February 07, 2023 11 min read

In this article

    Do you often struggle to get a good night's sleep? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Many of us have experienced tossing and turning late into the night. Did you know that up to 70 million Americans have sleep disorders? [17] Whether it be anxiety, built-up stress, or unidentified sleep disturbances, there are a variety of reasons we can experience poor sleep. Fortunately, lifestyle habits and nutrition can make a difference. Today, we’re looking at how to use the right supplements to optimize your sleep. 

    Rather than defaulting to heavy-duty sleep meds that leave you feeling drowsy, or over-the-counter meds you’re unfamiliar with, consider the essential mineral magnesium, or try naturally occurring melatonin. These supplements can help to manage your sleep issues (chronic or occasional) at a more acute level. In this in-depth review, we’ll discuss and define magnesium and melatonin, evaluate their respective uses for improving sleep quality, compare benefits, and finally, make it easy to decide which one may work best for your personal rest needs.

    Why is sleep the staple of our well-being?

    Sleep is a vital part of our well-being and health. It plays an important role in physical functioning, mental health, learning and memory, emotional regulation, and overall quality of life. Studies have shown that people who don't get enough sleep on a consistent basis are more prone to depression, cognitive issues related to concentration and focus, increased stress levels, a weakened immune system, and a greater risk of developing chronic illnesses.[1] [2] Lack of sleep can also affect our ability to make good decisions, be creative and productive, and stay alert throughout the day. We all know how important it is to get enough restful sleep every night - because when we do, we're better equipped to tackle anything life throws at us. 

    In his New York Times BestsellerWhy We Sleep [4], Matthew Walker explains how sleep directly influences our life span, highlighting the fact that short sleep times equate to a shorter life span. What’s more, he explains the vital role of quality sleep in our cognitive functions, especially memory, as well as the impact of sleep deprivation on our metabolic, cardiovascular, and respiratory processes. [4] According to the author, lack of sleep impairs proper recovery, muscle repair, and creative processes, while promoting mental health issues and physical exhaustion.[4]

    Why We Sleep

    There are numerous processes that take place in the body & mind while we sleep, memory consolidation, increased energy production[3], and even rejuvenation of our skin cells. Without adequate and restful sleep, we're unable to fully benefit from these processes, and we age more quickly. It’s no wonder that getting enough shut-eye is essential.

    People with irregular sleep cycles, chronic stress (emotional or physical), or who suffer from insomnia often find it difficult to get the recommended amount of sleep each night. Luckily, a few lifestyle adjustments can make a difference when practiced consistently. But optimizing your supplement stack may be just what you need to support sound sleep. 

    Sleep Hygiene

    Sleep hygiene essentially encompasses good practices and habits that you should adopt to get a better night's sleep. It should be consistent and tailored to your individual needs. Generally, sleep hygiene includes activities like avoiding caffeine in the late afternoon, getting regular exercise during the day, limiting screen time before bed, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, and creating a comfortable sleeping environment. With proper sleep hygiene practices, you'll be well on your way to getting more restful shut-eye.

    So, what is considered a healthy sleep cycle anyway? Generally, adults should be sleeping about seven to eight hours each night. Additionally, getting a good ‘night’s rest' consists of both quantity and quality. Quality sleep can be defined by undisturbed and continuous sleep without frequent awakening.

    It’s essential to create a comfortable sleep environment, free from distractions such as light or noise. Avoiding or minimizing screen time before bed and not succumbing to 30 mins of doom scrolling (easier said than done) can make a significant difference if done consistently. The blue light that comes from our digital devices has many negative effects on both our brain health and our eyes, neither of which will help us to get a good night’s sleep.  

    Routine before Bed

    Most of us are familiar with sleep cycles and sleep stages, but here’s a refresher. Sleep is divided into two main stages or cycles: non-REM (the quiet or restful phase, when the brain, heart, and breathing slow down) and REM sleep (rapid eye movement, bodily movement, more intense breathing, and pulse).  

     

    By prioritizing sleep and creating healthy sleep habits, you can ensure that you're getting more restful (non-REM) sleep - the kind that your body needs to stay sharp, alert, and energized each day. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good night's sleep - it could make all the difference in how you feel throughout your day.

    Magnesium and Sleep: What’s the Connection?

    Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a role in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It is involved in muscle and nerve activation, energy production, and glucose metabolism and helps improve sleep quality. Magnesium has been referred to as the "miracle mineral" because of its numerous health benefits, including better sleep! 

    Studies have shown that magnesium can help reduce insomnia and increase total sleep time. [6] People who suffer from restless leg syndrome or periodic limb movement disorder have seen improvements in sleep while taking magnesium supplements or increasing their dietary intake of the mineral. [9] Additionally, magnesium is known to reduce stress and anxiety, which can lead to better sleep. [7] With so many benefits, it's no wonder magnesium is considered an important part of a healthy lifestyle and optimal sleep cycle.[8]

    Magnesium has an important role in the regulation of neurotransmitters

    Since magnesium has an important role in the regulation of neurotransmitters, it can help promote relaxation and reduce stress. Studies have shown that magnesium supplements may improve sleep onset, decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, and increase total sleep time. This is likely because magnesium helps regulate the neurotransmitters involved in the sleep-wake cycle. [5]

    A great night’s sleep isn't just about sleep quantity, but even more about quality. Magnesium has been found to increase the time we spend in deep sleep, which is the most restorative and restful stage of sleep. [5]

    Many people don't get enough magnesium in their daily diet, so taking a supplement can be helpful in maintaining or replenishing magnesium stores to a healthy level. It is always recommended to get as much magnesium as possible from dietary sources [8], which include:

    • chia seeds
    • roasted pumpkin seeds
    • spinach
    • almonds
    • soymilk
    • black beans
    • cereals
    • peanuts
    • cashews

    However, keep in mind that the amount of magnesium obtained from food alone is hardly enough. Taking a dose before bed may help improve sleep drastically, but remember to consult your healthcare professional before adding new supplements to your stack in order to avoid negative interactions with other supps or medications you may be taking.  

    Is Melatonin the Best Choice for Quality Sleep?

    Melatonin is a hormone that helps control your sleep and wake cycles. It's naturally produced by the body in response to darkness and light, telling the body when it's time to fall asleep or stay awake. Having healthy levels of melatonin can help you get better quality sleep and feel more rested during the day. Low melatonin levels can lead to sleep disturbances, difficulty falling asleep, and feeling groggy in the morning. Supplementing with melatonin can help restore healthy levels of this hormone, contributing to better rest. [10]

    Normally, the body should be able to produce enough melatonin on its own. However, some factors can interfere with the body's natural production of melatonin, like staying up too late, not getting enough exposure to sunlight (Vitamin D), or having an irregular sleep schedule. If you're having trouble sleeping, it might be a good idea to take a look at your lifestyle and see if there are any changes you can make that could help boost your melatonin levels. With the right combination of healthy sleep hygiene and a little bit of help from melatonin, you can get back on track to a better night's rest. [10]

    Recommended dosing for melatonin ranges from 1-3 milligrams taken about 30 minutes before going to bed, giving it enough time to work its magic. Melatonin is an excellent solution if you need to fall asleep fast, and you’re not too focused on sleep quality. 

    Taking higher amounts can lead to side effects, so it's important to not exceed recommended doses. With some patience and a little bit of help from melatonin, you'll be sleeping like a log in no time! [10] If you're considering taking melatonin to help improve your sleep quality, speak with your doctor about dosage beforehand. 

    The final square-off: Magnesium vs. Melatonin

    When it comes to sleep, you've probably heard of both magnesium and melatonin. But what's the difference between them? Well, here's the lowdown: 

  • Magnesium is an essential mineral found in many foods like green leafy vegetables, nuts, and legumes that helps with many bodily functions including muscle relaxation. 
  •  

  • Magnesium can help improve sleep quality, but it works best when taken with other nutrients like vitamin B6 and calcium. [11]
  •  

  • Magnesium has been found to be effective in reducing stress levels, which can have a positive effect on overall sleep patterns. 
  •  

  • Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by your body that helps regulate sleep cycles. 
  •  

  • Melatonin works by helping reset your body's internal clock, telling it when to go to sleep and when to wake up, and it can also help you fall asleep faster.
  •  

    Which one is better for you?

    We can conclude that both supplements have earned their spots on the nightstand. However, the longevity and intensity of their effects are what could help you decide between the two. 

    On one hand, we have melatonin, the sleep hormone, which is a useful supplement to help you stay consistent with going to bed and waking up at similar times each day. If you’re traveling across different time zones on a regular basis, starting with melatonin might help get you on track quicker. Melatonin has the ability to trick your body into falling asleep more quickly and can help you adjust to a new sleep pattern faster. However, melatonin hasn’t demonstrated effectiveness for long-term sleep management or the source of your sleep issues. [12]

    Melatonin has the ability to trick your body into falling asleep more quickly

    However, magnesium has shown promise as an effective supplement for better sleep quality with longer-lasting results when taken for a stretch of time. It helps your body maintain its natural sleeping patterns by restoring balance in hormones (particularly thyroid hormones and ovarian hormones) and neurotransmitters (the neurotransmitter system of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal gland)[16]. Magnesium is a long-term solution if you’re looking to improve your sleep quality because it influences various hormones and neurotransmitters that positively affect our mood and sleep cycles. What's more, magnesium plays an important role in muscle relaxation & recovery, which can help you say goodbye to those pesky nighttime leg cramps once and for all! [12]

    Unlike melatonin, magnesium is a mineral and not a hormone. Therefore risks of taking this supplement over a long period of time are lessened. If you’re wanting change that lasts for years to come, add magnesium to your stack. [12]

    Can you take both?

    It is safe to combine melatonin and magnesium to promote better quantity and quality of sleep. so you can join the forces of these two powerful sleep-promoting supplements. What’s more, adding a zinc supplement to this combination has shown promising results, even in the management of serious sleep disorders such as insomnia. [13]

    What’s more, yet another study confirmed that the combination of magnesium, melatonin and vitamin B may promote sleep quality regardless of the cause of your sleep issues. [14]

    So, could we name magnesium + melatonin as the ultimate sleep cocktail? While there is clinical research to support this combo, Andrew Huberman, acclaimed American neuroscientist, has another recipe in mind - and once again, magnesium is the main ingredient. According to the founder of Huberman Lab at Stanford School of Medicine, one of the best sleepytime combos includes [15]:

  • 140 mg of Magnesium L-Threonate;
  • 100-300 mg of Theanine; 
  • 50 mg of Apigenin.
  •  
    While theanine (an amino acid commonly found in tea) has been found to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, apigenin is a well-known sleep inducer, aiding in muscle relaxation and sedation.[15]

    Conclusion

    Both magnesium and melatonin can undoubtedly help you fall asleep faster, but the main difference is that magnesium will directly impact the quality of your sleep, as it affects your muscles and neurotransmitters. Think of magnesium as a sleeping aid that can create the right environment for you to fall asleep, and stay asleep through the night - which is the key to restful sleep. Melatonin, on the other hand, is something you wouldn’t necessarily view as a long-term solution, but rather a shortcut you can take once in a while to trick your body and mind into falling asleep. 

    Summary Points:

    Studies have shown that people who don't get enough sleep on a consistent basis are more prone to depression, cognitive issues related to concentration and focus, increased stress levels, a weakened immune system, and a greater risk of developing chronic illnesses.

    Generally, adults should be sleeping about seven to eight hours each night.

    Magnesium has been referred to as the "miracle mineral" because of its numerous health benefits, including better sleep!

    Studies have shown that magnesium supplements may improve sleep onset, decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, and increase total sleep time.

    Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your sleep and wake cycles.

    Unlike melatonin, magnesium is a mineral and not a hormone - therefore risks of taking this supplement over a long period of time are lessened.

    Discover the Superhuman in you!

    Take our quiz and find which supplements your body is craving.

    Article References:

    1. MIND. “About Sleep and Mental Health.” Www.mind.org.uk, May 2020, www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/sleep-problems/about-sleep-and-mental-health/.
    2. CDC. “CDC - Sleep and Chronic Disease - Sleep and Sleep Disorders.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019, www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/chronic_disease.html.
    3. Engle-Friedman M. (2014). The effects of sleep loss on capacity and effort. Sleep science (Sao Paulo, Brazil), 7(4), 213–224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.slsci.2014.11.001
    4. Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker - Summary & Notes.” Www.grahammann.net, www.grahammann.net/book-notes/why-we-sleep-matthew-walker.
    5. How Magnesium Can Help You Sleep.” Healthline, 21 Nov. 2022, www.healthline.com/nutrition/magnesium-and-sleep#sleep-quality. Accessed 6 Feb. 2023.
    6. Abbasi, B., Kimiagar, M., Sadeghniiat, K., Shirazi, M. M., Hedayati, M., & Rashidkhani, B. (2012). 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, 17(12), 1161–1169.
    7. Chandra, Suruchi. “Could Magnesium Deficiency Be Contributing to Your Anxiety?” SURUCHI CHANDRA M.D., 23 Jan. 2021, chandramd.com/magnesium-deficiency-anxiety/. Accessed 6 Feb. 2023.
    8. Office of Dietary Supplements - Magnesium.” Ods.od.nih.gov, ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-Consumer/#:~:text=sheet%20on%20Magnesium.-.
    9. Marshall, N. S., Serinel, Y., Killick, R., Child, J. M., Raisin, I., Berry, C. M., Lallukka, T., Wassing, R., Lee, R. W., Ratnavadivel, R., Vedam, H., Grunstein, R., Wong, K. K., Hoyos, C. M., Cayanan, E. A., Comas, M., Chapman, J. L., & Yee, B. J. (2019). Magnesium supplementation for the treatment of restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder: A systematic review. Sleep medicine reviews, 48, 101218. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2019.101218
    10. Melatonin for Sleep: Does It Work?” Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2012, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/melatonin-for-sleep-does-it-work.
    11. Pouteau, E., Kabir-Ahmadi, M., Noah, L., Mazur, A., Dye, L., Hellhammer, J., Pickering, G., & Dubray, C. (2018). Superiority of magnesium and vitamin B6 over magnesium alone on severe stress in healthy adults with low magnesemia: A randomized, single-blind clinical trial. PloS one, 13(12), e0208454. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0208454
    12. Is Melatonin or Magnesium Better for Bed? Experts Weigh In*.” Mindbodygreen, 13 June 2020, www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/melatonin-vs-magnesium-whats-difference-and-is-one-better.
    13. Rondanelli, M., Opizzi, A., Monteferrario, F., Antoniello, N., Manni, R., & Klersy, C. (2011). The effect of melatonin, magnesium, and zinc on primary insomnia in long-term care facility residents in Italy: a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 59(1), 82–90. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-5415.2010.03232.x
    14. Djokic, G., Vojvodić, P., Korcok, D., Agic, A., Rankovic, A., Djordjevic, V., Vojvodic, A., Vlaskovic-Jovicevic, T., Peric-Hajzler, Z., Matovic, D., Vojvodic, J., Sijan, G., Wollina, U., Tirant, M., Thuong, N. V., Fioranelli, M., & Lotti, T. (2019). The Effects of Magnesium - Melatonin - Vit B Complex Supplementation in Treatment of Insomnia. Open access Macedonian journal of medical sciences, 7(18), 3101–3105. https://doi.org/10.3889/oamjms.2019.771
    15. Team, Healthnews. “Andrew Huberman Recommended Supplements to Boost Your Health.” HealthNews.com, 7 Dec. 2022, healthnews.com/longevity/longevity-supplements/andrew-huberman-recommended-supplements-to-boost-your-health/.
    16. Kolanu, B. R., Vadakedath, S., Boddula, V., & Kandi, V. (2020). Activities of Serum Magnesium and Thyroid Hormones in Pre-, Peri-, and Post-menopausal Women. Cureus, 12(1), e6554. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.6554
    17. Cleveland Clinic. “Insomnia | Cleveland Clinic.” Cleveland Clinic, 2015, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12119-insomnia.



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