Using a recently developed model for investigating the neuroendocrine role of melatonin in man, we studied melatonin’s effect on the nocturnal secretion of thyrotropin and cortisol in 17 normal male volunteers. The model consists of sleep in the dark and all-night sleep deprivation in conditions of: bright light with and without a melatonin infusion, and dim light. We have improved our infusion paradigm so that levels of melatonin during infusion are now indistinguishable from those occurring during sleep in the dark or dim light sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation per se raised TSH levels compared to normal sleep. However, the three conditions of sleep deprivation could not be distinguished from each other, which suggests that the suppression of TSH by sleep (or the stimulation of TSH by sleep deprivation) is not mediated by melatonin. Cortisol secretion was unaffected by sleep deprivation regardless of melatonin’s presence or absence. However, a difference in the pattern of secretion of cortisol in the sleep condition in the early morning (compared to the sleep deprivation conditions) was noted. These data do not implicate melatonin in the acute regulation of TSH or cortisol in normal man. These data also provide a method of melatonin infusion that replicates the pattern and levels seen in sleep.

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