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About melatonin - Brand names: Circadin, Adaflex, Ceyesto, Slenyto, Syncrodin

Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in your body. At night, your levels of melatonin rise, before returning to normal during the day. This helps to control how and when you sleep.

You can take a synthetic version of melatonin for short periods if you have sleep problems such as insomnia. This adds to your body's natural supply of melatonin, so you fall asleep more quickly and you're less likely to wake up during the night. It may also help with symptoms of jetlag.

Melatonin is mainly used to treat short-term sleep problems in people aged 55 and over. It can also sometimes be prescribed by specialists to help with longer-term sleep problems in some children and adults.

Melatonin is available on prescription only. It comes as standard tablets, slow release tablets, capsules and a liquid that you drink.

Key facts

  • Melatonin takes around 1 to 2 hours to work.
  • You'll usually take melatonin for up to 13 weeks but some people may need it for longer.
  • Some people may get a headache, or feel tired, sick or irritable the day after taking melatonin.
  • Drinking alcohol or smoking while taking melatonin can stop it working as well as it should.
  • If you're taking melatonin to help you sleep, do not take any herbal remedies which may affect sleep at the same time. This may make you very drowsy.

Page last reviewed: 13 February 2023
Next review due: 13 February 2026