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Melatonin or Magnesium: Which One Helps You Sleep Better?

Everybody sleeps. Falling asleep and staying asleep should be easy. But for some people, a restful night of solid sleep is anything but.

Can you relate? If you've been on the hunt for a natural sleep remedy, chances are you keep coming across two sleep supplements that both begin with M. It's true, melatonin and magnesium can promote better sleep, but how do you know which one to choose? Is one better than the other? What's the difference between them?

All great questions, so here's a rundown of the differences between melatonin and magnesium.

How magnesium can help sleep

Magnesium is a mineral occurring naturally in the human body, where it helps to regulate muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels and blood pressure. It also helps to calm and relax the body, which can lead to a better night's sleep.

How exactly? Here's the science: magnesium helps regulate a neurotransmitter called GABA, whose job is to reduce communication between the brain and nervous system, which can help you feel calm and relaxed. The calmer and more relaxed we are, the easier it is to fall and stay asleep.

When the body lacks magnesium, it is less able to reach the state of calm required for good sleep.

The solution? Up your magnesium intake. You can take supplements, but first consider your diet. Foods that are rich in magnesium include almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, dark leafy greens (think spinach and kale), avocado, salmon and dairy.

If you've upped your dietary intake of magnesium-rich foods and still struggling, chat to a medical professional about taking magnesium supplements.

How melatonin can help sleep

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the body's pineal gland, and it is responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycle. The presence of melatonin in the body indicates preparedness for sleep—we have more melatonin in our system at night than during the day.

Electronics, bright lights, and travel can trick the brain into thinking that it's daytime, which can affect the body's natural melatonin production schedule and make it difficult to fall asleep.

Taking melatonin supplements can help kickstart that feeling of sleepiness, but it won't necessarily guarantee restful sleep. Increase your chances by turning off electronics and dimming the lights an hour or two before sleep time.

If you want to go down the supplement route and use melatonin to help kickstart the feeling of sleepiness at night, make sure you take them about an hour to 90 minutes before bed. Melatonin isn't something you want to be taking too regularly, so again, it's always a good idea to have a chat to your GP before taking supplements.

So, which one should I choose?

While both magnesium and melatonin can help in the sleep department, they do work a little differently. It depends on what you think the issue is: do you struggle "switching off"? Do you work night shifts? Before you go down the supplement route, consider some lifestyle changes:

  • Add magnesium-rich foods into your diet
  • Switch off electronics well before getting into bed
  • As evening sets in, dim the lights and use 'night mode' on your phone, tablet or computer
  • If all of this doesn't seem to help, talk to a healthcare professional to see which option may be best for you

Is sleep inertia ruining your day? Here's how to stop hitting snooze and wake up feeling refreshed.

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