Melatonin vs Valerian Root For Sleep

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Melatonin vs Valerian Root For Sleep

Sleep has consistently played a crucial role in our daily lives. When faced with challenges falling asleep or experiencing sleep-related issues, it’s only reasonable to seek solutions.

Common natural sleep aids include melatonin, while a less well-known option is valerian root.

Let’s delve into the differences and similarities between melatonin vs valerian root for sleep.

Melatonin: What Is It And How Does It Work?

Melatonin, a natural hormone synthesized by the pineal gland located just above the brain’s center, plays a crucial role in regulating various bodily functions, including bone metabolism and fertility1,2. Its primary function, however, is managing the sleep-wake cycle, often referred to as the “biological clock” that governs the circadian rhythm3.

Typically, the body releases melatonin in daily amounts ranging from 0.1 to 0.9 milligrams4, with higher concentrations during darker periods. As morning approaches, melatonin levels decrease, signaling the internal clock that it’s time to wake up. Low melatonin levels can affect sleep quantity and quality for some individuals. Consequently, melatonin supplementation becomes a viable solution in such cases to enhance sleep5.

In the United States, synthetically produced melatonin is available over-the-counter as a dietary supplement, allowing individuals to regulate their wake-sleep cycle. This hormone is commonly used to address various conditions, including mitigating jet lag, adjusting sleep patterns in cases like non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder, and managing sleep issues associated with alternating work schedules, such as shift-work sleep disorders. Additionally, melatonin serves as a remedy for general insomnia.

Types Of Melatonin

Melatonin supplements are readily found in drugstores and are offered in various types and forms, each catering to different preferences and needs.

  1. Pills/Tablets – Traditional melatonin supplements are often in pill or tablet form, providing a convenient and straightforward option for ingestion.
  2. Sublingual Melatonin – Sublingual tablets or dissolvable strips that are meant to be placed under the tongue for faster absorption.
  3. Liquid Melatonin – Liquid melatonin is available in bottles with a dropper, allowing for easy and customizable dosing. Some may include additional flavoring.
  4. Melatonin Gummies – Gummies are a popular and more palatable option, especially for individuals who have difficulty swallowing pills.
  5. Melatonin Sprays – Sprays designed for direct application into the mouth, potentially offering quicker absorption through the oral mucosa.
  6. Time-Release Melatonin – Formulated to release melatonin gradually over an extended period, helping to maintain sleep throughout the night.
  7. Combined Formulas – Some melatonin supplements come combined with other sleep-promoting ingredients, providing a comprehensive approach to sleep support.

Valerian Root: What Is It And How Does It Help?

Valerian, a flowering plant found in Asia, Europe, and North America, utilizes its root for various purposes. Initially used in ancient Greece and Rome for ailments like migraine and insomnia, valerian continues to gain popularity today for managing sleep issues, anxiety, PMS, menopause, depression, and headaches6.

Valerian root is believed to promote sleep by interacting with GABA receptors in the brain, potentially increasing GABA levels and inducing a calming effect. Additionally, it may inhibit the breakdown of GABA, modulate serotonin receptors, and reduce stress, contributing to its anxiolytic and sleep-promoting effects7,8,9,10.

Valerian root is widely accessible in different forms, including tea, tincture, capsules, or tablets, making it a favored choice among those seeking a natural sleep aid. Despite its potential benefits, it is highly advisable to consult with healthcare professionals, especially when taking into account specific health conditions or potential interactions with other medications.

In addition, it is crucial to note that valerian root lacks FDA approval for treating medical conditions11, underscoring the need for caution and emphasizing the importance of not substituting prescribed medications. Marketed as an herbal supplement, valerian root is not subject to regulated manufacturing standards, potentially exposing users to contamination risks.

Types Of Valerian Root

Similar to melatonin, valerian root comes in different forms. They can come in:

  1. Capsules/Tablets – Valerian root supplements are often available in capsule or tablet form, providing a convenient way to consume the herb.
  2. Tinctures – Liquid extracts of valerian root, typically administered with a dropper. Tinctures may allow for easier dosage adjustment.
  3. Tea – Valerian root is also available in tea form. This method provides a soothing and traditional way to consume valerian.
  4. Combined Formulas – Some valerian root supplements are combined with other herbs or ingredients known for their calming effects, creating comprehensive sleep support.

Valerian Root And Melatonin Benefits And Side Effects

When addressing sleep issues, valerian root and melatonin are great choices, each with its unique set of benefits and potential side effects.

Melatonin Benefits

  • Improves Sleep Onset: Melatonin supplements can be effective in reducing the time it takes to fall asleep, making it beneficial for individuals with insomnia or difficulty initiating sleep.
  • Antioxidant Properties: Melatonin exhibits antioxidant properties12, which may protect cells from oxidative stress and contribute to overall health.
  • Shift-Work Sleep Disorders: Melatonin can assist individuals with irregular work schedules in adjusting their sleep patterns.

Melatonin Side Effects

  • Drowsiness: While intended to induce sleep, melatonin may cause drowsiness, making it important to avoid activities requiring alertness.
  • Headaches: Some individuals may experience headaches as a side effect of melatonin supplementation.
  • Nausea and Dizziness: These are potential side effects, although they are generally mild.

Valerian Root Benefits

  • Natural Relaxation: Valerian root is known for its calming properties, promoting relaxation and aiding in sleep initiation.
  • Anxiety and Stress Relief: It may help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and stress, contributing to improved sleep quality.
  • Muscle Relaxation: Valerian root’s mild muscle relaxant effects can enhance overall physical relaxation13.

Valerian Root Side Effects

  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Some individuals may experience digestive problems such as upset stomach.
  • Drowsiness: Similar to melatonin, valerian root may cause drowsiness, emphasizing the need for caution during certain activities.
  • Headaches and Dry Mouth: These are potential side effects, although they are generally mild.

Melatonin And Valerian Root: Sleep Aids And Their Role In Weight Management

The relationship between melatonin and weight management is complex. Disruptions in sleep patterns, which melatonin aims to address, can impact hormonal balance, including hormones associated with hunger and satiety. Proper sleep, facilitated by melatonin, may indirectly contribute to weight management by promoting healthier eating habits and preventing overeating caused by sleep deprivation.

Valerian root, like melatonin, can influence weight indirectly through its impact on sleep. By promoting relaxation and addressing sleep disturbances, valerian root may help mitigate stress-related overeating and foster better dietary choices. Additionally, improved sleep quality facilitated by valerian root could contribute to overall well-being and metabolic balance.


  • Calming Effects on Stress

Both melatonin and valerian root can help manage stress, which is often linked to emotional eating and weight gain. By promoting relaxation and reducing stress levels, these supplements may indirectly support weight management efforts.

  • Quality of Sleep

Adequate sleep quality is essential for weight management. Both melatonin and valerian root play a role in improving sleep, potentially reducing the likelihood of weight gain associated with poor sleep patterns.

  • Individual Variations

It’s important to note that individual responses to these supplements can vary. While some individuals may experience positive effects on sleep and, consequently, weight management, others may not respond as significantly.

Melatonin vs Valerian Root For Sleep

Selecting the most effective sleep supplement is not a one-size-fits-all decision. Individual preferences, health conditions, and the specific nature of sleep-related issues all contribute to the complexity of finding the right solution.

Here’s a brief overview of each to help you decide which might be more suitable for you:

Melatonin For Sleep

  • How it works: Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain in response to darkness. It helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin sleep supplements are synthetic versions of this hormone.
  • Use: Melatonin is commonly used for jet lag, shift work sleep disorder, and insomnia. It’s particularly helpful for regulating sleep patterns when there’s a disruption in the natural circadian rhythm.
  • Onset of Action: Melatonin is relatively fast-acting and is often used to help initiate sleep.

Valerian Root For Sleep

  • How it works: Valerian root is an herb that has been used for centuries to help with various sleep-related issues. It is believed to work by increasing the levels of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which has a calming effect.
  • Use: Valerian is often used for mild sleep disturbances, anxiety, and stress.
  • Onset of Action: It may take some time for the effects to be noticeable, and consistent use over a period may be required.

Sleep Best Practices

As we discuss valerian and melatonin sleep aids, it’s crucial to highlight that cultivating proper sleep habits remains one of the most effective ways to ensure you’re getting a good night’s sleep.

Here are some of the many sleep best practices to help improve your sleep quality:

  1. Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule – Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps regulate your body’s internal clock.
  2. Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine – Establish a soothing pre-sleep routine to indicate to your body that it’s time to relax. This could involve engaging in activities like reading a book, enjoying a warm bath, or practicing relaxation exercises.
  3. Optimize Your Sleep Environment – Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows to create a conducive sleep environment.
  4. Limit Exposure to Screens Before Bed – Reduce exposure to electronic devices with screens (phones, tablets, computers) at least an hour before bedtime, as the blue light emitted can interfere with melatonin production.
  5. Watch Your Diet – Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime. Opt for a light snack if you’re hungry before sleep.
  6. Get Regular Exercise – Engage in regular physical activity, but try to complete vigorous exercise at least a few hours before bedtime.
  7. Expose Yourself to Natural Light – Spend time outdoors during daylight hours, and let natural light into your home during the day. This helps regulate your circadian rhythm.
  8. Manage Stress – Practice stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga to relax your mind and body.
  9. Limit Naps – If you need to nap, keep it short (20-30 minutes) and avoid napping late in the day, as it can interfere with nighttime sleep.
  10. Avoid Clock-Watching – Turn your clock away from your view to prevent anxiety about the time, which can hinder your ability to fall asleep.
  11. Use Your Bed for Sleep and Intimacy Only – Avoid using your bed for work or other stimulating activities. This helps reinforce the association between your bed and sleep.
  12. Stay Mindful of Your Sleep Position – Find a comfortable sleep position that supports good spinal alignment. Experiment with different pillow heights and mattress firmness if needed.
  13. Stay Hydrated – While it’s advisable to limit liquid intake close to bedtime to prevent disruptions from bathroom visits, staying adequately hydrated throughout the day supports overall health, including sleep.
  14. Seek Professional Help If Needed – If you consistently struggle with sleep, consider consulting a healthcare professional or sleep specialist for personalized advice and guidance.

Remember that individual preferences and needs vary, so it may take some time to find the combination of practices that works best for you.


1 Espino, J., Macedo, M., Lozano, G., Ortiz, Á., Rodríguez, C., Rodríguez, A. B., & Bejarano, I. (2019). Impact of Melatonin Supplementation in Women with Unexplained Infertility Undergoing Fertility Treatment. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 8(9), 338. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox8090338

2 Lu, X., Yu, S., Chen, G., Zheng, W., Peng, J., Huang, X., & Chen, L. (2021). Insight into the roles of melatonin in bone tissue and bone‑related diseases (Review). International journal of molecular medicine, 47(5), 82. https://doi.org/10.3892/ijmm.2021.4915

3 Melatonin. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/23411-melatonin

4 Minich, D. M., Henning, M., Darley, C., Fahoum, M., Schuler, C. B., & Frame, J. (2022). Is melatonin the “Next vitamin D”?: A review of emerging science, clinical uses, safety, and dietary supplements. Nutrients, 14(19), 3934. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14193934

5 Van De Walle Ms Rd, G. (2023, June 13). What does melatonin do, and how does it work? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/melatonin-and-sleep

6 Valerian. (n.d.). NCCIH. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/valerian

7 Tammadon, M. R., Nobahar, M., Hydarinia-Naieni, Z., Ebrahimian, A., Ghorbani, R., & Vafaei, A. A. (2021). The Effects of Valerian on Sleep Quality, Depression, and State Anxiety in Hemodialysis Patients: A Randomized, Double-blind, Crossover Clinical Trial. Oman medical journal, 36(2), e255. https://doi.org/10.5001/omj.2021.56

8 Shinjyo, N., Waddell, G., & Green, J. (2020). Valerian Root in Treating Sleep Problems and Associated Disorders-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of evidence-based integrative medicine, 25, 2515690X20967323. https://doi.org/10.1177/2515690X20967323

9 Bruni, O., Ferini-Strambi, L., Giacomoni, E., & Pellegrino, P. (2021). Herbal Remedies and Their Possible Effect on the GABAergic System and Sleep. Nutrients, 13(2), 530. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13020530

10 Caceres, V. (2022, June 14). Valerian Root for Anxiety: What Is It? Does It Work? | U.S. News. https://health.usnews.com/wellness/food/articles/valerian-root-anxiety

11 Valerian oral dosage forms. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/18708-valerian-oral-dosage-forms

12 Ferlazzo, N., Andolina, G., Cannata, A., Costanzo, M. G., Rizzo, V., Currò, M., Ientile, R., & Caccamo, D. (2020). Is melatonin the cornucopia of the 21st century? Antioxidants, 9(11), 1088. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox9111088

13 Caudal, D., Guinobert, I., Lafoux, A., Bardot, V., Cotte, C., Ripoche, I., Chalard, P., & Huchet, C. (2017). Skeletal muscle relaxant effect of a standardized extract of Valeriana officinalis L. after acute administration in mice. Journal of traditional and complementary medicine, 8(2), 335–340. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtcme.2017.06.011


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