Twenty-four-hour news cycles of political drama, war and natural disasters. Smartphones that are always on and attached to your hip, connecting you to the world of work and entertainment. Juggling work, family and social life. It’s no secret that modern life is busier than ever, which makes it increasingly difficult to give your body the rest it so badly needs to keep up.
As more of us struggle to fall asleep at night (and stay asleep), it’s important to know what our options are. Melatonin and valerian root are two of the most popular and best natural sleep aids. One is a naturally occurring hormone in the human body, while the other is a natural herbal supplement. Let’s take a closer look at each.
What is Valerian Root?
Valerian root sleep supplements (or valerian extract) are derived from the root of the valerian plant. This natural substance features more than 100 different compounds that have been shown to calm your nerves and help you fall asleep faster for a better night’s rest. It’s one of the oldest natural sleep remedies—its use dates back to the 1800s.
In one study, participants were given 400 mg of valerian root extract before bed to see how this natural herb might help people fall and stay asleep. Volunteers reported both improved sleep and better overall sleep quality compared to the group that was given a placebo. Another study showed the same dose of 400 mg helped participants fall asleep faster.
Valerian Dosage Guide:
Valerian root can be found in several forms, giving you many options for how to incorporate it into your daily routine. You can find it as a dry powdered extract in capsule or tablet form, as an herbal tea or a fluid extract. Important note: many people report that it takes a week or two of regular use before they experience a noticeable increase in sleep quality, so give valerian root a chance to work by taking it regularly for up to two weeks.
- Tea: Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 teaspoonful (2 to 3 grams) of dried root, and steep 5 to 10 minutes.
- Liquid extract: 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (1 to 2 mL)
- Dry powdered extract (capsules/tablets): 250 to 600 mg
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in your brain by your pineal gland. It’s the hormone that helps regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, also known as your circadian rhythm. At dusk, when natural sunlight starts to diminish, the pineal gland begins to release melatonin, a signal to the rest of your body that it’s time to get ready to wind down for sleep.
The problem with melatonin is that your body slowly starts to decrease its natural production during middle age (around 40). This may be one reason why older adults sometimes find it harder to fall asleep or get the same amount of sleep they used to get in their younger years. Unfortunately, your body still needs its rest, no matter your age, so many have turned to melatonin supplements to supplement their body’s natural melatonin production to help them fall and stay asleep.
Melatonin Dosage Guide:
Melatonin supplements come in several dosages, all designed for specific sleep struggles and tolerances. The general rule most health professionals stick to is to start low and adjust based on how your body responds. For most adults, a low dose of 1 to 3 mg will suffice; however, here’s a quick breakdown of dosages based on specific sleep needs:
- Trouble Falling Asleep: 0.3 to 5 mg of melatonin daily for up to 9 months
- Disrupted Sleep-Wake Cycle: 2 to 12 mg taken at bedtime for up to 4 weeks
- Extended Difficulty Sleeping: 2 to 3 mg of melatonin before bedtime for up to 29 weeks has been used in most research—higher doses of up to 12 mg daily have also been used for up to 4 weeks
- Supporting Healthy Blood Pressure Levels: 2 to 3 mg of a controlled-release melatonin for up to 4 weeks
- Jet Lag: 0.5 to 8 mg at bedtime is commonly taken on the arrival day at the destination, continuing for 2 to 5 days
What’s the Better Sleep Supplement?
So you have two great options, but what’s the best one? It’s a natural question to ask, but it’s not exactly the right one. The better question is which one is better for your body? We all respond differently to different supplements (and different doses), so there’s no simple answer.
Can They Be Taken Together?
Yes, melatonin and valerian root can be taken together to target sleepless nights with a one-two punch of natural support. In fact, there are many sleep combination formulas that include both substances at proper dosages to complement one another. While valerian root may help you fall asleep faster, melatonin will help you stay asleep longer. Both have been shown to help improve overall sleep quality.