An MD Weighs In On The Right Time To Take Melatonin vs. Magnesium

mbg Senior Sustainability Editor By Emma Loewe
mbg Senior Sustainability Editor
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care."
An MD Weighs In On When To Take Melatonin Vs. Magnesium

During a time when sleep can be hard to come by, many of us are reaching for reinforcements. When it comes to sleep aids, magnesium and melatonin are two of the most popular over-the-counter options. While both can be effective, they work in different ways. During a recent virtual mbg masterclass, functional medicine doctor and expert in all things sleep Robert Rountree, M.D., weighed in on when to take one over the other. Here's the scoop.

Take melatonin for: Falling asleep at a time that your body isn't used to.

Melatonin is a hormone that our body naturally sends out based on lighting cues, which is why it's often referred to as the "hormone of darkness."

"Melatonin is a signal for the brain that it's time to go to sleep," Rountree said. "It doesn't knock you out. It doesn't make you sleep. It simply tells the brain this is the time to go to sleep."

This means that supplemental forms of the hormone can be good for people who have variable sleep schedules and need to fall asleep at wonky hours from time to time (hence why it's so popular for jet lag). By that logic, if you wake up in the middle of the night and need to fall back asleep, Rountree says that taking a small dose of melatonin (0.5 to 1.5 milligrams, taken under the tongue) can help.

Basically, this supplement lays the groundwork by telling our bodies that it's time for bed—even if our outside environment says otherwise. Once it sends this signal, though, its job is done. It doesn't do much in the way of improving sleep quality, which is part of why some people report feeling groggy and sleepy in the morning after taking it. "It's not that great for people who are just poor sleepers," Rountree explained.

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Take magnesium for: Nightly sleep support.

Compared to melatonin, Rountree says that magnesium is more helpful for improving sleep quality.* Early research suggests that the mineral can reduce insomnia symptoms and kick-start hours of calm and relaxation—especially when it's combined with the amino acid glycine.*

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"Magnesium helps to calm the central nervous system, which helps to prepare the brain to turn off and also to keep it functioning at a calmer level throughout the night," he previously told mbg.*

So while melatonin is a quick signal to go to bed, magnesium is more of a steady, long-lasting sleep enhancer.* It's what you'll find in mbg's magnesium+ supplement, which has quickly become a bestseller for its ability to help people not only fall asleep but stay asleep night after night and wake up feeling refreshed.* Taking the targeted formula of magnesium glycinate, pharmaGABA, and jujube 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime can send the body into sleep mode—and keep it there until the next morning, reviewers say.*

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The bottom line.

While melatonin is great at sending a signal to the body that it's time to go to sleep, magnesium picks up where it leaves off and helps achieve higher-quality rest.* It's better for every night use, while melatonin is a good supplement to have in your back pocket if you're traveling to a new time zone or need to pick up a night shift.

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