Why should you care about the correlation between magnesium and sleep? The National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Health Index found that 12% of people rate their sleep as “poor” and 22% of people rate their sleep as only “fair.” That means that around a third of Americans feel that they aren’t getting good sleep on a regular basis.
If you’re a person who suffers from insomnia, you probably already know all the different ways a lack of sleep can affect your life. 67% of people who reported less than “good” sleep rated their overall health as “poor” or “only fair.” Beyond that, scientists have connected a lack of sleep with: increased risk of accidents, impaired thinking, serious health problems including diabetes and heart problems, decreased libido, depression, premature aging, forgetfulness, weight gain, increased risk of death, and impaired judgment.
Luckily, magnesium has shown a lot of promise helping to improve people’s quality of sleep. Magnesium also has a wide variety of other benefits that make it a supplement which may be worth adding to your daily regimen. Estimates say that around half of all adult Americans don’t get enough magnesium. Let’s take a look at the correlation between magnesium and sleep.
Magnesium and sleep
Magnesium is one of 24 essential vitamins and minerals that the human body needs but can’t produce on its own. It’s involved in over 600 enzymatic reactions including energy metabolism and protein synthesis, yet your body can’t produce it. That means you need to get it through your diet, but our modern diet tends to be lacking in the fresh foods that are high in magnesium.
As it turns out, low magnesium levels can negatively impact sleep. Supplementing your diet with more magnesium may greatly impact the quality of your sleep. Let’s take a look at how magnesium affects sleep.
Does magnesium help you sleep?
A lack of magnesium can lead to a wide variety of health problems, including insomnia, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, diabetes, osteoporosis, migraines, premature ejaculation, premenstrual syndrome, and more. In fact, studies have shown that an optimal level of magnesium is required for normal sleep regulation.
You may have heard that melatonin levels increase around two hours before you go to bed to help you sleep. Low levels of magnesium are tied to decreased levels of melatonin, which is one reason increasing your magnesium intake can help you sleep.
One study showed that magnesium could benefit people with physical and mental stress by impacting the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you stay calm and relaxed. Another study showed that giving a magnesium supplement to older people with insomnia improved their sleep.
In short: Yes, magnesium may help you sleep better.
Magnesium for sleep and anxiety
In addition to helping you sleep, magnesium may help improve anxiety. Since excessive anxiety can make it difficult to sleep, anything that reduces anxiety should help you sleep better. There are several ways magnesium can relieve anxiety and stress, including:
- Magnesium binds to and stimulates GABA receptors in the brain, which helps you relax since low levels of GABA are associated with numerous stress-related disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and irritable bowel syndrome.
- It slows the release of stress hormones and acts as a filter to prevent them from entering the brain. Extra stress hormones contribute to anxiety, depression, memory loss, brain fog, and mental disorders of all kinds, so limiting the effects of these stress hormones may reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
- Magnesium has anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation can occur anywhere in the body, including the brain, which can lead to problems like anxiety and depression.
- Brain plasticity improves with magnesium supplementation, which may lead to better results in cognitive behavioral therapy for treating anxiety.
- Anxiety and depression commonly occur together. Magnesium has been shown to be as effective against depression as antidepressants. Reduced depression may lead to reduced anxiety and better sleep.
Zinc and magnesium for sleep
On the one hand, one study showed that a combination of melatonin, magnesium, and zinc helped residents of a long-term care facility sleep better.
On the other hand, too much zinc or magnesium can cause unpleasant side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, and cramping. Zinc and magnesium can also make it more difficult for your body to absorb certain medications, like antibiotics.
High doses of zinc may also reduce the amount of magnesium the body can absorb, so it may be better to take magnesium without zinc.
Magnesium is involved in over 600 reactions in your body, including:
- Converting food into energy
- Maintaining the fluid balance in your body
- Activating ATP, the energy molecule that fuels your body’s cells
- Creating proteins from amino acids
- Helping muscles and nerves function properly and maintaining heart rhythm
- Repairing and creating DNA and RNA
- Controlling stress hormones
- Regulating blood pressure, cholesterol production, and blood glucose levels
- Helping contract and relax muscles
- Helping to regulate neurotransmitters, which send messages through your brain and nervous system
- Helping prevent bone loss
Beyond helping you get better sleep, magnesium has a wide variety of benefits. Magnesium benefits include:
- Better performance during exercise since strenuous exercise seems to increase urinary and sweat losses that may increase magnesium requirements by 10-20%.
- Recovery from major depression has been linked to increased magnesium intake.
- Reduced frequency of leg cramps.
- Preventing diabetes. The more magnesium a person consumes, the less likely they are to develop diabetes. In fact, oral magnesium supplementation can improve insulin sensitivity and metabolic control in adults with type 2 diabetes.
- Lowering blood pressure in adults with hypertension.
- Providing pain relief for certain conditions such as headaches, chronic lower back pain, and fibromyalgia.
- Decreased inflammation.
- Improving symptoms of ADHD.
- Relief from constipation.
- Magnesium can relieve migraines even better than popular migraine medications.
- It can reduce mood-related symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS).
Conditions associated with magnesium deficiency
Some health conditions are associated with a higher risk for magnesium deficiency, and those who have these conditions may benefit more than others from magnesium supplementation. These conditions include:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Stomach infections
- Immune conditions
While magnesium supplementation has a wide variety of health benefits, including better sleep, it isn’t appropriate for every person or situation. Anybody with a medical condition should talk to their doctor before starting a magnesium supplement because it may not be safe for people who take certain diuretics, heart medications, or antibiotics. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also speak to a doctor before starting a magnesium supplement.
Magnesium side effects
Taking magnesium, especially in high doses, may have unpleasant side effects, including:
- Facial flushing
- Upset stomach
- Low blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Mental confusion
- Changes to breathing
Magnesium drug interactions
Magnesium may interact negatively with these medications, so speak to your doctor before starting magnesium if you take any of the following:
- Diabetes medications
- Blood pressure medications
- Muscle relaxants
- Water pills
Magnesium supplement interactions
Some supplements impact how effective magnesium is, including:
- Boron, which may slow the processing of magnesium and result in elevated blood magnesium levels.
- Calcium, which in high doses will reduce the amount of magnesium absorbed by the body. Talk to a doctor about how to take both calcium and magnesium.
- Vitamin D may increase how much magnesium is absorbed by the body.
- Herbs and supplements that reduce blood clotting, like angelica, clone, danshen, garlic, ginger, glucosamine, and Panax
Sources of magnesium
Magnesium supplements are available in citrate, glycinate, orotate, and carbonate forms. In addition, magnesium is found in a variety of foods, including:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Plain low-fat yogurt
- Boiled spinach
- Boiled swiss chard
- Peanut butter
- Dark chocolate (70–85% cocoa)
- Whole wheat bread
- Black beans
- Cooked quinoa
- Shredded wheat cereal
- Dairy products
- Soy milk
- Sunflower seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Brown rice
Magnesium dosage for sleep
One study showed that the recommended magnesium dosage for sleep for adults is 310-420 mg depending on age and gender. However, the maximum upper-level dosage for magnesium is listed at 350 mg. The risk of side effects increases with doses higher than 350 mg. Other sources recommend taking 100-350 mg of magnesium per day. In any case, you should take the lowest dosage that improves your symptoms.
A final word about magnesium and sleep
There is plenty of evidence to show that magnesium may help you sleep better. It may also help with anxiety, and reduced anxiety can lead to better sleep. Speak to a doctor first if you have any health conditions or take any medications, and be careful with dosing since higher doses can increase the risk of side effects.
If insomnia persists, you should speak to your doctor or a sleep specialist, as you may have a health condition (like sleep apnea) or sleep problem (like narcolepsy) causing your sleep disturbances. Insomnia can be frustrating, but there is hope on the horizon for you to start getting better sleep.