Magnesium vs. Melatonin: Which Is Better?
Originally published 06/22/2022. Updated for accuracy and relevancy on 01/18/2024
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.1
The good news is, along with practicing good sleep hygiene, there are some natural sleep aid supplements that people take to support restful 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 production, 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.2
Discover more about the benefits of magnesium for managing sleep disorders and supporting mental health.
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.3 It is centrally involved in anti-oxidation, circadian rhythmicity maintenance, sleep regulation and neuronal survival. Some people may not have enough melatonin production 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.4 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 seeking effective sleep medicine solutions.
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 supplemental magnesium and melatonin for a sleep remedy, it is important to determine whether a person’s diet has a magnesium deficiency or their brain is not producing adequate melatonin. This is especially important for pregnant women, who should know how a magnesium deficiency impacts fertility. 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 and 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 recommended magnesium levels every day. Magnesium supplements, such as the Magnesium Plus drink mix, are a great way to up your magnesium intake.
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 supplementation is likely to be the safest choice unless your doctor told you otherwise. There are many benefits of magnesium during pregnancy which we recommend you check out.Learn about the importance of taking magnesium postpartum here.
- Bhaskar S, Hemavathy D, Prasad S. Prevalence of chronic insomnia in adult patients and its correlation with medical comorbidities. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. 2016;5(4):780-784. doi:https://doi.org/10.4103/2249-4863.201153
- 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. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences: The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences. 2012;17(12):1161-1169. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23853635/
- Xie Z, Chen F, Li WA, et al. A Review of Sleep Disorders and Melatonin. Neurological Research. 2017;39(6):559-565. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/01616412.2017.1315864
- Ferracioli-Oda E, Qawasmi A, Bloch MH. Meta-Analysis: Melatonin for the Treatment of Primary Sleep Disorders. Romanovsky AA, ed. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(5):e63773. doi:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0063773