November 19, 2020/Infectious Disease

Can Melatonin Help Treat COVID-19?

A new study has some promising findings

man taking melatonin pill

As several coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine trials show promise, a new Cleveland Clinic study has shown that melatonin, which can regulate your sleep cycle and is a common sleep aid, could be a potential treatment option for patients with the virus.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

The study comes from Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute and focused on the repurposing of drugs that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already approved for new therapeutic uses, citing both efficiency and low costs.

Published in PLOS Biology, the study used two approaches that led to the finding and cross-referenced them, leading to a potentially key breakthrough in COVID-19 treatment.

Artificial Intelligence finds potential paths to treatment

First, an artificial intelligence platform developed by researchers at Learner compared the proximity between the host genes and proteins of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, to that of 64 other diseases across a range of disease categories.

That data enabled researchers to find conditions with similar protein proximities to COVID-19 that already had drugs approved for treatment. Those drugs, the researchers propose, could possibly be used to treat COVID-19.

For example, researchers noticed that proteins associated with respiratory distress syndrome and sepsis, two main causes of death in patients with severe COVID-19, were highly connected to multiple SARS-CoV-2 proteins.

According to the study’s lead author, Feixiong Cheng, PhD, “That tells us that a drug that’s approved to treat those conditions may be capable of treating COVID-19 by acting on those shared biological targets.”

In all, researchers found 34 drugs as potential repurposing candidates including some, like the antibiotic azithromycin and the iron reducer deferoxamine, that are already being studied in COVID-19 clinical trials. And, yes, the list included melatonin.

Dr. Cheng points out that since COVID-19 “is a systematic disease impacting multiple cell types, tissues and organs,” those potentially complex connections between it and other diseases is essential to understanding complications caused by COVID-19 and those potentially repurposable drugs.

Real patient data connects the dots

Researchers took that information and combined it with data collected from nearly 27,000 patients in Cleveland Clinic’s COVID-19 registry. The results? After adjusting for age, race, smoking history and various disease comorbidities, melatonin usage was associated with a 28% reduced likelihood of a positive COVID-19 test.

And when applying the same variable adjustments to African-Americans in the registry, the reduced likely increased to 52%. That’s an especially promising sign as African-Americans have been hit particularly hard by the virus.


Still a lot of work to do

That’s not to say this association between melatonin, which you can buy over-the-counter at any pharmacy, and COVID-19 is a sure thing. Nor does it mean you should up your melatonin intake immediately. There’s still a lot of research left to do.

Says Dr. Cheng, “It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean people should start taking melatonin without first consulting with their health care provider. We’re excited about these results and to study that connection more, but large-scale observational studies and randomized controlled trials are essential to confirm what we’ve found here.”


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

blood clot inside an artery
April 26, 2024/Infectious Disease
The Connection Between COVID-19 and Blood Clots

An increased risk of blood clots can last for nearly a year after a COVID-19 diagnosis

Person getting an audiogram, with technician
April 1, 2024/Ear, Nose & Throat
The Link Between COVID-19 and Tinnitus (That Ringing in Your Ears)

COVID-19 may be associated with tinnitus, but research is still ongoing

aerial view over crowd of commuters
March 18, 2024/Infectious Disease
How Does COVID Immunity Work?

The short answer: It’s complicated, but the basic care precautions still prevail, like washing your hands and isolating if you’re sick

Person experiencing COVID headache, with calendar months floating in background
March 11, 2024/Brain & Nervous System
What To Know About COVID Headaches

They can feel like a typical headache or a migraine headache, but the pain can last for weeks to months

crowd of people at music concert
February 5, 2024/Infectious Disease
What Constitutes a ‘Superspreader Event’?

Any large social gathering — from a family birthday party to an indoor music concert — has the potential to spread serious infection

Female wrapped in blanket laying on sofa looking fatigued or unwell
January 23, 2024/Infectious Disease
How To Manage COVID Fatigue and Regain Your Energy

It’s important to connect with a healthcare provider, get quality sleep and balance your activities with your energy levels

Sick person on couch using tissue on nose with medication bottles on coffee table
How To Know if It’s COVID-19, a Cold or Allergies

Symptoms can overlap and be hard to distinguish, but there are some telltale differences

Close-up of hands in lab gloves sorting vials and covid-19 blood sample
January 17, 2024/Infectious Disease
Everything You Need To Know About COVID-19 Variants

Just like the flu, COVID-19 will continue to evolve every year

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey