How are Melatonin and Ambien Different?

Melatonin vs Ambien

Edited and Published by Wellness Monster Louise

A Look at Two of the Most Commonly Used Sleep Aids

Insomnia is the worst. Tossing and turning at night trying to convince the brain what the body already knows: it is tired. Many people try to combat insomnia be using sleep aids like Melatonin or Ambien. But what are these substances exactly and how are they different?

Melatonin is a Hormone

Melatonin Chemical Structure

Melatonin is a hormone that is created by the pineal gland found in the brain. Its job to help regulate the sleep and wake cycles of our daily lives known as the circadian rhythm. Ideally, the level of Melatonin increases during the evening hours of day and stays at higher levels throughout the night. When morning arrives, the level of Melatonin decreases. However, this “internal clock” doesn’t always operate correctly. During the winter months, the hormone may increase earlier; And during the summer months, the hormone may shut down more quickly ( For some, Melatonin supplements are a great help in terms of a “natural” sleep aid.

Melatonin is considered safe for most children and adults. It can be taken for long periods of time if necessary. However, in some cases the supplement can have a negative effect when consumed along with other medications. Melatonin supplements can cause side effects such as headache, depression, daytime sleepiness, dizziness, stomach cramps and irritability. It can be quite powerful too. Typically, doctors recommend not using the drug unless one has enough time to “sleep it off.” They also recommend that a person not drive for four or five hours after taking the Melatonin. In addition, the verdict is still out on whether the supplement is safe for breast-feeding mothers (WebMD).

Ambien is a Man-Made Sleep Aid

Ambien Chemical Structure

Ambien is the brand name of the sedative-hypnotic sleep aid drug known as Zolpidem. According to, “It works by increasing GABA effects in the central nervous system by binding to GABAA receptors at the same location as benzodiazepines” ( This scientific “jargon” basically means that Ambien helps people to sleep better.

Unlike Melatonin supplements, Ambien is meant to be used on a short-term basis and only after behavioral changes have been exhausted (changes in daily routines and/or sleep schedules). People who take the drug usually fall asleep quicker and tend to stay asleep longer. While considered safe for use by adults, the Ambien brand states that it is unknown if it is safe for children. Common side effects of the drug are similar to Melatonin and include daytime sleepiness, headache, nausea and diarrhea. The brand also makes mention of the following possible side effects while taking the drug:*

  • A person might rise out of bed without being fully awake and perform an activity without knowing it.
  • The drug could cause abnormal thoughts and activity, such as: aggressive behavior, confusion, hallucinations, depression and suicidal thoughts or actions.
  • The drug might be responsible for memory loss and an increase in anxiety.
  • The drug might also cause or acerbate severe allergic reactions.

*Stats from (Sanofi.Us).

The Verdict

While both Melatonin and Ambien have been shown to be effective in aiding sleep patterns in the brain, Melatonin is natural and the possible side effects appear to be less intrusive than Ambien. As always though, it is best to talk to your own doctor before taking any drug or supplement.

Sources: []

WebMD [] []

Sanofi.Us []

Photo Credits:

Melatonin Model By Jynto (talk) – Own workThis image was created with Discovery Studio Visualizer., CC0,

Ambien Model By Vaccinationist – PubChem, CC BY-SA 4.0,