When comparing ramelteon vs melatonin, you’ll soon discover that they have a lot in common:
- They both affect your circadian rhythm (body clock), letting you know it’s time to sleep,
- Both can improve sleep onset (the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep),
- Neither has strong, sedating effects, and neither is addictive.
And while Ramelteon and melatonin achieve these effects through different means, both actually depend on the function of melatonin. Read on to learn how each sleep aid works, the similarities and differences between them, which supplements work best, and how to combine them for greater effect.
At a glance:
- The Main Difference Between Ramelteon and Melatonin
- What Melatonin and Ramelteon Have in Common
- Important Practical Differences Between Melatonin and Ramelteon
- The Type of Melatonin You Take Is Crucial To Your Results
- How to Combine Natural Sleep Aids for Greater Effect
- Try MELO Labs for All Your Melatonin Supplement Needs
The Main Difference Between Ramelteon and Melatonin
Ramelteon and melatonin are both sleep aids. Their effects are similar, they tend to be mild, and they may be combined with other natural sleep aids for greater effect.
For instance, MELO Sip from MELO Labs contains an array of sleep-related micronutrients and herbal sleep supplements. This combo helps you fall asleep more quickly and get better rest than melatonin alone.
However, ramelteon and melatonin work on your body in different ways: ramelteon by making your body more sensitive and receptive to melatonin, and melatonin by helping manage your circadian rhythm by increasing hormone levels.
Ramelteon Makes you More Sensitive to Melatonin
Ramelteon works in large part by making your body more sensitive to melatonin. It‘s a selective melatonin receptor agonist, meaning it activates melatonin receptors.
It does this by acting on the suprachiasmatic nucleus, a small part of the brain’s hypothalamus with a few different types of melatonin receptors. When activated, the melatonin receptors begin to suppress the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight” mode) and boost the parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest” mode), allowing you to relax and rest more easily.
Melatonin Is the Body’s “Sleep Hormone”
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland. Bright light (especially blue light from electronic devices) suppresses melatonin production, alerting your brain that it’s daytime, while darkness triggers the release of melatonin, letting you know it’s nighttime. Melatonin secretion also depends on your most recent bedtimes and sleep wake cycle.
Like ramelteon, melatonin supplements can be taken to experience the effects of melatonin when we would otherwise have trouble falling asleep. As we saw above, melatonin shifts the balance towards the parasympathetic nervous system and away from the sympathetic nervous system, allowing you to “rest and digest.” As with ramelteon, the effects are mild, but it can help aid your transition to sleep.
What Melatonin and Ramelteon Have in Common
Because both depend on melatonin – ramelteon activates melatonin, whereas melatonin is melatonin – their effects are very similar.
Both Are Effective for Treating Insomnia
A meta-analysis from Sleep Medicine analyzed seven randomized controlled trials and found melatonin to be an effective treatment for insomnia (specifically sleep onset insomnia — more on that in a minute) in both children and adolescents.
A randomized controlled trial from the British Journal of Pharmacology suggests melatonin also improves objective sleep fragmentation, or the frequency of nighttime awakenings (which make sleep less restful).
Sleep onset (also known as sleep latency) and sleep fragmentation are the two components of sleep efficiency, which is a rough measure of sleep quality. So, melatonin can improve sleep efficiency, helping us get better quality sleep.
Ramelteon can also treat sleep onset insomnia. A review from Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment found ramelteon to be effective in the treatment of various sleep disorders, particularly sleep onset insomnia.
Additionally, a double blind placebo controlled study from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found ramelteon to be effective in improving sleep onset latency in patients with sleep apnea. Interestingly, while sleep study data showed sleep latency improvements, survey data suggests people didn’t feel like they fell asleep sooner – even if they actually did.
Both Reset Sleep Wake Cycle
When you experience any sort of change to your daily schedule, i.e. when you need to wake up or go to sleep at a different time than usual, this can confuse your circadian rhythm and disrupt your sleep. This happens when you travel, go through daylight savings time changes, or just wake up or go to sleep at different times each day.
Melatonin triggers your circadian rhythm, letting your internal clock know it’s time to prepare for sleep. It’s particularly useful for circadian rhythm sleep disorders or disruptions (such as jet lag), but it can help you fall asleep any time you’re not going to sleep at your usual bedtime, for any reason.
Because it activates melatonin, ramelteon has many of the same effects on your sleep wake cycle. Like melatonin, it can help you to reset your circadian rhythm when you experience jet lag or other external changes to your schedule.
Both Are Safe and Non-addictive
The review from Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment claims ramelteon is not addictive and doesn’t have a high potential for abuse. It also has very few side effects. This makes it safer than many stronger sleeping pills.
Similarly, melatonin is not addictive, doesn’t carry an inherent risk of abuse, and it has very few side effects. Stopping its use will not result in rebound insomnia, unlike benzodiazepine hypnotic medications (benzos) and other sleep drugs.
The Effects of Both Are Mild
Melatonin generally won’t cause adverse effects, but it also doesn’t initiate the same level of sleepiness that you’d get from much stronger sedatives or tranquilizers. What’s more, it can also be overridden by your habits. Bright light and blue light in the evening can easily block the effects of melatonin, as can moderate exercise just before bed.
The same is true of ramelteon: The effects are mild and can be overridden by the same factors that interfere with melatonin.
Both Would Benefit from Additional Research
Ramelteon is a relatively new sleeping drug, and in general, more research is needed to bolster the current findings. Meanwhile, though there’s been substantially more research done on melatonin, it’s not regulated by the FDA. This makes a difference in how it’s studied.
Unlike big pharmaceutical companies who can fund large studies, melatonin companies tend to be much smaller. Moreover, because melatonin supplements aren’t regulated, studies are only as effective as the particular melatonin supplements being used. More research is needed to determine standardized doses.
We do have enough research to know it works as a sleep aid, but optimal dosing remains unclear. Most sources — including our own research and usage guidelines at MELO Labs — recommend a starting dose between 0.5 and 5 mg. You’ll have to experiment a bit to find the exact right dosage for you, but this range has worked for thousands of our customers, and is a great starting point.
Important Practical Differences Between Melatonin and Ramelteon
While melatonin and ramelteon do have much in common, here are some major differences and how they compare.
Price: Ramelteon Is More Expensive
Ramelteon tends to be very expensive. A bottle of 30 pills could cost upwards of $100. By contrast, 20 packets of MELO Sip will only set you back $20, while MELO Air diffusers are just $15. (Of course, many less effective melatonin supplements are even cheaper.)
Melatonin supplements tend to be less expensive than many other sleep supplements, in part because they are available over-the-counter and do not require the use of insurance. While different supplements have different prices, melatonin tends to be one of the more cost-effective sleep aids.
Availability: Melatonin Is Easier To Find
Melatonin supplements are easy to find, and they come in many different forms. For instance, melatonin diffusers allow it to act much more quickly than when it’s taken in pill form. MELO Air from MELO Labs contains minimal ingredients (just melatonin, organic vegetable glycerin, and natural flavors), and it comes in a wide variety of sweet flavors.
By contrast, ramelteon may be harder to find, as it is a newer drug made by fewer companies that only comes in pill form. It also requires a prescription in the US, unlike melatonin, which is available over-the-counter.
Safety: Melatonin Is Safe for Children
Many studies have shown melatonin supplements are safe for children – especially children with sleep disorders. The same is true of adults, though more studies need to be done on the effects of melatonin while pregnant and breastfeeding. Additionally, those taking prescription drugs will also want to check for potential drug interactions.
As with melatonin, it’s unclear what the effects of ramelteon are on women who are pregnant or nursing. But unlike melatonin, we don’t yet have studies confirming whether or not ramelteon is safe for children and adolescents. Until more research is done, it’s safest for these groups to avoid ramelteon.
FDA Regulation: Ramelteon Is a Drug, Melatonin Is a Supplement
Ramelteon is officially FDA-approved for the treatment of insomnia. Because it’s considered a drug, and not a supplement, it’s treated differently than melatonin.
Melatonin supplements are not strictly regulated by the FDA, because they’re considered supplements. As such, it’s not always clear how trustworthy the labels are. Unfortunately, a 2017 study from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found 71% of melatonin supplements – a vast majority – do not label their contents accurately.
The melatonin supplements from MELO Labs are third-party tested, meaning they’ve been analyzed by an independent, certified testing organization. So you don’t have to wonder how accurate the labels are.
Sleep Quality: Melatonin Provides Subjective Sleep Improvements
A study from the American Academy of Family Physicians found ramelteon didn’t improve subjective sleep quality, meaning participants who took ramelteon didn’t necessarily feel they were sleeping better (even if they were).
This finding also came out of a double blind placebo controlled study, which suggested subjective sleep latency didn’t improve with use of ramelteon. More research is needed to determine how big the effect is and what can be done about it.
Meanwhile, melatonin doesn’t have this problem, as far as we know. Research suggests it can help us feel well-rested, in addition to objectively improving our sleep.
The Type of Melatonin You Take Is Crucial To Your Results
Unlike ramelteon, you have a wide variety of options for your melatonin supplements. This is good news because the quality and type of melatonin you take can make a significant difference on how effective it is.
To get the most out of melatonin, you’ll want to take the best melatonin supplements on the market. Melatonin pills have an average of only 15% bioavailability, according to a clinical trial from the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. So, most pills are far from the best melatonin supplements. (Ramelteon is only available in pill form.)
By contrast, liquid supplements have 98% bioavailability, according to Medicare Europe. They can also be absorbed in a matter of minutes, whereas pills need at least half an hour to break down before they can start to be absorbed. MELO Sip is a great option for liquid melatonin, containing chamomile, valerian root, and other natural sleep aids in addition to melatonin.
For even faster absorption, MELO Air melatonin diffusers will have you feeling sleepy in no time. Either of these options are more effective and fast-acting than melatonin pills.
How to Combine Natural Sleep Aids for Greater Effect
To get the most effect from mild, natural sleep aids, you may have the best luck combining them. While studies have not been conducted on the effects of combining melatonin and ramelteon, it’s plausible that they could work well together. Ramelteon activates melatonin receptors, and taking melatonin could compound that effect.
However, you may want to wait for more research to be done before attempting to combine them. You may also want to check both sleep aids for drug interactions with any medications you happen to be taking.
That said, when it comes to natural sleep aids like chamomile, it’s much safer to combine them without worrying about adverse effects. MELO Sip from MELO Labs contains chamomile, valerian root, l-theanine, and GABA, in addition to sleep-promoting vitamins and minerals. The natural sleep aids help to relax you, making MELO Sip much more effective than melatonin alone.
Try MELO Labs for All Your Melatonin Supplement Needs
While melatonin and ramelteon have similar effects, the two supplements are treated differently by the FDA. As such, melatonin supplements come in a wide variety of forms, while ramelteon really only comes in one form. Many of the differences between the two sleep aids are related to this distinction.
Both sleep aids can be effective in helping to reset your circadian rhythm, but ramelteon is considerably more expensive. Melatonin supplements tend to be much more affordable, but also less reliable.
The melatonin supplements from MELO Labs are third-party tested, so you can trust what their labels say. They’re a great option for anyone considering trying melatonin. MELO Air diffusers are fast-acting, while MELO Sip powdered melatonin packets have additional ingredients that promote relaxation. Try both to see which works best for you.