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New Research Suggests Taking Melatonin May Help Your Eyesight

Many people take melatonin supplements in the hopes of helping them find some shut-eye when sleep is elusive. However, new research suggests that melatonin may also help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eyesight issue in older adults. 

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine researchers reviewed the medical records of  200,000 patients aged 50 and up to study the potential link between melatonin supplements and AMD.The patients either had dry AMD or no history of age-related eyesight problems. 

The research team found that among the 121,523 people with no history of AMD, there was a 58 percent reduced risk of developing AMD with regular melatonin use. Of the 66,253 people with dry AMD, melatonin supplements gave them a 56 percent lower chance of the eye condition worsening.1

What Is Melatonin?

When nighttime approaches, our body starts preparing us for sleep by producing melatonin, a hormone that responds to darkness.

If you’re struggling to sleep due to jetlag, sleep disorders, or shift work, taking melatonin supplements may be a way to achieve the desired effects of the hormone.

Synthetic melatonin is commonly found in pills, tablets, and gummies. These supplements come in dosages that typically range between 1-10 milligrams, and it’s generally recommended to start with a low dosage and gradually increase the amount if needed.4 

Although short-term use of melatonin appears safe, there isn’t enough information or research on the long-term effects of these supplements to give a definitive answer on long-term use. Additionally, although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates melatonin, dietary supplement regulations aren’t as strict as they are for over-the-counter and prescription drugs.4  

Check with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement. 

Learn more about this supplement in our in-depth melatonin guide.

What Is AMD?

AMD is an eye disease in people over 50, and it occurs when the macular, the part of the retina that controls straight-ahead vision, becomes damaged during aging.5 When this happens, blurry or wavy areas appear in central vision. Although AMD doesn’t cause complete blindness, it does make it harder to see faces and participate in activities such as driving and reading. 

As of 2019, it was estimated that close to 20 million Americans were living with some form of AMD.6

There are two types of AMD: wet and dry. Dry or atrophic AMD is the most common, and it is caused by the thinning of the macula due to aging. Dry AMD usually progresses slowly through three stages: early, intermediate, and late. There is no treatment for late-stage AMD.5

Wet AMD, also known as advanced neovascular AMD, occurs when abnormal blood vessels damage the macula. This form of the disease progresses faster, and dry AMD can turn into wet AMD during any stage. However, unlike dry AMD, there are treatments available for wet AMD.

How Could Melatonin Help with AMD?

The Case Western study didn’t explain why they think melatonin may be linked to a reduced risk of AMD, but another study on mice suggests that melatonin may help prevent retinal degeneration.7 

The researchers with Case Western acknowledged that lifestyle factors, such as smoking and hypertension, may have influenced the findings, but they added that the results are solid enough for them to encourage further research.1 

We spoke with a medical professional to see his take on this emerging research. Dr. Ben Mize, an optometrist with more than 30 years of experience, has not yet recommended melatonin to his AMD patients but states that he’ll consider recommending it once more in-depth studies have been performed. “Melatonin is accessible and affordable,” Mize added.   

Possible Side Effects of Melatonin

Melatonin is generally thought to be safe for short-term use, but it may cause the following side effects:2

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea

Read more about the side effects of melatonin.

Medical disclaimer: Speak to your healthcare provider before taking melatonin.

Sosha Lewis

Sosha Lewis

Content Writer

About Author

Sosha Lewis is a staff writer for Sleep Advisor.  Lewis is happy that she is able to combine her love of sleep with her love of writing.

Combination Sleeper

Education & Credentials

  • Certified Sleep Science Coach

References:

  1. Jeong, Hejin., et al. “Melatonin and Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration”. JAMA Ophthalmology. 2024.
  2. “Melatonin: What You Need to Know”. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Last modified May 2024. 
  3. “Melatonin”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified August 10, 2023.
  4. “Melatonin for Sleep: Does it Work?” Johns Hopkins Medicine. Webpage accessed June 26, 2024. 
  5. “Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). National Eye Institute. Last modified June 22, 2021.
  6. Rein PhD, David B., et al., “Prevalence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration in the US in 2019.” JAMA Ophthalmology. 2022
  7. Ku, Li-Cheng., et al. “Melatonin protects retinal integrity through mediated immune homeostasis in the sodium iodate-induced mouse model of age-related macular degeneration.” Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. 2023.