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Researchers have found melatonin levels do not decline with age, indicating the hormone has nothing to do with sleep disorders in older adults as previously believed. For many older Americans, going to bed doesn't necessarily mean going to sleep. As we age, researchers say, our internal clocks change, and we don't sleep as deeply or as long as we did when we were younger. Over the past two decades, small studies have concluded that levels of the hormone melatonin in the body decrease as we age, which researchers believed caused sleeping difficulties. Melatonin is produced in the body in large quantities at night and is thought to control cycles of sleep and wakefulness. Although health experts don't dispute melatonin's effect on sleep, they are concerned that healthy older people may be taking supplements of the hormone when they don't really need them. A new study is lending credence to the popular claim that the hormonal supplement melatonin can help regulate sleep patterns. Scientists at Oregon Health Sciences University tested the supplement on a small group of blind people. The blind often suffer from sleep disorders because they cannot perceive the daily cycles of light and dark that regulate the body's biological clock. The researchers found that nearly all of the subjects developed normal sleep patterns after taking melatonin. When given a placebo, their sleep remained erratic. The results were reported in this week's New England Journal of Medicine....

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