Valerian Root vs Melatonin vs. Magnesium

Valerian Root, Melatonin and Magnesium: What’s The Best One

Sleep is often one of the most neglected components that contribute to the individual’s overall health and well-being. Nowhere is this statement more accurate than here in the United States of America, the land of the free, albeit overworked populace.

With our constant pursuit of more and our “sleep when you are dead mentality,” it is no surprise that 70 percent of American adults report obtaining insufficient sleep on some nights. Even more alarming is that 11% percent of the respondents in this report by the CDC admitted to getting inadequate sleep every single night.

This report shows some crisis level stats.

Hence, it is no surprise that the sleep aid industry continues to grow, with total prescription sleeping pills sales in the U.S. alone amounting to $1.4 billion in 2018 and another $576 million in over the counter sleep medication.

Valerian Root vs Melatonin vs. Magnesium sales
Image Source: Terry Cralle, RN

However, there is no shortage of anecdotal evidence highlighting the many potential side effects that can come with the use of sleeping pills like Ambien, Restoril, Halcion, Belsomra, and Lunesta.

Common side effects of many sleep medications include issues like lack of appetite, constipation, dry throat, diarrhea, and daytime drowsiness.

Today, many Americans are choosing to go to the naturopathic route. Natural remedies and sleep supplements like valerian root, melatonin, and magnesium offer less aggressive aids for improving sleep onset and overall quality of sleep.

Valerian Root for Sleep

Valerian, a herb native to some parts of Asia and Europe, often featuring in flavoring in the manufacturing of foods and beverages. However, this plant’s claim to fame lay in its use as a common ingredient in many homemade recipes for insomnia.

Valerian Root Tea
Image Source: Terry Cralle, RN

The use of this herb as a sleep supplement is quite widespread, with avid users across Europe and the U.S. Here, valerian root extracts often feature in many herbal concoctions for sleep.

Furthermore, valerian use for sleep has a rich history that dates back to the 18th century, putting it up there as one of the oldest natural sleep solutions that are still in regular use today.

However, does science back the supposed efficacy of valerian for sleep?

Valerian root (extracts from the root of the plant) contains a host of compounds that may ease anxiety and promote sleep onset. However, there is limited scientific literature to verify the true extent of its effectiveness.

Note: There is also a minimal amount of research in the long term use of valerian root for sleep. Research is also scant on its use with at-risk populations like pregnant women, the elderly, and people with various severe health conditions.

Nevertheless, you can find several iterations of such small studies that point to its possible efficacy.

One such study is this 2013 randomized controlled trial of the effect of valerian root use on sleep disruptions associated with the onset of menopause. In this study, the researchers worked with a sample of 100 women (aged 50-60) with sleep disorders.

With the use of The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI,) the researchers found a significant reduction in the symptoms of sleep disorder in the group taking valerian.

Melatonin for Sleep

If you roundup any list of the most popular sleep remedies and melatonin is sure to be on there. No surprises there as melatonin is one of the body’s natural sleep inducers.

Can You Catch Up On Sleep melatonin
Image Source: Terry Cralle, RN

Melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates the body’s internal clock and sleep-wake cycle each day. Melatonin levels in the body vary in accordance with the time day.

In the presence of daytime sunlight, melatonin levels drop significantly. Come evening time, with the decreasing daylight, the pineal gland begins to ramp up melatonin production and release, making you sleepy by signally to the rest of your body that is wind-down time.

Hence, it follows that melatonin supplements should work as useful sleep aids, especially during periods when we suffer melatonin imbalances (for example, with jet lag or after pulling an all-nighter.) The available science on the matter points to the same conclusion.

Several extensive studies point to the efficacy of melatonin supplements to improve sleep onset, increase sleep time, and enhance overall sleep quality. However, compared to other sleep remedies, melatonin posts a markedly tame effect.

Note: The FDA has only approved the use of melatonin supplements with adults. The drug regulatory body is yet to evaluate or support its use on children.

Furthermore, while there are no potential side effects to melatonin use in the short to mid-term, there is a shortage of research that explores the possible consequences of long-term use of melatonin supplements.

Magnesium for Sleep

Magnesium ranks fourth on the list of most abundant minerals in the human body — a statement to its importance in several bodily functions.

The extent of this mineral’s impact extends to everything from heart function to blood pressure, brain function, DNA synthesis, sleep, and muscle contractions. According to this report, magnesium is also featured in more than 600 enzymatic reactions, including protein synthesis and energy metabolism.

Products containing magnesium bananas, pumpkin seeds, blue poppy seed, cashew nuts, beans, almonds, sunflower seeds, oatmeal, buckwheat, peanuts, pistachios, dark chocolate and sesame seeds
Image Source: Terry Cralle, RN

Due to this multivariate influence of the mineral, magnesium’s impact on sleep may stem from several different relationships with body systems.

Some potential ways magnesium could influence sleep include its ability to foster a steadier heartbeat, help relax the muscles, calm the mind, and induce melatonin production. All of these factors can promote faster sleep onset and improve sleep quality.

In one study, researchers found that an allocation of magnesium supplements over eight weeks improved the respondents’ sleep quality.

This research involved 46 elderly subjects and the use of subjective measures of insomnia like sleep duration, sleep efficiency, sleep onset latency, and early morning sleep interruptions. The researchers also incorporated objective measures like melatonin and cortisol levels.

Valerian Root vs. Melatonin vs. Magnesium

So, you have chosen to go the naturopathic route with sleep supplementation, and you are now stuck at crossroads on which option to pick? Worry not, as you can’t go wrong with any of these three.

Both valerian root, melatonin, and magnesium are some of the best options when it comes to natural cures for insomnia for good reason—they are some of the safest options and they are readily available.

So, which should you choose?

Valerian root has a limited amount of research and tests to back it, so you should consider using it with caution.

While this sleep remedy does have a series of small studies as well as considerable amounts of anecdotal evidence behind it, if you want to try it out, we recommend starting in small steps. You should also avoid long term use without consulting with your healthcare practitioner.

Melatonin offers a more straightforward case, as it is a naturally occurring hormone that preexists in the body. Hence, melatonin is an easy recommendation. However, you don’t want to overdo it.

Melatonin is an excellent choice for easing temporary issues like jet lag, all-nighters, and emergency night-shifts.

However, you should ensure that you take melatonin only around bedtime (or when you want to hit the sack.) While melatonin does have a mild effect, since it keys directly into the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, this supplement can cause intense daytime sleepiness when taken at the wrong time.

Magnesium offers a more tame destressing effect that is more often used for calming the nerves and unwinding. Hence, magnesium supplements can be an excellent addition to your evening routine to help you forget the day’s worries and get in the mood for sleep.

Whether for sleep, relaxation or as a dietary supplement, magnesium will be a great addition to the lifestyle of most Americans. According to this study, at least 68% of all Americans do not meet the daily recommendations for magnesium intake.

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You have three excellent options here for aiding sleep, but what’s the best one?

The answer is, “it depends.”

Everyone will have a different reaction to each supplement and different doses of each, so there’s no straightforward answer. However, as long as you start with small quantities, you should be good with any of the three, or even some combinations.

Many sleep formulas contain a combination of at least two of the three, as the effects of these remedies can often complement each other to improve your sleep.

Furthermore, it would be best if you also consider consulting with your doctor whenever you get on a new sleep remedy routine. Some natural sleep supplements may be an unsafe choice for people with particular underlying conditions.

  • Avoid taking any sleep aid or supplement for an extended period without a qualified healthcare practitioner’s supervision. Sleep remedies are short-term solutions and should not be your go-to for dealing with your sleep quality issues.
  • Consider focusing on lifestyle practices instead, like improving your sleep hygiene, upgrading your sleep environment, and reducing stress.

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