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What is melatonin?

Melatonin is pronounced ‘mellow-toe-ninn’.

Melatonin is a natural chemical found in the brain.

Melatonin medications include Circadin®, Bio-Melatonin® and Slenyto®. It can be available as tablets, and can also be made as capsules and liquid.


Melatonin is often used in adults but it is not “licensed” or officially approved for people under the age of 18. This is because it has not been fully studied in this younger age group. If you are under 18 you may be offered this medicine because we have experience of it and we know it helps adults.

What does melatonin help?

Taking melatonin helps people to get to sleep. It helps boost a chemical your brain makes called melatonin which is the brain’s usual trigger to go to sleep.

If you have ADHD, your sleep pattern can become a bit irregular. You might be awake at night and sleep during the day. You might not sleep much at all.

Sometimes melatonin can help get you back in line with day and night.

How and when should I take melatonin?

Swallow the tablets or capsules with some water whilst sitting or standing. This is to make sure that they reach the stomach and do not stick in your throat.

Take the melatonin about an hour before going to bed.

There is no problem with taking is with or after food.

How long will I have to wait before it works?

Melatonin usually starts to have an effect in about 1 or 2 hours.

You should make sure that you do not watch television or use a computer or iPad for an hour before going to bed as the light from these can stop your body making its own melatonin.

How long will I need to take melatonin for?

Melatonin can be taken for up to 13 weeks, which is usually enough to get your brain back into the right pattern of sleeping again.

Some people might need to take it for a bit longer such as up to 2 years. You should have this checked every 3 months or so.

What if I do not want to take melatonin anymore?

Melatonin is not addictive, so you can stop it suddenly with no risk of any problems

To get the best effect, it should be taken until your prescriber says to stop.

What should I do if I forget to take a dose?

Start again as soon as you remember, before going to sleep.

If you forget completely, start again the next evening.

Can I cycle or drive while I am taking melatonin?

You may feel a drowsy the next morning after taking melatonin.

Until this wears off, or you know how melatonin affects you, be careful cycling and do not drive or operate machines.

What are the side effects of melatonin?


Fewer than 1 in 10 people may get these:

  • Headaches can be managed with paracetamol.
  • Dizziness or feeling light-headed and faint. Do not stand up too quickly and try to lie or sit down if you feel dizziness coming on. Do not drive or cycle.
  • Weird dreams. You may seem to have more dreams or they are more vivid than usual. This is nothing to worry about, you may just be remembering your dreams better than normal.
  • Feeling or being sick, or tummy pains. Taking your dose after food may help. It usually wears off in a few weeks. If not, tell your prescriber.

Some side effects are the brain getting used to a medicine and these usually wear off in a few days or weeks. Starting slower may help. If you think you might have a side effect, you should ask your prescriber, pharmacist or other healthcare professional.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: MH78

Resource Type: Article

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