Why is melatonin banned in the UK house country night stars sleep

Why is melatonin banned in the UK?

Struggle with sleep? In many countries you can walk into any drugs store and pick up some melatonin, no questions asked. But getting hold of the sleep-inducing hormone in the UK is a far harder proposition. So if you were wondering why is melatonin banned in the UK, here’s the reality and everything else you need to know about this powerful hormone, says New Body Plan’s Joe Warner

In the still of a sleepless night, the allure of a simple, natural, over-the-counter sleep aid like melatonin seems like a nocturnal nirvana. But in the UK, it’s not as simple as a midnight dash to the corner chemist because this hormone supplement is entwined in a net of regulations, presenting a puzzle for the sleep-deprived and stressed out. Here’s all you need to know about melatonin and the law in the UK, as well as all the vital information you need to ensure you get the best sleep possible!

TL;DR In the UK, melatonin is a prescription-only medicine, regulated to ensure correct usage and prevent potential side effects. Despite its over-the-counter availability in many countries, the UK considers it a treatment for specific sleep disorders, requiring professional medical oversight. If you’re a UK resident grappling with sleep issues, consult your healthcare provider to discuss safe and effective treatment options, melatonin included.

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Why is melatonin banned in the UK?

It’s not! However, it is regulated and treated with a certain decorum befitting its potent role in our biological clocks. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) classifies melatonin as a prescription-only medicine, owing to its influential role in our circadian rhythms. While the US sees melatonin as a dietary supplement, the UK recognises its potential to “reset” the body’s internal clock, necessitating a professional hand to guide its use and prevent possible misuse or overuse.

Will taking melatonin suppress my body’s ability to make it?

A common concern when supplementing with any hormone is whether it will suppress the body’s natural production of that hormone. Interestingly, studies so far indicate that melatonin supplementation doesn’t seem to significantly suppress our body’s own production of the hormone.

However, that doesn’t mean there are no risks associated with improper melatonin use. Overuse or misuse of melatonin can potentially disrupt our circadian rhythms. This is because the timing of melatonin release is as crucial as the amount released. Taking supplements at the wrong times can shift our biological clocks in unwanted ways.

In fact, a study published in Journal of Pineal Research emphasised that exogenous melatonin may shift the timing of the body’s internal clock, causing changes in the sleep-wake cycle. This can lead to complications like daytime drowsiness, mood changes, and even metabolic disruptions.

These potential effects underscore the UK’s stance on treating melatonin as a prescription-only medicine. This regulation ensures the hormone is used correctly, under the guidance of healthcare professionals, and only when necessary.

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Is melatonin dangerous?

The question isn’t whether melatonin is harmful, but rather how we use it. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine highlighted the potential consequences of misusing melatonin, including headaches, dizziness, and daytime sleepiness. It’s not inherently harmful, but like any other hormone, it should be used responsibly and under medical guidance to minimise the risk of side effects.

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Are there alternatives to melatonin for sleep issues?

Absolutely. A host of lifestyle modifications and relaxation techniques can aid sleep. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for insomnia has shown significant success, as published in the JAMA Internal Medicine. Moreover, basic sleep hygiene, regular exercise, and a balanced diet can work wonders in enhancing your sleep quality.

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Is it illegal to bring melatonin from the US to the UK?

While it’s not “illegal” per se, it’s a grey area. You may bring melatonin for personal use, but remember, the UK treats melatonin as a prescription-only medicine. Therefore, it’s best to carry a doctor’s note or prescription to avoid potential issues at customs.

Can melatonin help with jet lag?

Indeed, melatonin can help reset your biological clock when travelling across time zones. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews detailed its effectiveness in reducing jet lag for travellers crossing five or more time zones, particularly in an eastward direction.

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Are there natural ways to increase melatonin production?

Indeed, certain foods such as cherries, bananas, oats, and walnuts naturally increase melatonin levels. Sleep hygiene practices like maintaining a dark bedroom and sticking to a regular sleep schedule can also support your body’s own melatonin production.

What can I do if I can’t get a prescription for melatonin in the UK?

Consult a healthcare professional. They can guide you through a range of sleep-enhancing techniques and therapies. Prescription-only doesn’t mean inaccessible; it merely ensures that melatonin is used wisely and under appropriate circumstances.

Five ways to sleep better without melatonin

    1. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule: Regular sleep and wake times can reinforce your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
    2. Limit exposure to screens before bedtime: The blue light emitted by screens can inhibit melatonin production.
    3. Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep.
    4. Create a restful environment: A cool, dark, and quiet room can promote better sleep.
    5. Mind your diet: Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime.

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