The Effect of Sleep/Wake State on Nocturnal Melatonin Excretion

Mary Morris, Leon Lack, Judy Barrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Twenty‐four hour patterns of urinary 6‐sulphatoxymelatonin excretion were monitored in eight healthy adult subjects in two bed rest constant routines, one with normal nocturnal sleep and one with continuous wakefulness. The implementation of dim light “constant routines” enabled the effect of the sleep wake/state on melatonin to be tested without the confounding effects of body activity and normal room lighting. In both conditions 6‐sulphatoxymelatonin excretion was significantly higher during the nighttime hours (2200‐1000) than during the daytime hours (1000‐2200) producing averages of 80% and 78.5% of the total 24 hour output in the sleep and wakeful conditions, respectively. The large differences between subjects in nocturnal melatonin excretion (38 to 150 nmol) were highly consistent between the two conditions. There were no differences between the nocturnal wakeful and sleep conditions in total nighttime melatonin excretion nor in the nighttime percentage of the 24 hour total melatonin excretions. Therefore, the sleep/wake state alone had no effect on nocturnal melatonin excretion. On the other hand, a significant correlation between the nighttime melatonin percentage and sleep length suggested the need to investigate further the relation between the amplitude of the melatonin circadian rhythm and sleep length and quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-138
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Pineal Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1990


  • circadian rhythms
  • constant routine
  • individual differences
  • melatonin rhythm
  • sleep length


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