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Making Headway on Beta-Blockers and Sleep

September 28, 2012

Brigham and Women's Hospital announced a study by researchers from the Division of Sleep Medicine showing that melatonin supplements significantly improved sleep in hypertensive patients taking beta-blockers.

Patients taking beta-blockers, which are commonly prescribed for cardiovascular issues, anxiety, and hypertension, often have trouble sleeping as a possible side-effect of the medication. In the study, to be published in the October issue of SLEEP, 16 hypertensive patients who regularly took beta-blockers for hypertension were given either a melatonin supplement or placebo over three weeks. Researchers that participants who received the melatonin supplement slept 37 minutes longer than those who received placebo. They also found an eight percent improvement of sleep efficiency and a 41-minute increase in the time spent in Stage 2 sleep, without a decrease in slow wave sleep or REM sleep.

Lead author Dr. Frank Scheer of Harvard Medical School's Division of Sleep Medicine explained that “Over the course of three weeks, none of the study participants taking the melatonin showed any of the adverse effects that are often observed with other, classic sleep aids. There were also no signs of ‘rebound insomnia’ after the participants stopped taking the drug,” explained Scheer, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “In fact, melatonin had a positive carry-over effect on sleep even after the participants had stopped taking the drug.”

While this data is promising for hypertensive patients taking beta-blockers, more research is needed to determine whether patients taking beta-blockers for causes other than hypertension could also benefit from melatonin supplementation.

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