Transl Clin Pharmacol.  2022 Dec;30(4):163-171. 10.12793/tcp.2022.30.e21.

Melatonin and melatonergic drugs in sleep disorders

  • 1Department of Neurology and Sleep Disorder Center, Soonchunhyang University College of Medicine, Cheonan Hospital, Cheonan 31151, Korea
  • 2Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Soonchunhyang University College of Medicine, Cheonan Hospital, Cheonan 31151, Korea


Melatonin is an endogenous chronobiological regulator secreted mainly from the pineal gland, which has been used as a dietary supplement in the treatment of sleep problems, including insomnia, parasomnia, and circadian rhythm sleep disorders. However, the short half-life and rapid metabolism of melatonin limit its suitability as a drug. There are many melatonergic drugs used in the treatment of sleep disorders and several drugs are under investigation for approval. Ramelteon was the first melatonergic agonist approved as hypnotic agent by U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of insomnia. It exhibits higher selective affinity for melatonin 1a (MT1) receptor than melatonin 1b (MT2) receptor. This selectivity suggests that it targets sleep onset with no significant adverse effect or dependency. Agomelatin, naphtahalenic compound, act as a potent MT1/MT2 melatonergic receptor agonist and serotonergic receptor antagonist was approved for treatment of depression in 2009. This dual action drug is the first melatonergic agent used in depression. Another melatonergic agonist, tasimelteon has high affinity for the MT1/MT2 receptors in humans. It was approved for the treatment of non-24 hours sleep-wake rhythm disorder. The newly developed melatonin and melatonergic drugs have the potential to be used extensively in various clinical situations and substitute the old benzodiazepine and its derivatives in the treatment of insomnia. However, the efficacy and safety of newly developed melatonergic drugs should be elucidated through long-term clinical trials.


Melatonin; Clinical Pharmacology; Sleep Disorders
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