Restless, sleepless nights are a modern-day plague, don’t you think? The hectic lives we lead today often leave us all distraught and vulnerable, making our sleep utterly destroyed. Instead of falling asleep quick and easy, we twist and turn in bed, unable to enter the dreamworld.
Let this happen for a few nights, and you will slowly start to experience the effects of full-blown sleep deprivation and the raging onset of insomnia.
That’s what got you looking into different solutions for your sleep in the first place, right? While behavioral lifestyle changes and learning different relaxation techniques are all crucial for you to achieve quality sleep, many people go for sleeping pills instead, but we also recommend opting for natural supplements instead.
Navigating through the vast, overcrowded market of natural sleeping aids can sometimes be tough and overwhelming, and often quite unnecessary.
Well, while there’s a lot of different natural supplements out there, you might just need only one – magnesium.
Magnesium’s sleep-promoting qualities are rising in popularity, and the supplement is quickly ascending to the throne of natural sleeping aids. The power of this common mineral not only helps you fall asleep quicker, it gives you deeper, more restful slumber as well.
Having this in mind, we wanted to give you insight into what magnesium is, how exactly is it connected to your sleep, and what can it do to improve it.
Let’s dive right in.
As one of the most widespread minerals on the planet, our health thrives on high levels of magnesium. In fact, it’s one of the seven macro-minerals that the human body needs in large quantities. Our bodies use it in over 600 biochemical reactions, making it an essential electrolyte for our holistic health. From every cell to every organ, our bodies desperately need this mineral to maintain proper function. Bone health, brain, heart, nerve, and muscle function – magnesium regulates it all.
Since our bodies do not produce it, we must do our due diligence and be on the lookout for foods rich in magnesium. So, legumes, dark green veggies, whole grains, nuts, fish – all of these foods will go a long way in keeping your magnesium levels high and happy.
On top of all these health benefits, let’s add contributing to better sleep to the mix! There is increasing interest in how maintaining good levels of magnesium can help sleep issues like insomnia, delayed sleep-onset, and sleep deprivation.
Let’s take the time to examine the connection between this mineral and sleep from multiple angles.
Magnesium and Sleep – Overview
The benefits magnesium holds for our sleep come through helping our bodies and brains relax. How does it do that exactly? First and foremost, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system – the part of our autonomous nervous system that regulates our fight/flight response. Second, it regulates your melatonin levels. As we’ve discussed millions of times before, melatonin is responsible for your regular sleep-wake cycles in your body.
Let’s say all this simpler – by giving your nervous system piece of mind and regulating your melatonin levels, magnesium helps you relax, thus preparing you for sleep.
Since falling and staying asleep majorly depends on your ability to relax, taking magnesium supplements instead of sleeping pills now seems to be the better choice, doesn’t it?
What the Research Says
If you’re still not sold on the idea that magnesium is an effective sleeping aid, we’ve got some research to back up our claim.
The Journal of Research in Medical Sciences clearly shows that magnesium, used as a supplement, was able to promote better sleep through increasing sleep time.
Furthermore, the Oxford Academic Journal Sleep states that using magnesium as a supplement is effective in helping people suffering from restless leg syndrome fight off insomnia.
Taking it even further, a comprehensive MIT report exploring the interaction between magnesium and fibromyalgia shows magnesium as a mineral able to reduce chronic body pain almost always associated with insomnia.
Vitamins and Minerals provided a report that magnesium improves cognitive functioning, including enhanced mood, sleep, and lower stress levels.
Last, but most important, the National Sleep Foundation study shows that both calcium and magnesium are crucial when it comes to promoting high-quality sleep in adults. The study also points to magnesium used as supplementation is a lot safer than sleeping pills.
Two questions arise from all this information – How does the interaction between both magnesium and melatonin and nervous system work? Let’s take a peek.
The Interaction Between Magnesium and Melatonin
The idea is fairly simple. As your magnesium levels go up, so do levels of your neural activity. Neurotransmitters further pulse their messages and establish communication between your brain and your nervous system – charging up all that needed melatonin and sparking it into active production. making all that needed melatonin sparking to get activated.
Based on the interaction between magnesium and melatonin, researchers conclude that magnesium is closely linked to your circadian rhythms.
While we won’t elaborate on that, we’ll tell you this much – the lesser your magnesium levels, the poorer your sleep.
The Interaction between Magnesium and the Nervous System
This is where neurobiology comes into play, making the link between magnesium and the nervous system a little bit complex. Since the neurotransmitters that get activated as your magnesium levels increase reduce neural activity by binding to GABA receptors, you can think of magnesium as this instigator of all these other chemical processes that have a calming effect on your brain as a result.
To put it simpler – the more GABA levels go up, the less neural activity there is in your brain. This inhibitory process is responsible for making you sleepy. It’s no wonder that some sleeping pills have a little bit of something in them that jumpstarts GABA levels.
Furthermore, being the potential inhibitor that it is, magnesium served its greater purpose and made for a few studies that ended up suggesting that magnesium might be what people have been looking for when it comes to treating underlying depression and anxiety that are fueling one’s insomnia.
Now that we’ve explained how this mineral intertwines with melatonin and our nervous system, we’ll walk you through how magnesium levels affect sleep and the recommended amount of magnesium you should be taking in daily.
How Magnesium Levels Affect Sleep?
Since people approaching their golden years or people suffering from diabetes, ADHD or alcohol addiction are prone to magnesium deficiency, all of them stand to benefit from supplemental magnesium.
You see, having insufficient magnesium levels means you’re more than likely to experience disturbed sleep and insomnia. Relevant enough, a study on mice suggests it too – mice kept on a diet that had little to no magnesium intake not only had disturbed sleep, but they also experienced more frequent awakenings.
However, having too much of something creates an equal problem. Think of it as a ‘magnesium rush’. Having an abnormally high magnesium count means sleeping problems, as well – the study done in 2001 confirms.
Finally, we get to the million-dollar conclusion – everything is good in moderation. Finding the right balance and keeping your magnesium levels at just the right spot translates into improved quality of your sleep. Read all about this notion in 2011 and 2012 studies here and here.
Magnesium for Sleep: What’s the right dosage?
As far as the right dosages go, according to the National Institute of Health adult men should intake between 400 and 420 mg, and adult women should intake 310-360 mg. When it comes to children, The Food and Nutrition Board suggests that supplemental magnesium doesn’t go over 350 mg for males and females 9 years and older, 110 for children between 4 and 8, and 65 mg for toddlers.
On the other hand, you could choose the alternative path and get all that precious magnesium the natural way. The abundance of foods and liquids that practically ooze magnesium (that contain high amounts of magnesium) includes nuts, whole grains, green vegetables, meat, fish and fruit.
As we’ve mentioned above, finding a sweet spot and having just the right daily dose of magnesium helps you regulate your nervous system, minimize the stress, improve your mood and last but not least, helps you come out as a winner in your battle with sleeping problems.
Winning that battle with sleeping problems won’t be possible if you don’t show on the battlefield at the right time, so to use magnesium as a sleeping aid, take that sweet spot dosage somewhere between 1 to 2 hours before the desired sleep time.
Since everything comes at a price, with supplemental magnesium come common supplement side effects, such as nausea or diarrhea. To prevent the trouble these side effects can get you in, take the following note to heart – don’t take magnesium on an empty stomach, and take it with a glass of water. Go and schedule an appointment with your doctor as well to discuss whether or not magnesium supplements are right for you and whether they will interfere with any other medication you are taking – if you’re taking any for other health conditions.
The evidence is clear – sleep is vital for your wellbeing. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s research tells us sleep is vital from everything from healthy brain function to emotional wellbeing, putting sleep at the center of our holistic health. People who aren’t getting consistent, continuous, sufficient, and good-quality sleep can experience all these different consequences, including emotional disturbance and safety risks.
Since magnesium plays an essential role in regulating your nervous system and calming it down, this mineral can improve the overall quality of your sleep.
Now that you are armed with enough knowledge about magnesium as a mineral, its interaction with our nervous systems’ and the part it plays in promoting high-quality sleep, it’s time to make an informed decision whether you will continue using the sleeping pills, switch to supplemental magnesium or travel the natural path and get your daily dose of this mineral via your diet.
If you end up deciding to give magnesium as a supplement for sleep a go, we recommend that you schedule an appointment and talk with your doctor first. Since it can interact with other medications, or produce side effects such as nausea, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea, your doctor will be able to make an educated decision and a plan on how much supplements to take daily.
Finally, always keep in mind that lifestyle choice and making behavioral changes will also go a long way in improving your sleep. The typical activities for promoting sleep are warm baths, exercise, and relaxation techniques.
Laura Garcia is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She holds degrees in writing from Drake University. When she’s not busy writing, Laura likes to spend as much as time as possible with her husband James and three-year-old son Elijah.