Can You Buy Melatonin in the UK?

Written by
The Manual Team
Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
1st February 2022

In 30 seconds

In the UK, the sleep hormone melatonin is only available on prescription. That means that, unlike in many countries where you can buy it in health stores and pharmacies, you cannot buy melatonin over the counter in the UK. That’s because melatonin is classed as a medicine. But there’s good news. If you struggle to sleep or have another need for the drug, Manual’s online pharmacy can provide you with a prescription.

The Sleep Hormone

There are many drugs out there that claim to help you to sleep. Melatonin – the so-called “sleep hormone”, that is produced naturally in the body – is one of the most popular, and possibly the most effective.

But can you buy melatonin? In the UK, melatonin is only available on prescription. That means that you can’t just walk into a shop and buy it.

However, for those interested in this powerful sleep aid, that shouldn’t have to complicate things. At Manual, we can provide a prescription to people who need melatonin for medical purposes. Here, we share everything you need to know.

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by the pineal gland in your brain. It is known as the “sleep hormone”, as it plays an important role in regulating your circadian rhythm, your body’s sleep-wake cycle.

In short, melatonin works to make you feel sleepy in response to changes in the light. When it gets dark, more melatonin is produced, helping your body to feel ready to go to bed. Then, when it gets light again, natural melatonin production slows – helping you to wake up. 

Many researchers believe that people with sleep problems may struggle to produce enough melatonin. That’s where medicinal melatonin comes in. 

This lab-produced melatonin can be taken to regulate your body clock. It can be used for the short-term treatment of jet lag, acute sleep disorders, and sometimes headaches, while the medicine is often used to tackle symptoms of epilepsy, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in kids as well.

It should be remembered that melatonin is a medicine. While in different countries across the world it is classed as a dietary supplement, stricter rules control its sale in the UK. That means it should only be used when you have a specific medical need.

Let’s explore this in detail.

Can You Buy Melatonin in the UK?

The simple answer is no: you cannot buy melatonin over the counter in the UK. However, that does not mean that it is not available if you need it.

Rather, melatonin is only available by prescription. To get hold of the sleep hormone, you will need to speak to a doctor, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. They will ensure that you really need the medication and that you understand its use and appropriate dosages.

Up until 1995, melatonin supplements were available in UK health food shops – just like in the US and other similar countries around the world. Since then, the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has recognised melatonin as a medicine, meaning it can no longer be sold on the high street.

If you need melatonin, Manual can make it possible. After an online consultation with us, one of our pharmacists can write you a prescription. Get started here.

Note. Be careful. When buying medicines online, only use licensed pharmacies registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council. These are accredited pharmacists you can trust.

What are the Side Effects of Melatonin?

The MHRA’s decision to restrict the sale of melatonin was due to the risk of side effects – particularly among those who have other medical conditions.

To reduce the risk of side effects, only take melatonin at the recommended dose. And, while they are rare, if you do experience any of the following side effects after taking the hormone, do seek medical attention:

  • Chest pain or heart palpitations
  • Daytime drowsiness or sleepiness
  • Headache
  • Stomach ache and nausea
  • Irritableness and restlessness
  • Strange dreams
  • Dry mouth and skin
  • Pains in your arms and legs
  • Loss of consciousness, or extreme dizziness
  • Blood in your urine, or unexplained bruising
  • Psoriasis
  • Feeling sad or low

Note. These are more likely if you are on medication for high blood pressure, diabetes, or depression, or medication to thin your blood. In your consultation with your doctor or pharmacist, you will be asked about your medical history and any medications you are on.

What is the Right Melatonin Dosage?

In the UK, if you receive a prescription of melatonin through Manual or on the NHS, you will receive a 2mg dosage of Circadin (that’s the brand name melatonin is often sold under). These are slow release tablets, which will gradually release the hormone into your system throughout the night.

It’s important that you follow the instructions given to you by your doctor or pharmacist. Usually, you will need to take the tablet an hour or so before bedtime.

Find out more: What is the Right Melatonin Dosage?

Sleep Tips to Support Your Sleep Cycle

Melatonin works best when taken as part of a healthy, active lifestyle. If you are struggling with sleep problems, making changes to your sleep habits can make a difference. Try these tips for better sleep:

  • Cut down on caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol both have a detrimental effect on your sleep. While alcohol helps you get to sleep, it reduces your overall sleep quality. Meanwhile, caffeine makes it harder to drop off. Avoid caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime – and keep alcohol to a minimum.
  • Exercise. Physical activity is great for your sleep, because it relaxes your mind and makes you physically tired. Getting at least 150 minutes a week is recommended by doctors.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking is known to affect the natural production of melatonin. As a result, quitting can help your sleep cycle. 
  • Create an environment that encourages sleep. People sleep better in spaces that are cool, dark, and quiet, with no distractions. Keeping the TV and any digital devices out of the bedroom is best.
  • Aim for a regular sleep pattern. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can help you train your body for sleep.

Key Takeaways

Can you buy melatonin in the UK? While melatonin is not available over the counter, you can get a prescription. This ensures that the medicine is safe for you and that you know how to take it appropriately.

At Manual, our team of licensed pharmacists can provide you with the medicine you need – easily, discreetly, and reliably. Get melatonin here.

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Why Did the UK Ban Melatonin?

It is a common misconception: melatonin is not actually banned in the UK. Rather, it is available only on prescription. That means that you can’t get it over the counter. However, if you have a medical need for melatonin, we can provide a prescription online.

What is Melatonin Used For?

Melatonin is used primarily for the treatment of sleep problems. While it is most often prescribed for people over the age of 55, many people use it at a younger age too.

Alongside helping you to sleep, melatonin can be used to treat headaches in adults and to treat the symptoms of epilepsy and ADHD in children and adolescents.

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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