The present study has been designed to determine melatonin levels in type 2 diabetic patients and test the relationship between the autonomic nervous system and melatonin dynamics.
Thirty-six type 2 diabetic patients and 13 age-matched healthy subjects were recruited for the study. Circadian rhythm of melatonin secretion was assessed by measuring serum melatonin concentrations between 02:00-04:00 and 16:00-18:00 hr. Melatonin dynamics were re-evaluated with respect to autonomic nervous system in diabetic patients with autonomic neuropathy who were diagnosed by the cardiovascular reflex tests, heart rate variability (HRV), and 24-hr blood pressure monitoring.
Nocturnal melatonin levels and the nocturnal melatonin surge were low in the diabetic group (P = 0.027 and 0.008 respectively). Patients with autonomic neuropathy revealed decreased melatonin levels both at night and during day when compared with healthy controls (P < 0.001 and 0.004 respectively) while the melatonin dynamics were similar to controls in patients without autonomic neuropathy. Nocturnal melatonin level was positively correlated with nocturnal high and low frequency components of HRV (P = 0.005 and 0.011 respectively) and systolic and diastolic blood pressures at night (P = 0.002 and 0.004 respectively) in patients with autonomic neuropathy. We found a negative correlation between nocturnal melatonin levels and the degree of systolic blood pressure decrease at night (r = -0.478, P = 0.045). As a conclusion this study has shown that circadian rhythm of melatonin secretion is blunted in type 2 diabetic patients and there is a complex relationship between various components of autonomic nervous system and melatonin secretion at night. Among the patients with autonomic neuropathy those with more preserved HRV and the systolic nondippers (<10% reduction in blood pressure during the night relative to daytime values) have more pronounced melatonin surge at night.