If you’re wondering about melatonin alternatives, you’ll be pleased to know there are many other natural sleep aids that can help you fall asleep quickly. That said, it’s important to understand that melatonin is a hormone, so it doesn’t really have a direct alternative.
If you haven’t found melatonin effective in the past, you might also consider trying a different form of melatonin, which can make all the difference. Many traditional melatonin supplements like pills have poor bioavailability, but the liquid and diffuser melatonin supplements from MELO Labs are fast-acting with high bioavailability.
Read on to learn about the different kinds of melatonin alternatives, alternative melatonin supplements, what you can do to make melatonin more effective, and how combining melatonin with other sleep aids can help regulate sleep.
At a glance:
Traditional Melatonin Alternatives
Below, we’re going to look at some of the main categories of sleep aids and some examples of each.
Note that MELO Sip contains a combination of highly-effective natural sleep aids in addition to melatonin, making it an even more effective sleep aid than any of these supplements alone.
Old School Natural Remedies
Herbal remedies for insomnia have been used since ancient times, in both Eastern and Western cultures. Modern science has shown many of these natural remedies to improve sleep quality, generally having a modest but safe effect with few side effects.
Chamomile is a flowering plant that has long been used to promote relaxation and sleep, and its use is backed by modern science. An overview from Pharmacognosy Reviews explains that it has mild sedative effects and can help induce deep sleep, and a randomized controlled trial from Complementary Therapies in Medicine found it could improve sleep quality.
Chamomile is usually consumed as an herbal tea, but it can also be taken as a supplement. MELO Sip contains chamomile (among other natural sleep aids).
Valerian is another flowering plant native to Asia and Europe, and its roots have been known to have a mild sedative effect for thousands of years. Valerian Root has been used in both ancient Rome and Greece as well as traditional Chinese medicine to treat insomnia, anxiety, and stress.
A 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis from the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine found valerian root to be a safe natural sleep aid, promoting deep sleep with little risk of side effects. The researchers note that the effects are mild, and it is even more effective when combined with “appropriate herbal partners,” or other herbal remedies.
MELO Sip contains valerian root in addition to chamomile, making it more effective than either alone.
Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub native to Asia and Africa. It’s another ancient natural sleep remedy that has been shown by modern science to be effective. A systematic review and meta-analysis from PLOS One found ashwagandha extract could improve sleep quality, particularly in those with insomnia.
New School Melatonin Alternatives
Certain natural sleep aids occur naturally in biology but have only been isolated and turned into sleep supplements in more modern times. We'll cover two of these below, with a special focus on compounds we've researched in-depth and include in our own product, MELO Sip.
Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)
Gamma aminobutyric acid, or GABA, is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. It blocks certain signals from the nervous system in order to promote relaxation. It’s recently been used as a supplement for treating insomnia and anxiety.
A randomized double-blind controlled trial from the Journal of Clinical Neurology suggests GABA supplements can improve sleep quality in patients with insomnia, and it has little risk of adverse side effects.
L-theanine is an unusual amino acid found only in certain types of mushrooms as well as green tea known to have a relaxing effect. Of course, green tea also contains caffeine, so if you’re getting ready to sleep and just want to experience the relaxing effect, it’s better to take l-theanine as a supplement.
A study from Biological Psychology suggests l-theanine supplements can help to suppress the sympathetic nervous system, combating stress and inducing relaxation.
Dietary Supplements that Support Sleep
Some micronutrients are known to support sleep. While taking these supplements won’t necessarily make you feel sleepy, they will allow other natural sleep aids to work more effectively. This is especially true if you have a deficiency of any of these vitamins or minerals, which can cause insomnia (among other symptoms).
For instance, B vitamins like vitamin B1 and vitamin B6 are known to support sleep function, and deficiencies can cause insomnia. The same is true of vitamin C and vitamin D. Additionally, some electrolyte minerals such as potassium and zinc help support both hydration and sleep.
All of the above vitamins and minerals can be found in MELO Sip, giving you a micronutrient boost that helps all the other natural sleep aids in MELO Sip work more effectively.
Pharmaceutical Sleep Aids
Of course, many synthetic drugs also treat insomnia. This kind of sleep medicine tends to be stronger than natural sleep remedies. However, it is also more likely to have unpleasant side effects or cause daytime sleepiness the next day. Pharmaceutical drugs should always be used with caution, and ideally with supervision from a doctor.
Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids
Some pharmaceutical drugs that treat sleep are available over the counter. These are generally safer than prescription drugs. For instance, antihistamines like diphenhydramine are used to treat allergies, but they are also used to treat insomnia, since they often have a strong sedative effect.
Diphenhydramine is the active ingredient in Benadryl and ZzzQuil. It’s also the ingredient added to Tylenol PM to induce sleep. Additionally, it’s the active ingredient Dramamine, which is used to treat motion sickness and nausea (but also causes marked drowsiness).
A randomized double-blind controlled trial from the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found diphenhydramine to be “significantly better than placebo” in improving sleep among children with sleep disorders. It is safe and effective to treat insomnia, but make sure to take the correct amount – it is possible to overdose.
Prescription Sleep Aids
Prescription sleeping pills may be prescribed in cases of severe insomnia or sleeping disorders, when over-the-counter sleep aids aren’t strong enough. However, such sleeping pills should be used with extreme caution, as they are often addictive and can cause you to become desensitized to them. They also often have unpleasant side effects.
Zolpidem, known commercially as Ambien, is one of the most commonly prescribed prescription sleeping pills. It’s known to have a variety of adverse effects, and it can also interact with other medications. It’s best to use such sleeping pills sparingly, only if and when they’re absolutely necessary.
Clonazepam, known commercially as Klonopin, is another common prescription sleeping pill. It’s a powerful tranquilizer that is highly addictive and can cause desensitization when used too frequently. As with all prescription sleep aids, it should be used with extreme caution.
Alternative Melatonin Supplements
If you’re searching for melatonin alternatives because melatonin supplements haven’t been effective for you, it’s also worth trying better melatonin supplements. As with any supplement, the effectiveness can vary widely based on the form it’s in. Here, we’re going to look at the effectiveness of different types of supplements.
The fastest-acting melatonin supplements available are melatonin diffusers or vaporizers. A randomized controlled trial from the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences suggests vaporized substances can be absorbed within 20 seconds.
MELO Labs also makes a melatonin diffuser, MELO Air. It contains a small dose of melatonin (1.3 mg per 10 inhales), which is all you need when inhaling it. The only other ingredients are organic vegetable glycerin and natural flavors. It contains no nicotine, vitamin E acetate, or any other ingredients known to cause harm when inhaled.
Of course, you’ll still need more than 20 seconds to react to the melatonin. Take it about 15-20 minutes before you intend to go to bed, to give your body enough time to adjust to the supplement.
Melatonin liquid is absorbed almost as quickly as vaporized melatonin. It’s a great option for those who prefer not to use vaporizers (or who are waiting for more research to be done).
As Medicare Europe explains, liquid supplements can be absorbed in as little as 1-4 minutes. They need to go through your digestive system, but they do so much more quickly than pills. Additionally, they have an average bioavailability of 98%, meaning the vast majority of the supplement actually gets absorbed.
MELO Sip is a great option for a liquid melatonin supplement. As we’ve already seen, it comes with a complete package of sleep-promoting micronutrients and natural sleep aids.
Melatonin Pills and Gummies
Melatonin pills are the most popular but least effective option. They’re metabolized in a similar manner to melatonin gummies, which are also increasingly popular. Both need to be broken down by the digestive system, and both lose some of their contents during the process. This means they take longer to work and are ultimately less effective.
A clinical trial from the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found melatonin pills to have an average bioavailability of about 15%. That means 85% of the melatonin pill (the vast majority) is wasted.
Melatonin pills and gummies need to be taken 1-2 hours before bed, meaning there’s less room for flexibility in your sleep schedule, and more opportunities for you to sabotage the effects of your melatonin via exposure to bright light or blue light (from electronic devices).
How to Make Melatonin Work More Effectively
There are many ways to make melatonin work more effectively, both the natural melatonin your body produces as well as melatonin supplements. As mentioned above, taking the right kind of melatonin supplement will help, but there are other things you can do as well.
Prioritize Good Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene refers to the set of behaviors or habits you have that affect your sleep. These sleep habits include all your daily activities, not just what you do in the evening before bed.
Improving your sleep habits will have the added benefit of improving the function of melatonin, but it’ll also help improve the effectiveness of any other natural sleep supplements you’d like to take.
Make Your Sleep Environment Cool, Dark, and Quiet
The ideal temperature for sleep is around 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Sleep Foundation. This is because your body temperature naturally drops at night, so cooling your sleep environment will help signal to your body that it’s time to sleep.
Darkness also signals bedtime to your body. In fact, melatonin production is triggered when you experience darkness, and it’s suppressed when you’re exposed to light – especially blue light (from electronic devices). Keep light in your bedroom to a minimum, and wear an eye mask if necessary.
You’ll also want to reduce extraneous noise as much as possible. For noise that’s beyond your control, you can try earplugs or noise-blocking headphones.
Follow a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Melatonin governs your circadian rhythm (body clock). Sticking to a consistent schedule helps your circadian rhythm work optimally. In other words, your body gets used to going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and this helps regulate your sleep.
By contrast, going to bed and waking up at different times every day can confuse your circadian rhythm and cause your sleep to become fragmented. Of course, sometimes this is unavoidable (as with jet lag and other external schedule changes), but being consistent whenever you can will help you adjust more quickly when you do experience a change to your sleep schedule.
Have a Nighttime Routine
A good nighttime routine does several things: It helps you relax, and it also psychologically primes your body for sleep. By doing the same things each evening before getting into bed, you train your body to expect to fall asleep after doing them.
Of course, it’s important to pick activities you find calming. Think warm baths or showers, yoga, meditation, journaling, drinking herbal tea, light reading, or anything that gets you to relax and unwind. Familiar TV shows can also work, but try a pair of blue light blocking glasses to keep the blue light from interfering with your melatonin production.
Take the Right Amount of Melatonin
Melatonin is an effective sleep aid, but too much melatonin can actually have the opposite effect. As a general rule, you want to take the lowest amount that works for you. The Sleep Foundation recommends between 0.5 and 5 mg of melatonin.
Start with as low a dose as possible, and take a slightly higher dose if it isn’t effective. Keep doing this until you find the right dose for you. Keep in mind melatonin production naturally declines with age, so older adults may want to start with a slightly higher dose, around 1 mg.
Try MELO Labs for the Best Combination of Natural Sleep Aids
So, while there aren’t exactly melatonin alternatives, there are plenty of natural sleep aids to help you fall asleep faster. Just as important, there are also ways to make melatonin work more effectively as well as newer melatonin supplements that work better than pills.
One of the best ways to make natural sleep aids work as effectively as possible is to take them in combination. MELO Sip from MELO Labs includes not just melatonin, but l-theanine, GABA, valerian root, chamomile extract, and a selection of micronutrients to support sleep. It has no added sugar and comes in a variety of great-tasting flavors.