First-night effect of melatonin treatment in patients with chronic schizophrenia

Eyal Shamir, Vadim S. Rotenberg, Moshe Laudon, Nava Zisapel*, Avner Elizur

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The first-night effect (FNE) is the tendency for individuals to sleep worse than normal during their first night of polysomnographic sleep evaluation. FNE reflects the adaptive increase of alertness and perhaps the stress resulting from an unfamiliar sleeping environment. This effect is usually absent in patients with chronic schizophrenia. Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxy-tryptamine), the hormone secreted by the pineal gland at night, has been found to improve sleep in elderly patients with insomnia and recently in patients with chronic schizophrenia. The authors used FNE as a marker to explore the neurobehavioral responses of patients with chronic schizophrenia to melatonin treatment. In a randomized, double-blind, crossover trial, 14 patients with chronic schizophrenia were administered melatonin (2 mg in a controlled-release formulation) or placebo for 3 weeks with a 1-week washout between treatment periods. Polysomnography was performed during the last two consecutive nights of each treatment period. The following significant FNEs were observed with melatonin treatment: (1) rapid eye movement sleep latency was longer; (2) sleep efficiency was lower; and (3) the duration of wakefulness during sleep was lower on the first night than on the second night. These effects were not found when the patients received a placebo. The FNE was manifested regardless of whether melatonin was administered before or after the placebo treatment period. For the first time, these results show that melatonin treatment exaggerates FNE in patients with chronic schizophrenia, thereby suggesting an improved ability of these patients to mobilize alertness in unfamiliar surroundings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)691-694
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2000


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