I always knew that this essential mineral played an important role in reducing stress and protecting against disease, but how does magnesium help sleep?
Well, it appears that magnesium also has sleep-promoting properties and is actually critical for our overall health.
In fact, it wasn’t until I researched this topic further that I realized we need magnesium in fairly high quantities.
It then came as no surprise to me just how many people suffer with a magnesium deficiency and either completely change their diet or regularly take supplements to increase their intake.
So, I want to delve a little deeper into what magnesium can do for your health, as well as how it can potentially help you get a better night’s sleep.
What is Magnesium?
Minerals are extremely important for the body if you want to stay healthy and ensure that your brain, heart, muscles, and bones continue working in the way they should.
Minerals are also influential for making hormones and enzymes in the body.
There are two main kinds of minerals, trace minerals and macro minerals. The body requires one of the seven essential macro minerals in far higher quantities. These are calcium, chloride, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, sulfur, and of course magnesium.
Unfortunately, the body doesn’t naturally produce magnesium and therefore this must come from an outside source. Some of the best magnesium-rich foods you should be eating include:
- Dairy products
- Dark leafy greens
- Seeds and nuts
- Dark chocolate
- Whole grains
- Some fatty fish
So, I would suggest that if this looks like a list of foods that you rarely eat, you may want to get some of them into your diet pronto, when you consider how much the body needs magnesium.
It is estimated that nearly 50% of all adults have a magnesium deficiency, and this is especially true for older adults, and women as they age.
Some of the most common signs or symptoms of magnesium deficiency, which is also known as hypomagnesemia, are
- Muscle cramps, twitches and weakness
- High blood pressure
- Mental disorders
- Irregular heartbeat
Of course, all of these conditions could be attributed to something else, but checking to see if you have a magnesium deficiency is as good a starting point as any.
But What About Magnesium and Sleep?
As I’ve just mentioned, insomnia can be a sign of magnesium deficiency.
Firstly, in order for you to fall asleep it’s important that both the mind and body are relaxed. I’m sure you don’t need me to tellyou that many sleepless nights and insomnia are often caused by being unable to shut off the brain, or because of aches and pains in the body.
Magnesium can help with the relaxation process by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system that is responsible for keeping the body (and the brain) calm and relaxed.
Furthermore, magnesium helps to maintain healthy levels of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a naturally occurring amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in your brain.
This particular neurotransmitter helps to calm nerve activity and promotes sleep. So, by calming down the nervous system, magnesium is in fact preparing the body and brain for sleep.
If you have low levels of magnesium in the body this can typically lead to restless sleep, which may see you waking up time-and-time again during the night.
If you are able to maintain a healthy level of magnesium in the body this should lead to a far deeper, more restorative sleep.
Magnesium is also known to regulate the production of melatonin, which is the hormone that controls the sleep-wake cycles of the body.
There has been much medical research into the supplementation of magnesium to improve the overall quality of sleep, and it is often used to treat insomnia that is caused by the condition restless leg syndrome.
There are certain groups of people who may be more at risk of having a magnesium deficiency, and these include:
- Those who are dependent on alcohol. In fact, magnesium deficiency is extremely common among heavy drinkers.
- People who have digestive disorders. This is generally caused because digestive tract problems can often lead to vitamins and minerals not being properly absorbed by the body.
- Those with diabetes and insulin resistance tend to lose high levels of magnesium from the body.
It may come as no surprise that these groups of people often have difficulty sleeping and may suffer from other sleep disorders as well.
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The Benefits of Magnesium Supplements
Firstly, I will say that if you’re going to start taking a new supplement, or wish to make changes to the existing medication that you take, please consult with your Doctor first.
Magnesium supplementation is quite commonly prescribed for people who suffer with certain health conditions.
Research shows that magnesium supplements can lower blood pressure in people who have hypertension.
Magnesium is also known to reduce blood pressure in healthy adults who have high blood pressure, as well as for people who suffer hypertension and diabetes simultaneously.
Various cardiovascular conditions are treated with magnesium supplements (along with other medications) including, angina, arrhythmia, cholesterol, coronary heart disease, and mitral valve prolapse.
I’ve spoken of the potential links between magnesium deficiency and diabetes and this is because magnesium plays an extremely important role in regulating the blood sugar levels, as well as metabolizing glucose in our bodies.
Whereas high levels of magnesium in the body are associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance is linked to lower levels of magnesium.
It is estimated that somewhere between 3-4 people out of every 10 with type 2 diabetes have a magnesium deficiency.
There has been research to show that various pain issues can be helped with magnesium supplement.
It can help to improve mobility and ease pain for those with chronic back pain.
Fibromyalgia is sometimes treated with magnesium supplements, as it may improve tenderness and pain (and often depression that is associated with this condition). In fact, it has been argued that fibromyalgia symptoms typically worsen from lower levels of magnesium in the body.
Headaches are also linked to low levels of magnesium and supplements may improve the pain from headaches, and even migraines.
And it’s not just pain and the numerous physical symptoms that magnesium supplements may help with.
Research has shown magnesium’s effectiveness in aiding with PMS, as it helps to reduce symptoms such as irritability, tension, anxiety, mood swings, and even bloating.
There is even evidence that points to children with ADHD having reduced levels of magnesium in the body. In fact, low magnesium levels have been linked to hyperactivity, short attention span, and impulsive behaviors.
Is this yet another case where magnesium supplements could be the answer?
How To Use Magnesium to Get A Better Night’s Rest
It’s interesting to see that a number of medical studies have been conducted into the effectiveness of magnesium supplements on sleep.
One such study was conducted on 46 elderly adults who were randomly allocated either 500mg of magnesium or a placebo, on a daily basis, for a total of 8 weeks.
Please note that 500mg is above the recommended safe upper limits for supplements and a dose as high as this should be avoided, unless under medical supervision.
The group that received the magnesium supplements had an overall better quality of sleep and they also exhibited higher levels of the hormones melatonin and renin. These two hormones are known to help regulate sleep.
So, even scientific evidence points to the fact the magnesium supplementation can lead to a better night’s sleep.
The recommended daily dietary intake of magnesium is 400-420mg for men, and 310-360mg for women.
So, your initial step is to ensure you drink plenty of water and start consuming some of the foods I’ve mentioned above. This is especially true for dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, meat, and avocados.
Before you even consider taking magnesium supplements I would first advise you to look at certain lifestyle changes, many of which I have discussed numerous times on this website.
- Do you have a regular bedtime and wake up time?
- Are you consuming caffeine after 3pm?
- Do you use electronics less than an hour before bed?
- Are you getting enough exercise and natural light during the day?
These are all factors that can affect your sleeping habits, so ensure you look into these simple steps first.
If you’re considering taking magnesium supplements then there are a few things that you need to know:
As mentioned, the maximum amount should be limited to 350mg. You should generally start with a lower dosage for sleep issues, say 100mg, and gradually increase if required.
Magnesium supplements can cause certain side effects including, bloating, cramps, nausea, upset stomach, and diarrhea.
If you are taking any other medication please consult with your doctor first, as magnesium supplements can interfere with muscle relaxants, blood pressure medications, diabetes medications, bone density medications, Digoxin (usually taken for heart failure and atrial fibrillation), water pills, and antibiotics.
The evidence clearly indicates that not only is magnesium essential for our overall health, it can also aid sleep.
Magnesium will help both the brain and body to relax, which is imperative if you want a peaceful night’s sleep. This is achieved by magnesium activating certain neurotransmitters and the nervous system.
The body doesn’t naturally produce magnesium, so this should be sought from outside sources.
We now know the various foods that are rich in magnesium and you should ensure that you’re getting as much of these in your diet as you can.
Research has shown that magnesium supplements can be especially helpful, not only for sleep, but in the treatment of various medical conditions as well. However, you should always ensure you stay within the safe daily limits of 350mg as a maximum when taking supplements.
All-in-all it’s easy to see why magnesium is classed as one of the seven essential macro minerals, as your health and indeed your sleep could be severely impacted without it.