Melatonin-Responsive Headache in Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome: Preliminary Observations


Address all correspondence to Dr. J.E. Nagtegaal, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, Hospital ‘de Gelderse Vallei’, Box 9501,6720 GA Bennekom, The Netherlands.


The occurrence of headache and its change after treatment with melatonin 5 mg were studied in 30 patients with delayed sleep phase syndrome. The medication was taken 5 hours before the endogenous nocturnal plasma melatonin concentration had reached 10 pg/mL.

Three women (aged 14, 14, and 23 years) suffered from chronic tension-type headache. Their headache disappeared within 2 weeks after the start of treatment with melatonin. One 54-year-old man suffered from disabling migraine attacks without aura, twice a week. After starting melatonin treatment, only three migraine attacks were reported in 12 months. Ever since his 4Os, a 60-year-old man complained of cluster headache episodes lasting about 2 months, twice a year. In the year since starting melatonin treatment, only one 5-day cluster episode occurred.

Nocturnal melatonin secretion in the patients with delayed sleep phase syndrome and headache did not differ significantly from that in the patients with the sleep disorder but without headache.

Melatonin may be helpful in patients with headache who are suffering from delayed sleep phase syndrome. Its effectiveness may be due to modification of vascular and nociceptive systems or to its chronobiological action which adjusts the patient's biological clock to his/her life-style.