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Should You Take Magnesium for Sleep? How Does it Work?

Do you struggle to get a solid night's sleep? Magnesium for sleep might help. Over a third of people in the United States don't get enough sleep and millions more probably aren't enjoying the best sleep quality. (1) If you're one of the millions struggling with insomnia or poor sleep quality, it's easy to feel hopeless. Start with the basics. Make sure you're getting enough vital minerals and nutrients necessary for better sleep. Magnesium is an important mineral for several functions throughout your body, including your nervous system, immune system, and heart. Let's take a closer look at the role magnesium plays in restful sleep.

Why is Magnesium Intake Important for Your Body and Mind?

magnesium salt
Over 600 processes in your body require magnesium and every single cell needs it to function. We can't include everything here, but these are a few ways your body uses this essential mineral.
  • Nervous system function: Magnesium helps regulate neurotransmitters and attaches to GABA to help calm excitable nerves. (2)
  • Cardiovascular health: Low magnesium levels are linked to heart disorders. Magnesium helps regulate heart rhythm. (3)
  • Muscle function: High levels of calcium and low magnesium levels can lead to muscle cramps, weakness, or twitching. (4)
  • Bone health: Magnesium (along with vitamin D) helps your bones process and store calcium. (5)

Why Magnesium for Sleep is Important

sleep well
For starters, magnesium may help promote mental and physical relaxation. Research shows that magnesium activates parts of your nervous system tasked with encouraging relaxation. Magnesium also stimulates melatonin and helps balance the body's circadian rhythm which is responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Finally, magnesium binds to GABA receptors to calm nerves. (6) People taking magnesium for sleep – especially older adults or those with insomnia – tend to report better sleep quality. (7, 8) Older adults tend to suffer from low magnesium levels because the digestive system has a more difficult time absorbing it with age and conditions like IBS or diabetes. Plus, older adults don't usually get enough magnesium through diet. Some studies on magnesium-deficient mice suggest that, as a sleep aid, magnesium may prevent restless sleep. One study also found that magnesium supplementation may help with insomnia due to restless leg syndrome. However, if your restless leg syndrome is caused by low dopamine levels rather than magnesium, it probably won't help.

What are the Side Effects of Magnesium Deficiency or Low Magnesium Levels?

If you're suffering from low levels of magnesium, you may not notice right away aside from poor quality sleep or ongoing sleep problems. Here are a few signs you're not getting enough magnesium in your diet.
  • Numbness or tingling in your hands or extremities
  • Hyperexcitability (always feeling on-edge)
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Muscle cramps or contractions
  • Constant fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Irritability, anxiety, or depression
In severe cases of magnesium deficiency, you may experience seizures. However, consuming high doses of magnesium can also trigger unwanted side effects. The most common side effects of large doses include:
  • Upset stomach, vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea
  • Laxative effect
  • Dangerously low blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Slow breathing

5 Magnesium-Rich Foods

magnesium rich foods
It's difficult to say just how many American adults aren't getting enough magnesium but taking a look at this list of magnesium-rich foods and comparing it to the average American diet is very telling. Most adult males need up to 420 mg of magnesium every day and females need up to 320 mg. (9) However, pregnant and breastfeeding women need even more: between 310 and 400 mg of magnesium each day.
  • Whole grains
  • Soy products
  • Pumpkin seeds (one of the best food sources of magnesium)
  • Almonds, cashews, and other nuts
  • Avocados
Generally, magnesium supplementation is safe because your body can easily remove any excess magnesium through your kidneys. However, you should always talk to your doctor before adding a magnesium supplement to your diet – especially if you have blood clotting problems, take antibiotics or other medications, or are pregnant. You can find magnesium supplements in several forms including magnesium glycinate, magnesium oxide, magnesium chloride, magnesium citrate, and even topical magnesium oil or spray. What's the best magnesium? Well, it depends on your body and needs. In most cases, the biggest difference is in how your body absorbs the different types of magnesium.  

Why Do People Take Magnesium for Sleep and other Benefits?

Since every cell in your body requires magnesium, addressing low magnesium levels may provide several benefits.

Magnesium May Reduce Inflammation

People with low magnesium levels tend to suffer from chronic inflammation. Studies show that magnesium supplementation may help reduce inflammation by lowering inflammatory markers. (10, 11) Older adults, children, prediabetics, and people with obesity show the biggest improvement from supplementing magnesium.

Magnesium May Improve Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

Magnesium plays a key role in brain health. Studies show that people with low magnesium levels have an elevated risk of depression. In one study, people with major depressive disorder showed rapid improvement after taking a daily dose of between 175 mg to 300 mg of magnesium for seven days. (12) Older adults and diabetics can probably benefit the most from magnesium supplementation since their bodies don't absorb this mineral quite as well. (13)

Magnesium May Support Heart Health and Lower Blood Pressure

Magnesium plays a key role in heart health. Remember that your heart is a muscle and magnesium is responsible for regulating muscle contractions. Too much calcium and too little magnesium can throw off your heart's natural rhythm and electrical pulses. (14) Studies also show that magnesium may lower blood pressure in people who suffer from high blood pressure. (15, 16) If you're not getting enough magnesium in your diet, supplementation may help.

The Bottom Line on Magnesium for Sleep

If you've already tried adjusting your lifestyle to sleep better with no luck, adding some supplemental magnesium for sleep to your diet might help. Several dietary supplements, like magnesium, are responsible for regulating mental health and nerves but most American diets lack these minerals. For that reason, testing a magnesium supplement might improve your quality of sleep and help you feel less tired overall.
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