Magnesium and melatonin for sleep health: What you need to know

Is the combination of melatonin and magnesium the secret to sleep success?


Millions of Americans suffer from insomnia, a disorder that makes it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. The condition affects almost 30% of adults – data shows that almost 15% of US adults have trouble falling asleep most nights.


The use of melatonin supplements to relieve symptoms of insomnia is becoming increasingly popular. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain in response to darkness that helps regulate your internal clock.


But taking a melatonin supplement isn’t the only way to get quality sleep: getting enough exercise, limiting alcohol consumption, and limiting screen time are all ways to help your body get enough rest.


Consuming enough magnesium can also help, although there is no research to support the idea that magnesium helps induce sleep.


“There’s no evidence yet that it promotes sleep,” said Katrina Hartog, DCN, MPH, RDN, CHES, CLC, director of clinical nutrition at Mount Sinai West. Hello.


However, magnesium levels may be indirectly related to our body’s ability to maintain a sleep schedule—which may be why some over-the-counter sleep products contain both melatonin and magnesium.


Here’s what you need to know about the effects of magnesium and melatonin on sleep and what to consider before starting new supplements.


Getty Images / Lyudmila Chernetska






Magnesium plays many important roles in keeping your body healthy.


“It is used for more than 300 biochemical reactions in our body,” Hartog said.


The mineral helps regulate nerve and muscle function, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and is also involved in the production of bones, proteins and DNA.


Magnesium can be found in the following foods:


  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • seeds
  • Green leafy vegetables (such as spinach)
  • Whole grains
  • Milk
  • Yoghurt
  • Fortified foods (such as breakfast cereals)


Adult women should get 310 to 320 milligrams of magnesium each day (although pregnant women need more), and adult men should get 400 to 420 milligrams.


For reference: One ounce of dry, roasted almonds contains 80 milligrams of magnesium, half a cup of cooked spinach contains 78 milligrams, and one cup of soy milk contains 61 milligrams.


People who do not get enough magnesium from their diet may be deficient and may benefit from a magnesium supplement.


Supplements may be especially helpful for older people because their bodies may not absorb magnesium as efficiently, said Dr. Marie van der Merwe, coordinator of the doctoral program in applied physiology and nutrition at the University of Memphis. Hello.


In addition to increasing magnesium levels, supplements may cause a slight decrease in diastolic blood pressure. They may also be beneficial for people at risk of osteoporosis, as supplements can increase bone mineral density.





Melatonin is a hormone that helps your body know when to go to sleep and wake up each day.


“Melatonin is responsible for the management of [internal] clock and it’s really important for regulating your circadian rhythms,” van der Merwe said.


Your body produces melatonin when you are exposed to darkness, but exposure to light in the evening can block melatonin production.


That’s why it’s important to watch how much time you spend on your phone in the hours before bed, van der Merwe explained.


Melatonin may contribute to other bodily functions, but experts don’t know what else melatonin may affect outside of sleep.


While melatonin can help some people who have trouble adjusting their sleep schedule, it can’t correct all sleep disorders, van der Merwe explained, because multiple health problems can affect sleep.


“If your schedule is off, melatonin can help, but if [your sleep issues] are caused by something else, maybe not,” she said.


In addition to supplements, melatonin can be found in the following foods:


  • eggs
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Some mushrooms
  • Some beans
  • seeds





Research on how magnesium and melatonin interact is limited.


“The whole mechanism of how magnesium affects sleep is not well understood,” explained van der Merwe.


But magnesium may indirectly affect sleep through its effects on melatonin.


“Magnesium does have an effect on melatonin levels,” she explained. “The amount of magnesium you have can affect how well you synthesize melatonin.”


This may be why the two are packaged together in many products. However, you don’t need to take magnesium at the same time as melatonin to reap a possible benefit.


“If I take my magnesium supplement in the morning, it’s not like I have it for the next 30 minutes and then it’s gone,” van der Merwe said, adding that magnesium levels will be higher hours after taking the supplement.


Ultimately, experts say there may be a link between magnesium levels and sleep, but more research is needed for clinical confirmation.





It’s best to talk to a health care provider, such as a primary care physician, before trying new supplements, including magnesium and melatonin.


“There are medications that can interact with a magnesium supplement, [such as] some drugs to treat osteoporosis and some antibiotics,” Hartog said.


These interactions are more common with magnesium supplements than with melatonin supplements, but it’s still worth checking with your doctor before adding either to your routine.


Van der Merwe noted that sleep problems may be caused by something that melatonin won’t fix. Difficulty falling asleep has been linked to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, depression and other health conditions.


That’s why it’s important to talk to a doctor to determine if an underlying medical condition or other medications you’re taking are affecting your sleep problems.


Your doctor can also help you determine the best time of day to take a magnesium supplement, a melatonin supplement, or a combination of both.


“Melatonin [should] increase at night,” van der Merwe explained, so you have to take the supplement “at a very specific time during the day. If you take melatonin in the morning, you’re screwing it up [internal] clock.”


Although melatonin has become popular in recent years, it is ultimately worth checking with someone before taking it to see if it can help you.


“It’s important for people to realize that this is not a sleeping pill,” van der Merwe said. “You’re affecting the internal mechanisms of your body – slowly setting it up to function optimally – so it’s really important that people think about what the problem might be.”

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