Melatonin is a hormone that is synthesised by the pineal gland in humans and produced in animals as well as plants. Although the effects of melatonin are complex and poorly understood, it plays a critical role in the regulation of the sleeping and waking cycle and other circadian rhythms. Melatonin has been studied as a possible treatment of circadian rhythm disorders and may be helpful in reducing sleep disturbances caused by jet lag. Melatonin works by triggering chemical receptors in the brain to encourage sleep.
Melatonin is available by prescription only and is given as a short-term treatment of insomnia in people age 55 and over. The medicine should not be used for longer than 13 weeks.
Melatonin is not recommended for people with allergies or sensitivity to any of the medicine's ingredients, or who have problems with the immune system, kidney or liver problems.
Alcohol should be avoided while taking melatonin.
Because melatonin affects sleep patterns, it may affect a person's driving or the ability to operate machinery.
Melatonin is not recommended during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
Melatonin may also react with other medicines and treatments, including contraceptive pills. Make sure the doctor knows about all medicines taken, including complementary treatments and supplements.
Taking melatonin may affect some laboratory test results. Other possible side effects of melatonin include dry mouth, anxiety, indigestion, chest pain or restlessness.