Valerian root vs Melatonin for sleep and anxiety – which works better?

by sleep supplements, sleep wellness

We’ve been asked to compare Valerian root and Melatonin in terms of how well they work for sleep problems ahnd anxiety about a dozen of times over the last year.

We finally got to it.

What you see below is not only a comparison, but an explanation of how the two work so that you can understand the differences rather than just being told what they are.

woman sleeping valerian root-and-melatonin on mattress close up

Valerian root vs Melatonin for sleep

When it comes to comparing Valerian root and Melatonin in terms of sleep, the difference is pretty clear.

Valerian is milder while Melatonin has a more direct action.

It makes sence when you think about the fact that the former is a herb that affects our brain and the later is a hormone identical to the chemical our brain “makes”.

Let us explain

As it gets dark your pineal gland secretes Melatonin that sends the signal to your brain and body that bed-time is close. On the other hand, Valerian is more of calming and relaxing agent and it works by promoting GABA (neurotransmitter that has the role of blocking impulses among nerve cells).

To put it simply – Melatonin might be the option if your main problem is falling asleep while Valerian might be your choice if the problem is staying asleep. Being a hormone, Melatonin is more likely to be habit-forming.

They work best in synergy

The most popular sleeping OTC sleep aids include both because they complement each other.

Let’s explain – if you’re suffering from insomnia, it would take high doses of Valerian to put you to sleep and with the high dosages, it’s common for people to report feeling fatigued the next day.

That’s why a touch of Melatonin makes it easier to fall asleep while Valerian lowers the chances of waking up though the night and keeps anxiety issues at bay.

You can see the highest-rated supplements

based on the Valerian-Melatonin combo below:

luna sleep supplement bottle big

More about Melatonin

chemical structure of melatonin

A hormone that naturally occurs in every living animal and plant, although it has different roles in each. In animals, the pineal gland produces it and its function is to help regulate wakefulness and sleep.

The hormone is also reported to defend from oxidative stress. We, as mammals, naturally produce it. However imbalances may occur, especially as we get older, most commonly resulting in insomnia, anxiety and headaches. Supplementing this hormone goes a long way in improving sleeping patterns and reducing stress. It’s also known for its positive effects when used for overcoming jet lag or alternating shifts.

The crucial part is to be careful now to take too much of it – we’ve recently published a guide on whether you can overdose on it and how much it too much – you can see it here.

More about Valerian

valerian plant and powder extract in bowl

This herb has a long history of treating sleep and anxiety disorders, and it’s been supported by recent studies.

It’s especially popular in Europe – it dates back as far as the 16th century. The organic supplement has been approved by the main worldwide drug associations, including the FDA (US Food & Drug Administration).

It works as an anti-anxiolytic, lowering anxiety levels. To put it in layman terms, It influences the GABA receptors in the brain through allergenic acid that reduces stress, anxiety and sleepless nights by acting as a sedative. However, with time, it is possible to develop tolerance towards the herb. Unlike hormones, this is a herb extract working in synergy with your brain.

It is a perennial flowering plant, it has white or pink flowers that have a sweet scent and bloom in the summertime and their height can reach 1.5 meters.

Valerian root vs melatonin – safety and habit forming

As we mentioned – the former is herb while the later is a hormone. It’s a short leap from there to understanding that a herb that has an influence on your brain is safer and less likely to form a habit.

Any hormones we introduce to our body sends a signal to the gland making it that there is now an outside source. In the long term, that can be a cause for the gland to become “lazy.” It’s something to talk about with your MD.

In terms of side effects, both are considered pretty safe in recommended doses.


Both aids are pretty common supplements and can be found in nearly any drug or health food store. Due to this, its price is pretty standard. However difference in quality can be an issue as some, not so ethical, suppliers use cheaper raw materials in order to boost profits.

To be on the safe side, it is best to go for a supplier that engages unbiased third party testing to confirm purity and quality. The next question you probably have in mind is which product is right for me? It is just a matter of listening to your body’s needs and preferences. Make a distinction between your needs to fall asleep and to stay asleep. In the end, you know your body (and your MD) know what works for you.

Make sure you always read the dosage instructions on the packaging or those suggested by your MD.

girl consulting with her md

Don’t use them during the day

Always take sleeping supplements just before bedtime, rather than during the day, as they may cause drowsiness. To help enhance the effect of natural sleeping aids, you should try to improve your habits such as limit you napping during the day, introduce a daily exercise routine.

Try to avoid caffeine and similar stimulants before your bedtime, do not consume fatty, heavy foods right before trying to fall asleep.

If you have a caffeine habit, which many of us do, consider kicking it to the curb. We know that it’s easier said than done so you might consider not just stopping “cold turkey” but lowering the cups of coffee you have during the day and replacing it with kava kava.

Kava is a popular drink in the South America and has shown some amazing calming benefits. However, it’s manufacturing is not strictly regulated and before starting the replacement regimen, it’s crucial that you choose a good brands of Kava.

You can see our top picks among Kava brands below:

kava kava rhizom root in bowl

What to avoid

Avoid consuming alcohol with sleeping aids, as they can cause low concentration, drowsiness and have an overall sleep-inducing effect. Beware of other possible drug interactions. Long term use without consultation is not recommended, so if your problems persist, be sure to consult a professional. If you notice any unusual symptoms or side effects, stop using the supplement immediately and consult a professional.

The main benefit of natural alternatives compared to prescription capsules is the absence of side effects such as agitation, dry mouth and addiction, being the most dangerous. It is not uncommon that, for people dependent on prescription sleep pills, this soon this becomes the only way that they can rest. Withdrawal symptoms can also be difficult.

The good news is that many people say that natural sleeping supplements start working straight away. Also, given that health insurance is one of the most common issues in many countries worldwide, another good side to these solutions is that, since they are available off the shelf, they can reach people that do not have health insurance and therefore may not be able to afford seeking proper help by visiting a doctor.

Hope you found this information useful.

Sleep tight…


  • Bob Ozment

    Bob has been testing and writing about all things sleep (and especially blankets, air mattresses and folding beds), for 8+ years now. before that, he worked as a Quality Assurance Manager with one of the bigger names in the sleep industry. He holds a masters degree Statistics, Actuarial & Data Sciences from the central Michigan University at Mount Pleasant. He's one of the people who designs our producing testing and statistical models. He’s a stomach sleeper, but nobody’s perfect.