Melatonin for sleep disorders

This leaflet is about the use of melatonin for particular sleep problems in childhood. It is used to help children who have problems getting to sleep at the start of the night.

Information Standard quality markThis leaflet has been written specifically for parents and carers about the use of this medicine in children. The information may differ from that provided by the manufacturer.Please read this leaflet carefully. Keep it somewhere safe so that you can read it again.

Name of drug

Common brand: Circadin®

Melatonin is available in a range of branded products.

Why is it important for my child to take this medicine?

Melatonin is mostly used for children with partial or complete blindness, cerebral palsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism or learning disabilities. It is unlikely to be used for an otherwise healthy child who has sleep problems.

Poor sleep can affect your child’s physical health, mood, behaviour and development. Melatonin may help your child to get into a regular sleep pattern.

What is melatonin available as?

  • Modified-release tablets (Circadin): 2 mg
  • Tablets and capsules from 0.5 to 5 mg can be ordered specially from your pharmacist
  • Liquid medicine: 5 mg per 5 mL (this has to be ordered specially from your pharmacist)

When should I give melatonin?

Melatonin is best given between half an hour and an hour before your child’s agreed bedtime.

Give the medicine at about the same time each day so that this becomes part of your child’s daily routine, which will help you to remember.

How much should I give?

Your doctor will work out the amount of melatonin (the dose) that is right for your child. The dose will be shown on the medicine label.

You will probably start with a low dose and the dose will be increased a little each week until the sleep problems have been improved, or up to an agreed maximum. It is important that your child has the minimum they need to help them get to sleep.

It is important that you follow your doctor’s instructions about how much to give.

How should I give melatonin?

TabletsTablets should be swallowed with a glass of water, milk or juice. Your child should not chew the tablets.

CapsuleCapsules should be swallowed with a glass of water, milk or juice. Your child should not chew the capsules.

You can open the capsules and mix the contents with a small amount of soft food such as yogurt, honey or jam. Your child should swallow it all straight away, without chewing.

Liquid medicineLiquid medicine: Measure out the right amount using an oral syringe or medicine spoon. You can get these from your pharmacist. Do not use a kitchen teaspoon as it will not give the right amount.

When should the medicine start working?

If the medicine is helpful, your child should start to feel sleepy about half an hour after taking a dose.

What if my child is sick (vomits)?

  • If your child is sick less than 30 minutes after having a dose of melatonin, give them the same dose again.
  • If your child is sick more than 30 minutes after having a dose of melatonin, you do not need to give them another dose that night.

What if I forget to give it?

If you miss a dose, wait until the next normal dose. Do not give the missed dose.

What if I give too much?

If you think you may have given your child too much melatonin, contact your doctor or NHS Direct (0845 4647 in England and Wales; 08454 24 24 24 in Scotland). Have the medicine packet with you if you telephone for advice.

Are there any possible side-effects?

We use medicines to make our children better, but sometimes they have other effects that we don’t want (side-effects).

Side-effects that you must do something about

If your child gets a fast heart rate (they may have a fluttering feeling in the chest or feel the heart beating fast), contact your doctor before giving the next evening’s dose.

If they seem unwell, take them to hospital.

Other side-effects you need to know about
  • Your child’s temperature may fall a little after taking melatonin. This is a normal reaction to melatonin.

Can other medicines be given at the same time as melatonin?

  • You can give your child medicines that contain paracetamol or ibuprofen, unless your doctor has told you not to.
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist before giving any other medicines to your child. This includes herbal or complementary medicines.

Is there anything else I need to know about this medicine?

  • Treatment with melatonin is usually started by a specialist.
  • We do not know what effects melatonin may have on a child’s development if it is taken for a long time. Your doctor will review whether your child still needs melatonin every 6 months.
  • A specialist may suggest that your child takes just one dose of melatonin before having a CT scan, MRI scan or EEG, when they might be expected to lie still for a while.

General advice about medicines

  • Only give this medicine to your child. Never give it to anyone else, even if their condition appears to be the same, as this could do harm.
  • If you think someone else may have taken the medicine by accident, contact your doctor straight away.
  • Make sure that you always have enough medicine. Order a new prescription at least 2 weeks before you will run out.
  • Make sure that the medicine you have at home has not reached the ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date on the packaging. Give old medicines to your pharmacist to dispose of.

Where should I keep this medicine?

  • Keep the medicine in a cupboard, away from heat and direct sunlight. It does not need to be kept in the fridge.
  • Make sure that children cannot see or reach the medicine.
  • Keep the medicine in the container it came in.

Who to contact for more information

Your child’s doctor, pharmacist or nurse will be able to give you more information about melatonin and about other medicines used to treat sleep disorders.

You can also get useful information from:

Publication Date


Copyright Disclaimer

Version 1.3, June 2010 (November 2011). © NPPG, RCPCH and WellChild 2011, all rights reserved. Reviewed by: June 2012

The primary source for the information in this leaflet is the British National Formulary for Children. For details on any other sources used for this leaflet, please contact us through our website,

We take great care to make sure that the information in this leaflet is correct and up-to-date. However, medicines can be used in different ways for different patients. It is important that you ask the advice of your doctor or pharmacist if you are not sure about something. This leaflet is about the use of these medicines in the UK, and may not apply to other countries. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), the Neonatal and Paediatric Pharmacists Group (NPPG), WellChild and the contributors and editors cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of information, omissions of information, or any actions that may be taken as a consequence of reading this leaflet.