Melatonin is useful in helping to promote sleep in people over the age of 55 years who have difficulty sleeping.
Take one 2 mg tablet 1-2 hours before bedtime, with a snack.
Melatonin will make you feel sleepy, so do not drive or use tools or machines until this effect has worn off.
|Type of medicine||Hypnotic (sleeping tablet)|
|Used for||Poor sleep|
|Available as||Modified-release tablets|
Melatonin is prescribed for people over the age of 55 years who have insomnia, or difficulty sleeping. Poor sleep can mean that you have difficulty getting to sleep, or that you wake up for long periods during the night, or that you wake early, or that you do not feel refreshed in the mornings. Insomnia is a fairly common condition, but it does not usually last for long. Melatonin is a hormone which occurs naturally in the body and is associated with the control of the body's sleep pattern. As we grow older the amount of naturally occurring melatonin in the body reduces. Taking melatonin adds to the body's natural supply and helps to promote and improve the quality of sleep.
Before taking melatonin
Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking melatonin it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:
- If you have any problems with the way your liver works, or with the way your kidneys work.
- If you have an autoimmune disease. This is where the body is attacked by its own overactive immune system. It includes conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus.
- If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
How to take melatonin
- Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about melatonin and will provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
- Take melatonin exactly as your doctor tells you to. The dose is one 2 mg tablet daily, taken 1-2 hours before bedtime.
- Take the tablet with a snack or after eating some food. This will help the medicine to work later into the night. Swallow the tablet whole - do not break or crush the tablet because it is designed to release melatonin slowly over a few hours.
- If you forget to take a tablet at the usual time but you remember before you go to sleep, take it when you remember. If you do not remember until the following day, just take the next dose as usual. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Do not take melatonin for longer than your doctor advises. It can be prescribed for up to 13 weeks.
- Do not drink alcohol while you are taking melatonin because it will reduce the medicine's effectiveness in helping you to sleep.
- Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your progress can be monitored.
- There are some general recommendations that may help promote good sleep. Try to reduce the amount of caffeine you drink, especially in the afternoon and evening. Try to avoid eating heavy meals or drinking alcohol before bedtime. Exercise early in the day, rather than in the evening.
Can melatonin cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects but not everyone experiences them. Although uncommon, the table below contains some of the side-effects associated with melatonin. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.
|Melatonin side-effects (these affect less than 1 in 100 people)||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Feeling tired or sleepy||Do not drive or use tools or machines until these effects have worn off|
|Headache||Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller|
|Indigestion, feeling sick, stomach ache||Stick to simple foods - avoid rich or spicy meals|
|Feeling irritable or restless, dry mouth, abnormal dreams, night sweats, dry or itchy skin, pains in the arms or legs||If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor|
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the tablets, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.
How to store melatonin
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Important information about all medicines
Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital at once. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
If you are having an operation or dental treatment, always tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.
If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines.
Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.
Further reading & references
- Manufacturer's PIL, Circadin® 2 mg prolonged-release Tablets; Flynn Pharma Ltd, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated February 2014.
- British National Formulary; 67th Edition (March 2014) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.
Dr John Cox