Psychology Today: The supplements valerian and melatonin both have been found to be potentially effective sleep aids for many people.

But these two frequently-used sleep-boosting supplements work very differently to achieve their results. Understanding the different ways these supplements interact with the body can help you determine which might be a fit for you, in consultation with your physician.

One important way to differentiate between valerian and melatonin is to look at how they interact with the body’s two main sleep systems: sleep drive and sleep rhythm. These two systems work alongside one another to regulate sleep and wakefulness throughout the night, to ensure we get the rest we need and have the alertness, energy and focus we require to perform in our daily lives. In terms of how they interact with the body to promote sleep, a fundamental difference between valerian and melatonin comes down to this: Valerian increases sleep drive. Melatonin strengthens sleep rhythm.

Before we look in more detail at valerian and melatonin (and some other natural supplements that affect sleep drive and sleep rhythm) let’s take a look at the two sleep systems themselves—how each works to promote healthy sleep, and how they complement one another to provide us with an optimal balance of rest and wakeful focus and energy.

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