19 …

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