Life + Habits

Melatonin vs. Magnesium: What’s the Difference?

4 min read
Ritual's BioSeries Melatonin capsule.
Ritual's BioSeries Melatonin capsule.

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If you’re looking to get sleep support — and aren’t we all — you may have found yourself face-to-face with melatonin and magnesium. These tragically similar-sounding supplements are both popular choices when it comes to supporting sleep, but work in completely different ways. Let’s get detailed on their differences, and crack the code to a restful night of sleep.*

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin acts as the hormonal drumbeat of the body’s sleep-wake cycle. It’s a naturally occurring hormone produced by the brain to signal the passage of time to our bodies. Rising and falling levels of melatonin drive important physiological functions such as our circadian rhythm. (1). The purpose of melatonin is to keep us on beat, supporting sleep in the evening.

Melatonin production follows changes in light. As the sun goes down, it's activated by darkness, and as the sun rises, it’s inhibited by natural light. Unfortunately for us in the 21st century, it can also be inhibited by bright light from screens and smartphones. Additionally, as we age, natural melatonin production begins to decrease, which is why many older adults experience less sleep. (2) It’s always “sleep like a baby” and never “sleep like my 82-year old grandbubbe.”

To help sleepers find their rhythm, we created our melatonin supplement, Sleep BioSeries™, which works as a three-in-one-tablet with a combination of instant and extended release melatonin to support falling asleep, staying asleep, and restful sleep.*

What Is Magnesium?

While melatonin’s primary function is the regulation of sleep, magnesium wears a lot of hats, and is essential to hundreds of different biological processes in the body.

Magnesium is a mineral naturally occurring in foods such as nuts and seeds, leafy green veggies like kale and swiss chard, whole grains, and legumes. (3) Most people get magnesium, specifically the form of magnesium glycinate, through their diet.

Experts speculate that magnesium glycinate could promote sleep by relaxing the central nervous system (4) as well as temporarily regulating cortisol (our stress hormone which can impact sleep quality), stopping certain neurotransmitters from firing to promote feelings of calm, and relaxing our muscles. (5)

Magnesium is widely available as an oral sleep supplement, just like melatonin. However, it's worth noting that unlike melatonin, the clinical findings on magnesium’s impact on sleep are still a little dreamy. Controlled trials have studied the impact of magnesium for sleeping in older adults, but mostly found limited evidence as to its effect. (8)

Ok So, Why Melatonin vs. Magnesium For Sleep?*

People often say something is “as easy as falling asleep”, but at the end of the day, sleep is a multi-faceted natural process. Rising melatonin levels, falling cortisol levels, racing thoughts, comfortable external temperature, all of these can contribute to a quality snooze.

While both magnesium and melatonin can be used to support sleep, they work very differently to promote sleep and are not 1:1 substitutes for each other.* Which supplement you choose to take ultimately depends on which works best for you, and what’s at the core of disrupting the rhythms of your sleep.

When we set out to create our sleep supplement, we thought it was best to stick to the science. When asked about the launch of our new sleep supplement, our founder Katerina Schneider said, “Melatonin is the most scientifically-studied ingredient when it comes to sleep overall, so that’s why we decided to lean into it." Because of this greater scientific backing, there is more research around what you’re getting with a melatonin supplement*.

At Ritual, we always seek out ingredients that are backed by clinical studies and extensive research. We formulated our BioSeries™ Melatonin with 5mg of melatonin because our scientists found that this dosage is backed by decades of clinical research and has been shown to support restful sleep.*

In our eyes, counting decades of clinical studies > counting sheep.

However you choose to optimize sleep, rest assured (see what we did there?!) knowing that Ritual has your back with rigorously-tested, thoughtfully-dosed, transparently-sourced† melatonin to make part of your nightly routine and promote restful sleep. Happy snoozing!

†Final place of manufacture

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

References:

  1. Harpsoe NG, Andersen LP, Gögenur I, Rosenberg J. Clinical pharmacokinetics of melatonin: a systematic review. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2015 Aug;71(8):901-9. doi: 10.1007/s00228-015-1873-4. Epub 2015 May 27. PMID: 26008214.

  2. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,“How Sleep Works.” 2022.

  3. Mah, J., & Pitre, T. (2021, April 17). Oral magnesium supplementation for insomnia in older adults: A systematic review & Meta-analysis - BMC Complementary Medicine and therapies. BioMed Central.

  4. Rosanoff, A., Weaver, C. M., & Rude, R. K. (2012). Suboptimal magnesium status in the United States: ... Nutrition Reviews, 70(3), 153-164.

  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Office of dietary supplements - magnesium. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements.

  6. Schwalfenberg, G. K., & Genuis, S. J. (2017). The importance of magnesium in ... Scientifica, 2017.

  7. Boyle, N. B., et al. (2017). The effects of magnesium supplementation... —A systematic review.

Meet the Author

This article was written by our content specialist.

Annie Hulkower Bio Image

Annie Hulkower, Copywriter, Editor, and Creative Strategist

Annie is a copywriter, editor, and creative strategist. She works with startups, agencies, and major brands to tell impactful stories at the intersection of health, wellness, and advocacy.

Annie Hulkower Bio Image

Annie Hulkower, Copywriter, Editor, and Creative Strategist

Annie is a copywriter, editor, and creative strategist. She works with startups, agencies, and major brands to tell impactful stories at the intersection of health, wellness, and advocacy.

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