Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the brain. It is involved in regulating a person's body clock and helping to regulate sleep patterns.
Just 1 melatonin product, called Circadin, is licensed for use in the UK. It can only be obtained with a prescription and comes in the form of a 'prolonged-release' tablet. Prolonged-release means that the drug treatment continues working over a number of hours as the active ingredient is released slowly in the body. This tablet is licensed for treating sleep disorders over a short period of time in adults who are aged 55 or over. It is not licensed for use in any other age group, and so using prolonged-release melatonin in children and young people under 18 is described as 'off-label'.
Other melatonin products, some in the form of 'immediate-release' capsules, tablets or liquids, are available from specialist suppliers and on the internet. These are not licensed for use in any patient group in the UK and so are known as 'unlicensed'.
The main treatments available for children and young people with sleep disorders are non-drug treatments, including good 'sleep hygiene'. Good sleep hygiene includes day-to-day things that can be done at home to help children and young people sleep. This includes advice such as having fixed times for going to bed, avoiding exercise and eating a heavy meal near bedtime, keeping the bedroom comfortable and relaxing near bedtime.