Better than milk and cookies?

The most recent trend in sleep aids comes not in capsule form but in the crumbs of a baked good. Melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland near the brain, is involved in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. It is now being folded into batches of pre-packaged brownies and cookies marketed as Lazy Cakes and Lulla Pies in a variety of convenience stores and online. The desserts, which contain about the same number of milligrams of melatonin as some over-the-counter-tablets, are popular with insomniacs. Fans of the relatively new product say they sleep deeply after eating one as a bedtime snack; The New York Times, which covered the trend last weekend, quoted a number of people who’ve recovered lost sleep with the sweets.

The caveat, of course, is that these sweet-dream-inducing baked goods are not yet subject to any regulations. Because the marketers assert that their product is neither a drug nor a food, but a “nutritional supplement,” the FDA has no jurisdiction. The general consensus — among medical professionals and casual users alike — is that one should be careful when and where one eats a Lazy Cake or Lulla Pie: Drowsiness will most likely ensue, and it’s even possible even that the melatonin could interfere or interact with sedatives or birth control pills. Interviewed for The Times, Dr. David S. Seres, director of medical nutrition at the Columbia Medical Center warned, “If you take it while you’re driving a car, you will find yourself in a ditch.”

ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross agrees: “No matter what the marketer says, anyone who is considering buying and consuming melatonin-laced baked goods should treat it as a drug and be appropriately cautious.”

ACSH’s Dr. Josh Bloom adds, “This is absolutely ridiculous. Melatonin, when used as a sleep aid, is a drug. To have people make cake containing an unapproved drug to is bad enough. But some ‘chefs’ then stamp ‘not for food use’ on the package, as if that makes it OK. What else are you going to do with a piece of cake? Play shuffleboard with it?”