Updated: Oct 10, 2021
TL;DR: Though the research is limited, there seems to be a beneficial effect on both aged/frail and healthy muscle tissue. It may increase performance and reduce weakness.
Melatonin, a chemical generated at night in the pineal and extra-pineal regions, has been shown to have anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant effects.
The preferred target of melatonin is mitochondria, which it effectively maintains by scavenging free radicals and decreasing oxidative damage.
Melatonin has been shown in studies to be a safe supplement that reduces skeletal muscle frailty and weakness and enhances performance, especially in the elderly.
In this article, I will present the most current evidence of melatonins effectiveness in age-related muscle diseases and discuss whether this also effects healthy muscle tissue.
Table of Contents:
The Effects of Melatonin on Aged/Frail Muscle Tissue
Aged muscle tissue has a variety of differences compared to healthy muscle tissue.
In the elderly, both the quality and strength of muscle fibres deteriorate. In older muscles, altered excitation-contraction coupling, as well as altered calcium flux and sarcoplasmic reticulum structure in myofibrils cause weakening and loss of force. (1)
The table below highlights the various differences between aged and healthy muscle tissue.
Healthy / Middle-Aged
Age-Related Muscle Diseases
Reduced / Absent
Triads / Calcium Flux
Regular / Present
Disrupted / Absent
Mitochondria Size / Number
Regular Fission / Fusion
Mega-mitochondria, Abnormal Fission / Fusion
Absent / Minimal
Absent / Minimal
Many differences exist between aged and healthy muscle tissue.
As a person ages, many processes linked to muscle wasting and age-related muscle disease increase.
Inflammation and reactive oxygen species (ROS) are increased.
ATP production and micro-circulation are decreased.
Other factors involved in muscle growth, regeneration/repair, and strength are reduced, limited, disrupted, or absent entirely.
Melatonin has effects on multiple of these factors, either having a positive or negative effect on specific factors, thereby reducing age-related muscle disease.
Sarcopenia is the most frequent symptom of skeletal muscle ageing. Sarcopenia is defined as a qualitative and quantitative decrease in muscle mass and strength. (2)
What Is Melatonin & Does It Help Age-Related Muscle Disease?
Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) is a chemical that was first isolated from the pineal gland and is thought to be a regulator of circadian rhythm and seasonal breeding.
Melatonin has been found in many bodily fluids and many extra-pineal locations (5), including:
Due to these findings, it has sparked study into melatonins possible function as a possible treatment of ageing and age-related muscle diseases.
In regards to age-related muscle disease, melatonin has multiple effects on muscle tissue, suggesting a positive impact on muscle mass and strength in the elderly.
In the image above, the green box shows up-regulating / increasing effects, the red box shows down-regulating / reducing effects, for example; increasing myofiber size and reducing apoptosis.
Melatonin can increase myofiber size, mitochondria fusion, satellite cells and also preserve cristae, all of which help to maintain muscle size, strength, and endurance.
It can also help to reduce reactive oxygen species (ROS), inflammation, cell apoptosis and the formation of megamitochondria, all of which are increased in older muscle tissue.
Therefore, melatonin can help with muscle growth, strength, and endurance in the elderly and in some specific muscle disease states, such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). (9)
The Effects of Melatonin on Healthy Muscle Tissue
Melatonin has been shown to help improve muscle growth, strength, and endurance in the elderly and older muscle tissue, but can it help improve muscle function in healthy muscle tissue?
One year-long study examined post-menopausal women taking melatonin to see how it impacted body composition, lipid levels, and glucose metabolism.
When a woman reaches the menopause, she no longer has periods. It is a normal aspect of ageing that usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. It can be more difficult to build muscle and lose fat once a woman is post-menopausal.
For the one-year randomised trial, 81 post-menopausal women were given melatonin; 1 mg or 3 mg nightly, or a placebo.
The study's findings seemed to suggest that melatonin supplementation may have advantages other than sleep improvements.
Prior to and during the trial period, the individuals' body composition was evaluated using a DEXA scan. Blood samples were taken to determine how melatonin impacted leptin, adiponectin, and insulin levels at the start and end of the study.
These hormones work together to assist control the body's metabolic functions, including fat burning and glucose regulation.
Melatonin supplemented individuals exhibited a 7% reduction in fat mass when compared to the placebo group. In addition, they were able to increase lean mass by 2.9 percent when compared to placebo individuals.
Furthermore, adiponectin levels rose substantially by 21% in the melatonin group. Adiponectin is a hormone which can help your body reduce fat mass and lose weight.
Melatonin seems to have a positive impact on body composition and fat oxidation, according to the results of the study. Melatonin supplementation for a year may help decrease body fat, enhance lean mass, and raise adiponectin levels. (10)
Because this study was conducted on post-menopausal women, it doesn't fully suggest a beneficial impact on healthy and younger people. Let's explore some more research.
Other studies have shown that the hormone protects athletes from muscle injury. (11)
According to theory, muscular development is optimal in certain environments. Oxidative stress arises when there is an imbalance or impairment of normal bodily function as a result of strenuous activity, which may cause muscular weakness and injury, as well as a reduction in energy.
Melatonin may decrease the oxidative damage caused by exercise and provide a healthier environment for muscle protection and development. It may be due to the antioxidant effects of melatonin, which could possibly decrease exercise-induced oxidative damage.
A 2017 Study in Resistance-Trained Athletes
A study was performed in 2017 to investigate the impact of melatonin on chemical responses and muscle injury in resistance-trained athletes.
During the randomised trial, 24 athletes were given either melatonin 100 mg/day (significantly more than what the body normally generates each day) or a placebo.
Participants were instructed to increase their activity throughout the study. High-intensity exercise causes the body to produce substances that may be damaging to our muscles and tissues.
The researchers used blood tests to determine the amounts of these compounds, as well as enzymes and antioxidants that are helpful to muscle development, in the individuals.
The findings of the study are below.
Athletes that took melatonin supplements had a higher overall antioxidant capacity for muscle protection than the placebo group.
In comparison to the placebo group, melatonin administration seemed to reduce an increase in chemical toxins produced during oxidative stress.
Melatonin users exhibited lower amounts of harmful substances, indicating that they had less exercise-induced muscle damage from oxidative stress than the placebo group.
When compared to the placebo group, the melatonin group maintained a greater ratio of protective enzymes that help preserve muscle tissue.
When compared to the placebo group, total cholesterol levels were lower in the melatonin group.
Despite the limited size of the study, the researchers found that melatonin was helpful to resistance-trained athletes. Melatonin may help reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress and protect muscle tissue from oxidative damage.
This study indicates that supplementing with melatonins helps to create an optimal muscle growth and repair promoting environment.
Does Melatonin Help With Muscle Growth?
Melatonin has multiple muscle growth, endurance, and strength promoting effects in the elderly and post-menopausal women.
Though there is no study directly showing an increase in muscle mass while taking melatonin, it seems to have similar effects in both frail / aged muscle tissue and young / healthy muscle tissue.
One study in resistance-trained athletes showed various effects on chemicals related to muscle, seemingly increasing beneficial chemicals and reducing harmful chemicals.
Due to these findings, it is not certain that melatonin increases muscle growth, but there is some evidence suggesting that there may be a beneficial effect on muscle tissue.
Should You Take Melatonin & Is It Safe?
Melatonin seems to be helpful in terms of enhancing health and fitness, according to the research.
However, this does not imply that taking melatonin supplements is a good idea for you. Your body may already be generating enough melatonin to sustain optimal fitness and health.
Although the physiologic dosage of melatonin (0.1 to 0.5 mg) has been proven to be helpful for some kinds of insomnia and jet lag, the effectiveness and safety of higher doses is not clear. (14)
Higher melatonin dosages may actually increase the body's levels of the hormone throughout the day, causing the typical day/night circadian rhythm to be disrupted.
It's uncertain if there's enough data to recommend melatonin for other diseases.
Some preliminary studies have found positive results, further study is needed though. Melatonin, like most other supplements, is unregulated and therefore not guaranteed.
Currently, there is no evidence-based suggested dosage for melatonin supplementation.
Most studies use a low dosage (less than 0.3 mg per day), which is around the same level as what the body generates naturally.
However some supplements claim to have large dosages, even up to 10 mg. If you do use melatonin, it is best to use low dosage melatonin.
Melatonin is suggested to be a safe short-term supplement, but additional study is required to determine the safety and efficacy of long-term (and short-term) usage.
Melatonin use may potentially result in the following adverse effects. (14)
Circadian rhythms are disrupted if too much is consumed.
Drowsiness throughout the day.
Drowsiness upon awakening if too much is consumed the night before.
Vivid dreams or nightmares.
Some individuals experience stomach pains, dizziness, headache, irritability, decreased libido, and decreased sperm count in men.
There may be other unreported side effects of melatonin.
Remember to always consult with your doctor or a qualified healthcare specialist before taking any supplement, especially melatonin.
There are some general precautions you should know about before taking melatonin, listed below.
It may exacerbate depressive symptoms in certain individuals, according to several studies.
Melatonin may have an interaction with some prescription medicines.
Melatonin should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women.
High dosages have been linked to daytime drowsiness, hyperprolactinemia, hypothermia, and decreased physical performance.
Melatonin may be able to assist some individuals in losing weight, gaining muscle, and improving their general health in other ways.
While some of the study results are encouraging, additional human studies are needed to establish the health benefits (and potential dangers) of melatonin administration.
While it seems to be a safe short-term remedy for sleep disorders, there is a lack of data on how safe and beneficial using melatonin supplements for extended lengths of time is.
In addition, there is no evidence-based suggested dosage. In general, it's best to start with a low dosage and just take as much as you need to get the desired impact.
Melatonin should also be avoided if you are pregnant or nursing.
Consult your healthcare practitioner if you suffer from depression, use any medicines, or are worried about the potential adverse effects of melatonin.
Written by Billy White
Billy White is a qualified Kinesiologist and Personal Trainer. He is an aspiring bodybuilder, fitness enthusiast, and health and fitness researcher.
He has multiple years of experience within the fitness, bodybuilding and health space. He is committed to providing the highest-quality information.
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This evidence-based analysis of melatonin's effects on muscle growth features 14 references, listed below.
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3. Reiter RJ, Tan DX, Rosales-Corral S, Galano A, Zhou XJ, Xu B. Mitochondria: Central Organelles for Melatonin's Antioxidant and Anti-Aging Actions. Molecules. (2018, Feb 24) (Review) ✔
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6. Meng X, Li Y, Li S, Zhou Y, Gan RY, Xu DP, Li HB. Dietary Sources and Bioactivities of Melatonin. Nutrients. (2017, Apr 7) (Review) ✔
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8. Hardeland R. Aging, Melatonin, and the Pro- and Anti-Inflammatory Networks. Int J Mol Sci. (2019, Mar 11) (Review) ✔
9. Hibaoui Y, Reutenauer-Patte J, Patthey-Vuadens O, Ruegg UT, Dorchies OM. Melatonin improves muscle function of the dystrophic mdx5Cv mouse, a model for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. J Pineal Res. (2011, Sep) ✔
10. Amstrup, A.K., Sikjaer, T., Pedersen, S.B., Heickendorff, L., Mosekilde, L. and Rejnmark, L. Reduced fat mass and increased lean mass in response to 1 year of melatonin treatment in postmenopausal women: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. Clin Endocrinol. (2015, Sep 9) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔
11. Roberto C. Leonardo-Mendonça, Javier Ocaña-Wilhelmi, Tomás de Haro, Carlos de Teresa-Galván, Eduardo Guerra-Hernández, Iryna Rusanova, Marisol Fernández-Ortiz, Ramy K.A. Sayed, Germaine Escames, and Darío Acuña-Castroviejo. The benefit of a supplement with the antioxidant melatonin on redox status and muscle damage in resistance-trained athletes. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. (2017, Feb 13)
12. Herxheimer A. Jet lag. BMJ Clin Evid. (2014, Apr 29) ✔
13. Ferracioli-Oda E, Qawasmi A, Bloch MH. Meta-analysis: melatonin for the treatment of primary sleep disorders. PLoS One. (2013, May 17) (Meta Analysis) ✔
14. NCCIH. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/melatonin-what-you-need-to-know. (2021, Jan) (Government Authority) ✔
✔ Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.
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