Singaporeans are among the world’s most sleep-deprived people. With the ongoing, never-ending COVID-19 pandemic, it is reported that nearly 6 out of every 10 Singaporeans are not sleeping well. If you are experiencing sleep problems, you are definitely not alone.
You may have seen and even tried readily available sleep products – herbal concoctions, aromatherapy and even supplements. Then you would most probably have heard of melatonin.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that encourages sleep. It is produced by the pineal gland found in the brain.
The body produces melatonin just after it gets dark, with the highest levels of melatonin produced in the early hours of the morning (2-4 a.m.). Then, melatonin levels diminish in preparation for waking.
It has been found that the level of melatonin in the body reduces with advancing age and in some medical conditions.
Taking melatonin supplements adds to your body’s natural supply of the hormone. This can help you get to sleep and improve the quality of your sleep when taken appropriately.
Melatonin available in Singapore
In Singapore, you can find many different types of melatonin products available. They can be broadly classified into two categories: prescription-grade melatonin and over-the-counter melatonin supplements.
Prescription-grade Melatonin (available at SIRE)
Circadin 2 mg Prolonged Release Tablets is the only brand of melatonin registered with the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) as a therapeutic product. Unlike melatonin sold as supplements, Circadin is prescribed as a medication for the short-term treatment of insomnia. You would need a legal prescription from a doctor in order to obtain Circadin in Singapore.
Like all other medications registered with the HSA, Circadin is subjected to the same detailed regulations, extensive checks and quality controls. In clinical studies, Circadin may effectively improve sleep quality in patients with insomnia, particularly in patients who are over 55 years old.
It is recommended to take Circadin tablets 1-2 hours before the desired bedtime. Always discuss with your doctor the best way to take Circadin to help you with your sleep.
Over-the-counter Melatonin Supplements
Other than Circadin, all other melatonin products are considered a health supplement and are not regulated as a prescription medication in Singapore. Melatonin supplements are meant to be taken to supplement one’s diet and enhance health. They are not meant to prevent, treat, cure or alleviate symptoms of medical conditions and diseases.
You can find many different types of melatonin supplements available in the form of chewables, liquids and pills. There are no available studies to compare the effectiveness of one form of melatonin supplement over another; the best form of melatonin supplement is mainly a matter of preference.
Melatonin chewables refer to chewable melatonin tablets or melatonin gummies, this form of supplements are chewed before swallowing and are a good option if you have trouble swallowing pills. They generally taste good due to added sugars and flavourings.
Always be careful not to treat them like candy and take more than the recommended dosage. Also, it is important to brush your teeth after taking chewables with added sugars before bedtime to reduce the risk of dental cavities.
Melatonin sprays (available at SIRE)
A common form of melatonin liquids are liquid sprays.
They are sprayed under the tongue allowing melatonin to be absorbed quickly and work faster in the body.
This is because of the presence of many tiny blood vessels under the tongue; melatonin enters the bloodstream faster compared to melatonin pills which have to go through an additional step through the digestive system before entering the bloodstream.
It is ideal if you are not able to take melatonin one to two hours before bedtime and would need a faster fix.
Melatonin liquid sprays generally supply a smaller dose of melatonin per spray compared to melatonin chewables or pills. It could be ideal if you are starting out with the supplement and would like to gauge how it works for you.
Melatonin pills can come in the form of capsules and tablets. They are swallowed quickly and do not normally have added sugars and flavourings. They generally have a longer shelf-life compared to melatonin chewables and liquids.
Side effects of Melatonin
Side effects of Melatonin are not well established with controlled studies. The most commonly reported side effects are vivid dreams and nightmares, dizziness, daytime sleepiness, headache, short-term feelings of depression, irritability, and stomach cramps.
Although long-term safety data of melatonin are not available, short-term studies suggest that it is relatively safe in most patient groups. Melatonin in supplement form is also only recommended for short-term usage.
It is always advisable to have a check with a doctor or pharmacist before starting on melatonin supplements, especially if you are on other long-term medications or underlying medical conditions.
Be smart when purchasing Melatonin supplements
Unlike prescription-grade melatonin, melatonin supplements do not require approval and are not evaluated by HSA before they can be sold locally. This is similar to the United States, European Union countries and Japan.
Melatonin supplements available in the market can vary widely in their strength and accuracy. A study done in the United States analysed 31 commercially available melatonin supplements and found that actual melatonin content varied from -83% to +478% of the labelled content. An additional 26% of the samples contained serotonin (a precursor of melatonin) as a contaminant.
In Singapore, the HSA recommends buying health supplements from reliable sources such as a pharmacy or an established retail store. The Health Supplements Industry Association (Singapore) or HSIAS is a national industry grouping of established health supplement companies in Singapore supplying over 90% of health supplement products sold in Singapore. HSIAS members’ products comply with Singapore health supplement regulation and should be a first point of consideration.
You can also get advice from your doctor or pharmacist when unsure of the right melatonin for your specific lifestyle needs.
Always remember – melatonin supplements should not replace a prescribed treatment or medication from your doctor, nor can they treat or manage a medical condition. If you experience a persistent inability to fall asleep and consistently have a good night’s rest, reach out, we are here to help.
How SIRE can help
SIRE has both prescription-grade Circadin as well as a melatonin spray.
Depending on your situation, our doctors will have the most suitable solution for you.
For people who travel a lot across time zones, we have a melatonin spray that acts quickly and helps ensure you get the necessary rest before your next day of business or leisure travel. You might even use it for occasional sleep troubles at home.
In case of chronic sleep issues, our doctors can also prescribe Circadin which can solve your short-term insomnia challenges.
Q: What is melatonin, and how does it help with sleep?
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin supplements are commonly used to address sleep difficulties, such as insomnia or jet lag, by promoting relaxation and initiating sleep.
Q: Are melatonin supplements available in Singapore?
Yes, melatonin supplements are available over-the-counter in Singapore. They can be found in various forms, including tablets, capsules, gummies, and liquid.
Q: How do I choose the right melatonin supplement for me?
Choosing the right melatonin supplement involves considering factors such as dosage, form, quality, and personal preferences. It’s important to read product labels, review customer feedback, and consult a healthcare provider if needed.
Q: How long should I use melatonin supplements?
Melatonin supplements are typically recommended for short-term use to address specific sleep difficulties. Consult a healthcare provider if you plan to use melatonin supplements for an extended period.
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