A Simple Insomnia Treatment?

by Janis Leibold, assistant editor, Fibromyalgia Network
Posted: March 31, 2011

Sweet sleep is often elusive for people with fibromyalgia. Falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up unrefreshed, or experiencing daytime sleepiness are naturally sources of frustration. However, a treatment trial using an inexpensive supplement combo showed promising results for people with insomnia and this same approach may also be helpful for fibromyalgia.

An effective treatment for sleep can be challenging to find, particularly one that does not leave you feeling hung over in the morning. Medications may help by sedating you, but after you wake up, their effects may persist. Rather than a therapy that works by sedation, it would be better to find a treatment that actually improves the quality and restorative nature of your sleep. Of course, long-term safety is also a concern because the sleep disorder of fibromyalgia is most often persistent and chronic.

A research team in Italy tested a more natural route to treating insomnia.* Using only melatonin, zinc, and magnesium supplements, they enrolled a group of residents in a long-term care facility for the study.

Each of the three supplements selected are substances the body needs and uses every day. While there are no set quantities for melatonin use, science knows this naturally produced hormone in the brain is closely associated with sleep-wake cycles and diminishes in quantity as we age. Zinc and magnesium are both trace minerals that are needed by the body to make melatonin. In addition, zinc may improve mood, and magnesium is relaxing and calming. Combined, all three of these elements seem to strengthen each other’s properties and should lead to better quality of sleep.

Forty-three men and women with insomnia were carefully selected to participate. Since they were elderly, the researchers were meticulous in screening out people with dementia, depression, other sleep disorders, or those on any medication that might alter sleep.

Researchers administered a series of commonly used questionnaires for assessing sleep. In addition, everyone wore armband sensors that measured how much they slept and moved during the day and night. The greater the activity picked up by the sensors during the night, the more the disturbed sleep. The questionnaires were given before and after the eight-week study, while the armbands were worn for 72 hours before the study and the last two weeks of the week study.

Twenty-two participants were given 5 mg of melatonin, 225 mg of magnesium, and 11 mg of zinc in a pear sauce each night before bed for eight weeks. The dose of the magnesium and zinc is just shy of the standard recommended daily allowance as established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The other 21 participants were part of the control group that received only the pear sauce. None of the participants knew whether they were in the test group or the placebo control group.

Patients in the test group reported a 45% improvement in their sleep quality, compared to the control group. In addition, benefits were reported in not only quality of sleep, but also mood, ease in getting to sleep, morning alertness, and overall feeling better during the day. The sensor on the armband also measured significant improvements in total sleep time and daytime movement. In contrast, control group members reported no differences in sleep or health at all. Overall, side effects were minimal and none of the participants in either group dropped out of the study.

“These study findings are of great relevance from a clinical point of view,” says Mariangela Rondanelli, Ph.D., of the University of Pavia, Italy, the study’s lead researcher. “The concept of quality of life is defined as perceived global achievement and satisfaction within a number of key domains, with special emphasis on well-being.” Rondanelli notes that a larger study will need to be done before more conclusions can be drawn.

While it may seem expected that melatonin could help with sleep, the other benefits may not be as clear, she says. “It is possible that better nighttime sleep quality made participants more alert during the day. Furthermore, improved mood and well-being may have positively influenced the subjective evaluation of daytime sleepiness in the participants.”

More information on supplements and health is reported in the article, “Covering the Bases on Nutrition,” that appears in the April 2011 issue of the Fibromyalgia Network Journal. A feature article “Setting the Clock Straight on Melatonin” is offered as a free bonus to those receiving the Journal. Join the Fibromyalgia Network to stay abreast with the latest in research, treatments, and coping tips.”

* Rondanelli M, et al. JAGS 59:82-90, 2011.

35 Responses to A Simple Insomnia Treatment?

  1. Lynda says:

    Great Information. Thanks!

  2. Susan says:

    I have found Melatonin very helpful for sleep. I am not able to have Melatonin prescribed in NZ, or buy it over the counter. I have found a drink sold as ‘Chillax’, made from cherryjuice that contains a natural source of melatonin. You drink 120ml before bed. Its quite expensive, and not many supermarkets stock it.

    • Tammy says:

      Maybe you can buy it online. Here in Canada we are fortunate that we can find melatonin in any drugstore.

    • karen tonks says:

      Hiya, I found Melatonin very helpful, I was told to use it by a Pain Consultant at my hospital. But as it wasnt available, at least then, on prescription, she told me to go onto the internet and buy it online from USA, it wasnt very expensive and certaintly helped by night 3. Good Luck!

    • Autumn1956 says:

      I have tried them all under a doctor’s care; in fact a team of Doctors. Besides fibro I have RA anemia and severe asthma. Some nights I still have difficulty sleeping. I under a team of Dr’s care take 600 mg of Neurontin; a narcotic; Xanax and Seroquel..and most nights I sleep. Sounds like lots of medication and it is; but I have had this set of afflictions for many years.

  3. Deborah K Boeddeker says:

    Melatonin gives me migraines, but I will try the mag and zinc at night. I have been taking that in the morning. What else works? My dreams are crazy, plus the pain and foot and leg cramps….OUCH!!!

    • Robin Robaszkiewicz says:

      In response to Deborah K Boeddeker , I drink diet tonic water-5 or 6 ounces when my legs start to get spasms (usually this precedes painful night time charley horses). Just be aware 1 side effect is increased heart rate. The quinine in the tonic water is what helps with the charley horses.

    • Mary says:

      Please, please consider the following if you decide to follow this protocol:
      1. Melatonin IS great, but after a long period of us, you need to discontinue for 2 weeks minimum or it will stop working.
      2. Calcium and Magnesium need to be in proper balance (2 to1 ratio) to avoid any problems with electrolytes, leg cramping, serious diarrhea (too much mag will cause this), constipation (hi calcium)

      • Mary says:

        3. Too much zinc is toxic. Just check this out first with your pharmacist before adding it in. Have your panels check regularly to make sure it’s okay, and talk to your doctor about Melatonin and right dose.

    • Terisa says:

      I have been taking Magnesium for several months. Not only does it help with sleep, it also helps with my leg cramps, restless leg syndrome, etc. I am so grateful we found it. I will have to try adding the zinc, though.

    • Pamela says:

      Foot and leg cramps, as well as charliehorses are usually a sign of potassium deficiency. Keep your sodium levels down, as sodium increases the need for potassium, avoid anything diuretic like coffee, tea, Coke, etc, and eat lots of veggies and fruits. If I get cramps at night, I send my husband down to the kitchen for a banana or orange juice- it works within minutes!

  4. DONNA LINDSEY says:

    Sure sounds like it’s worth giving it a try!! I’m so tired of all the sleep issues with Fibromyalgia.

  5. Simone says:

    This is awesome information and I will be taking it to my GP (doctor Australia) at the appointment I have booked for next week. I’m so past being awake still at 3 or 4 am and having to be functioning by 7.30am. It’s exhausting. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you.

  6. Michelle Brantly says:

    Great information!! I take restoril now & have tried so many other sleep meds that I’m gonna give this a try! I have heard this a lot lately from others that this is worth a try!! Thank you so much ….I feel better now about giving this a try :-)

    • Fazal says:

      Have you tried melatonin for sleep? You can buy it at any mitavin store or drug store. You take it about two hours before bed time. It has no side effects and no sleep hangover in the morning. If that doesn’t work, there is a new prescription med called Rozerem. It is like a high potency melatonin and I’ve seen people have pretty good luck. Both Rozerem and melatonin may take a week or so to really know if they are working.I just started taking magnesium for migraines. So far, so good. I have read numerous studies touting the benefits of magnesium and most suggest 250-500 mg/day. Hope something works for you.

  7. liz says:

    great info!!! also experiencing longer sleep periods with using rose and patchouli oils.. can not believe the difference in how i wake more rested.. not completely.. ache too much, but a good 70%.

    • Cristina says:

      I usaully can’t sleep because of stress. Putting few drops lavender oil on my pillow helps me to relax. I also drink chamomile tea for its calming effect.

  8. Lorelei Weir says:

    Yes, by all means cover all the bases of wellbeing. I too advocate the use of these supplements. But by far the best medicine for the ills that prevail we humans, is other humans, respectful relationships in peaceful surroundings, quiet rest and quality food, sound sleep, clean water, and fresh air “something to do, something to love, something to hope for”.

  9. Teresa says:

    I too use Melatonin for sleep ,but I also found that calcium also helps with sleep. I was taking calcium in the morning but was feeling groggy all day. I read in the 24 hour Pharmacist that calcium is a sleep promoting supplement so I began taking it with my evening meal along with the melatonin. I also take magnesium in the morning so I will now adjust it also to take with my evening meal. Taking supplements are absorbed much better if taken with a meal I have also found out.

  10. William Thompson says:

    If the body is deficient in something that is causing an issue it can be attributed to a lifestyle issue. As most know food, air, water and various environmental toxins can cause a variety of “symptoms”. The body is perfect. Work on decreasing your toxic load and symptoms will most likely decrease accordingly. It is not rocket science!

    Thanks for the interesting article.

  11. Richina marshall says:

    I have had no problem getting melatonin here in New Zealand and find it helps for me

  12. Nancy says:


  13. Ja Jane says:

    Lunesta 3mg is the only thing that works for me. But i am willing to try this to get off of it. I will prob. have to stop the Lunesta for 2 weeks first and suffer rebound insomnia and then try these. What does everyone think? any suggestions? news? ty

  14. Lori says:

    Would it be okay to just take a whole tablet or each? If not how would you get the correct dose.

  15. Dennis says:

    Seems everybody already knows and are using or used melatonin but not too many is aware of magnesium. Maybe this is what you are looking for. I am lucky and have no problem sleeping but my wife does. Ordered some for my wife. Good luck all.

  16. CraftyHarp says:

    For some odd reason, Melatonin makes me netvous and keeps me awake. It raises my heart rate and makes me feel strange. The same thing happens with both of my kids, who both have problems going to sleep too. Benadryl is the same way. It keeps me awake too, and just makes me feel bad. Everyone has a unique reaction, but I have yet to meet anyone who takes Melatonin and can’t sleep.

    • Mary says:

      You are not alone! I have the same experience with melatonin. Keeps me wide awake or agitated, followed by headache and dizziness the morning after. Does not facilitate sleep for me.

    • Viree says:

      Melatonin can make me nervous and keep me awake I have to watch out and not take nothing but a light dose… it still doesn’t help that much…

  17. Cheryl says:

    my son works swing shifts and he uses melatonin to sleep when he is on night shift. I tried it and could not tell a difference. Will check this out. so tired of not sleeping any length of time and tired of waking up feeling i have been run over by a truck

  18. Sheryl A Grimm says:

    I have Fibromyalgia and I found that melatonin works great for me, I also take mag ox 400mg twice a day (was having terrible cramps in my legs and feet). I have also been taking zinc. I was only sleeping 4 hours a night, but now that I have found my dosage of the melatonin I sleep great and no groggy feeling in the mornings.

  19. Teonia says:

    I will most assuredly will try this. I am always looking for ways to feel better. Thank you for sharing.

  20. Dana says:

    I have tried OTC Melatonin & it had absolutely no effect of me. I have taken Ambien in the past, but didn’t like it (made me very groggy in the morning). I take Benedryl now, but it doesn’t always work. I need something that will let me get some sleep :/

  21. Michelle Wilson says:

    I cannot emphasize how great the benefits if magnesium are for soothing nerves , pain relief , stiffness. It’s also marvelous for helping the brain to sleep. Been on it for years and could not live without it.
    I use practitioners strength , twice a day. More if required.

  22. Debby says:

    I have tried all of the natural attempts for my body to deal with fibromyalgia. Including the melatonin and calcium. Lord, did these make me soooo angry and moody but I could not sleep as they worked the opposite in my body. When I switched to prescriptions from my doctor, the symptoms went away and I was able to get a full nights rest.

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