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Keywords:

  • antioxidant;
  • children;
  • clinical trials;
  • free radicals;
  • melatonin;
  • sleep

Abstract:  Melatonin, an endogenously produced indoleamine, is a highly effective antioxidant, free radical scavenger, and a primary circadian regulator. Melatonin has important antioxidant properties owing to direct and indirect effects. It directly scavenges reactive oxygen and reactive nitrogen species, prevents molecular oxidation, improves mitochondrial physiology, and restores glutathione homeostasis. Its indirect antioxidant effects stem from its ability to stimulate the activities of the enzymes involved in the glutathione cycling and production. Melatonin, by reducing free radical damage, may be an effective protective agent for the fetus as it is in adults. Several clinical studies on melatonin have shown that it reduces oxidative stress in human newborns with sepsis, hypoxic distress, or other conditions, where there is excessive free radical generation. A role of melatonin in infant development has also been suggested. Pineal dysfunction may be associated with deleterious outcomes in infants and may contribute to an increased prevalence of sudden infant death syndrome. Delayed melatonin production is evident in infants who had experienced an apparent life-threatening event. Melatonin has been used as a pharmacologic treatment for insomnias associated with shift work, jet lag, and delayed sleep onset in adults for decades. In children as well, melatonin has value as a sleep-promoting agent. Evidence suggests that melatonin has utility as an analgesic agent presumably related to its ability to release β-endorphin. The data support the notion that melatonin, or one of its analogs, might find use as an anesthetic agent in children.