Magnesium and melatonin can be used to help your sleep cycle, but which is better? Read on to learn more about magnesium vs. melatonin.
By registered dietitian and fertility specialist Lauren Manaker
Thanks to our busy lifestyles and addiction to our electronic devices, many of us have trouble sleeping or don’t get enough sleep. In fact, some data suggests that as many as 50% of the population suffers from insomnia.
The good news is, along with practicing good sleep hygiene, there are some supplements that people take to support healthy sleep — with two popular ones being magnesium and melatonin.
Yet, while both of these supplements are many peoples’ go-to remedies to get some shut-eye, these two remedies are not interchangeable.
So, what is the difference between magnesium and melatonin? And which one should you take?
If you have ever wondered how melatonin and magnesium differ, read on to get to the bottom of it.
Magnesium is a mineral that our bodies need in order to perform many important functions. From playing a role in maintaining blood pressure and cardiac function to supporting bone health, this key micronutrient is certainly an important one.
Magnesium also plays a key role in the way we rest by playing a supporting role in the function of certain neurotransmitters in our brain, which can impact sleep. It also helps regulate melatonin, and helps the body relax. Magnesium has also been shown to enhance sleep quality as well.
According to results of a clinical trial, people who took a magnesium supplement experienced outcomes like better sleep efficiency, sleep onset, and quantity of overall sleep when compared with placebo.
Melatonin is a hormone that plays a key role in our body’s sleep-wake cycle. Our bodies produce more melatonin in the evening, promoting sleep. Specifically, melatonin has been shown to synchronize the circadian rhythms, and improve the onset, duration and quality of sleep. It is centrally involved in anti-oxidation, circadian rhythmicity maintenance, sleep regulation and neuronal survival. Some people may not produce enough melatonin in the evening, causing the process of falling asleep to be a challenging one. For these people, taking a melatonin supplement may be helpful.
In fact, data has shown melatonin decreases sleep onset latency, increases total sleep time and improves overall sleep quality. And although the difference between outcomes among those who take this supplement vs placebo can be slim, given the relatively low risks associated with taking this supplement, it is a remedy that can be explored by many.
Magnesium vs. melatonin
Both magnesium and melatonin are two supplements that may be used to support factors of sleep. And while both may be useful, they do have some major differences.
Magnesium is a mineral, while melatonin is a hormone. Both impact the way our brains function, and both come with very little risks when taken in appropriate amounts.
Ultimately, for those who are deciding between magnesium and melatonin for a sleep remedy, it is important to determine whether a person’s diet is deficient in magnesium or their brain is not producing adequate melatonin. A quick evaluation of one’s diet can help determine whether there is a nutrient gap at play. Interested in measuring vital hormones to help plan for a better night's sleep? Check out Everlywell’s Sleep & Stress Test.
Recommended magnesium intake
Magnesium is needed for a slew of functions in our bodies, including supporting healthy sleep. Yet, unfortunately, a large percentage of people are not meeting their magnesium needs every day.
Learn more about the National Institute of Health’s recommended targets of this nutrient
Risks of melatonin during pregnancy
Since many pregnant people have trouble getting their solid eight hours of quality sleep thanks to their growing baby dancing on their bladder, their persistent nausea, or a handful of other reasons, naturally, this group of people may want to explore taking melatonin to help them get over this challenge.
Not so fast, says experts. We already know that melatonin can cross the placenta and can reach the fetus. And while we don’t know the effects of this, it is always better to be safe than sorry and avoid any risks until we know more.
One theory regarding the effect of melatonin during pregnancy is that since this hormone can reach the fetus, taking too much may affect the baby’s sleeping patterns even before it is born, potentially setting it up for sleep challenges in the future.
Unless your doctor has explicitly told you to take a melatonin supplement, this is not a pill you should be popping when you are expecting.
Two Natural Solutions For Healthy Sleep
Getting quality sleep can have a profound impact on our mood, our health, and even our pregnancy (if you are expecting). Limiting screen time, keeping your bedroom cold and dark, and unwinding before bed can all help people get that sleep that they are craving. And along with trying these tried-and-true remedies, both magnesium and melatonin supplements may help in certain situations.
Considering that many people are not meeting their magnesium needs via their diet, taking a magnesium supplement to support their sleep is not a bad idea, and while they are doing this, they are filling a nutritional gap at the same time. And for pregnant people, sticking to magnesium is likely to be the safest choice unless your doctor told you otherwise.
Learn about the importance of taking magnesium during the postpartum period here.
Bullarbo M, Mattson H, Broman AK, Ödman N, Nielsen TF. Magnesium Supplementation and Blood Pressure in Pregnancy: A Double-Blind Randomized Multicenter Study. J Pregnancy. 2018;2018:4843159. Published 2018 May 29. doi:10.1155/2018/4843159
Abbasi B, Kimiagar M, Sadeghniiat K, Shirazi MM, Hedayati M, Rashidkhani B. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2012;17(12):1161-1169.
Boyle NB, Lawton C, Dye L. The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress-A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017;9(5):429. Published 2017 Apr 26. doi:10.3390/nu9050429
Arab A, Rafie N, Amani R, Shirani F. The Role of Magnesium in Sleep Health: a Systematic Review of Available Literature [published online ahead of print, 2022 Feb 19]. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2022;10.1007/s12011-022-03162-1. doi:10.1007/s12011-022-03162-1
Xie Z, Chen F, Li WA, et al. A review of sleep disorders and melatonin. Neurol Res. 2017;39(6):559-565. doi:10.1080/01616412.2017.1315864