What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that’s naturally produced by the pineal gland in our bodies at night time when there is no natural light. It’s triggered by light signals from our retina, and the release of melatonin helps to prepare our bodies for sleep. Melatonin plays a huge part in our sleep/wake cycle, with is controlled by our natural circadian rhythm. When this is out of sync with our surroundings and environment, it can cause issues such as insomnia, disturbed sleep, tiredness, confusion and irritability.
Melatonin is also available as supplements to help those who struggle with sleeping difficulties – including jet lag which can induce fatigue and insomnia due to the change in time zone at your destination. In the UK, melatonin supplements are available in generic form, or branded as Circadin – 2mg tablets that should be taken at around the time you want to go to bed. This helps the body to regulate the circadian rhythm in order to let you have quality and restful sleep.
Is melatonin safe?
Melatonin supplements such as Circadin are safe for most people to take on a short-term basis. However, long-term use should be avoided, as your body should be able to produce enough melatonin for you to sleep without relying on supplements. If you find that you need to take Circadin often, you should speak to your GP about a referral to see a sleep specialist, as you may need investigating for any other issues that might be disturbing your sleep.
Melatonin supplements mimic the natural hormone that we produce, so most people are able to take them without any adverse reactions. However, despite the fact that it mimics a natural hormone, it’s still a prescription medicine and should be taken with caution.
Some groups of people are advised to avoid taking Circadin or other melatonin supplements due to the fact that certain health conditions may affect how it works within the body. These groups of people include those who:
• Have an allergy to melatonin supplements or any ingredients of Circadin • Have liver or kidney problems • Aer intolerant to some sugars • Have an auto-immune disease
If you have any of the health conditions or problems listed above, you should speak to your GP before ordering Circadin online, as it might not be the most suitable medication for you.
In addition to this, people that take certain medications are advised to avoid taking melatonin supplements including Circadin due to the way that they interact together, causing potentially dangerous reactions. Medicines that shouldn’t be taken alongside melatonin include:
- Andrenergic agonists/antagonists
- Nasal decongestants
- Medicines that lower blood pressure
- Opiate agonists/antagonists
- Antidepressant medications
- Hypnotics (some types of sleeping pills)
If you take any of the medicines in this list, you should seek advice from your doctor before you take Circadin or any other type of melatonin for jet lag, as these medications have been known to interact with one another.
Melatonin for jet lag
Whilst Circadin isn’t licensed to treat jet lag, melatonin supplements are often used to help combat the insomnia and tiredness that often come along with flying across several time zones – especially if you’re heading east. Travelling in an eastern direction means that you “lose” time, making it harder to adjust to a new sleeping schedule, so many doctors prescribe Circadin for travellers in order to relieve some of the symptoms of jet lag and to help them settle into a new sleep schedule for their destination much easier.
Taking melatonin at your “new” bedtime (the regular bed time for your destination) can help your circadian rhythm to adjust to the new time zone and help you get a more restful sleep, as you may not be tired at night time when you first arrive in your destination country.
Although it’s used off-license in this circumstance, doctors will still prescribe it for you if they believe that it is safe for you to take an in your best interests.
Melatonin supplements are commonly used to combat symptoms of jet lag and many travellers find them helpful at reducing the amount of time that they need to adjust to a new schedule. However, it should be noted that there are other things you must do in addition to taking melatonin supplements such as Circadin in order to help yourself adjust to your new surroundings. Relying on Circadin alone for your jet lag isn’t as effective as slowly adjusting your schedule before you fly, getting plenty of daylight when you arrive, and staying hydrated.
Melatonin side effects
Because we all naturally produce some amount of melatonin in our own bodies, most people generally don’t experience adverse effects when taking Circadin or other melatonin supplements. However, just because it’s a natural hormone doesn’t mean that it can’t cause side effects.
There are no common side effects listed in the patient information leaflet for Circadin, but there are uncommon ones which include:
Upper abdominal pain
Glucose in urine
Abnormal liver function
High blood pressure
Pain in extremities
Feeling of weakness
Excess proteins in urine
Although these side effects generally don’t cause serious complications, it’s still important to seek medical advice if you feel unwell at all after taking any new medication. Whilst some of these side effects can be remedied with over the counter medications, others may need you to see a doctor, so it’s always a good idea to seek medical advice for any side effects.
In addition to these, Circadin may also cause some uncommon but very serious side effects that require immediate medical attention regardless of the country that you’re in. These serious side effects include:
- Chest pain
- Feeling your heart beat
- Visual impairment
- Blood in your urine
- Reduced blood platelets
- Loss of consciousness
- Severe chest pain related to angina
- Blurred vision
- Reduced white blood cells
If you experience any of the side effects on the serious list, you must call the emergency number in the country that you’re staying in and explain that you’ve taken melatonin and are experiencing serious side effects.
Luckily, most people don’t experience any of the side effects mentioned here, but it’s still important to know them. This is why we advise that you thoroughly read the patient information leaflet before taking any new medication to make sure that you’re completely aware of the side effects that it may cause and how you can deal with them.
How to prevent jet lag with melatonin
To prevent jet lag with melatonin, it’s advised that you take a tablet shortly before you go to bed in your destination country. This should be at night time when it’s dark, as this is when we would naturally produce melatonin according to our circadian rhythm. This helps your body to adjust to a new schedule faster, and may relieve some of the symptoms associated with jet lag. Unfortunately, you may still feel tired as you might have to stay awake for longer than normal in order to settle into the new sleep and wake routine for your destination, but melatonin should help you get a restful night’s sleep without taking any hypnotic sleeping pills.
You should avoid using caffeine or any stimulant drugs to keep you awake during daylight hours as this may mean that any Circadin you take might not work to its full potential.
How to avoid jet lag
There are several things that you can do to help yourself to relieve some of the symptoms of jet lag. Whist it isn’t completely avoidable; it is possible to reduce the severity of the symptoms by making some changes to your routine before you fly to ensure a smoother transition into the new time zone.
If you’re flying east, you can help to avoid some of the tiredness and insomnia that comes with jet lag by going to bed one hour earlier each night over the period of a week or so. This means that your circadian rhythm will naturally adjust to a bedtime that’s closer to when you’ll be sleeping when you reach your destination. If you’re flying west, you should try to do the opposite and go to bed one hour later each night over the space of a week or so. By slowly adjusting your body clock, you should be able to avoid some of the tiredness that comes with jet lag normally.
You should also make sure that you get plenty of daylight when you arrive in your destination country, so spending lots of time outdoors is a great way to let your body adjust so that it can get used to the new daylight and night time hours.
In addition to this, you should also drink plenty of water, as dehydration can worsen the symptoms of jet lag and can be very dangerous on its own, especially if you’re in a hot climate where you may be sweating more than usual.
If you still feel like you may need help with adjusting to a new schedule, Circadin and other melatonin supplements can help with giving you a restful night’s sleep whilst you adjust to the new time zone. After around 5 days, you shouldn’t need to take it anymore.
Buy melatonin online
Although melatonin is a prescription medication, you can buy it online from reputable online prescribing services like ourselves. Just look for the MHRA logo to check that the website is legally allowed to prescribe medicines online.
You can buy melatonin from Doctor4U in the branded form Circadin. Simply fill out a consultation form from the button at the top of the page, pay for your treatment, and your request will be reviewed by one of our prescribers. If they agree that it’s safe and appropriate for you, they’ll approve your consultation and generate a prescription, which will then be shipped from our partner pharmacy. All costs including shipping, the online consultation and the medication are included in the price that you pay at checkout, so you can buy melatonin online safely and without any hidden costs.
Can you buy melatonin in the UK?
Whilst you can’t buy melatonin supplements in health stores like you can in some other countries, you can pay for a prescription of Circadin or generic melatonin from your own GP, or from private services such as Doctor4U after completing an online consultation. It’s important to know that within the UK, melatonin is classed as a prescription-only medication, so you should make sure that wherever you buy it from is reputable in order to make sure that you’re receiving genuine and safe medication that’s specifically prescribed for you in accordance with UK regulations.
You can buy melatonin in its branded form of Circadin from Doctor4U after completing a consultation form for jet lag. Please be aware that taking melatonin supplements for jet lag is an off-label use, but it can still be prescribed for this purpose if our healthcare professionals agree that it is safe and suitable for you.