Do you spend night after night desperate for sleep that never comes? Or do you find yourself waking up repeatedly or starting your mornings feeling groggy and exhausted?
Insomnia and sleep problems affect about 60 million adults in the United States. A sleep disorder doesn't just impact your night; it can also reduce your quality of life and even your health.
For many people, prescription medications and lifestyle changes do very little to help the problem and may even make it worse. If you're searching for a natural yet highly effective way to finally get the rest you need, magnesium may be the answer.
This mineral plays an important role in helping your mind and body relax into sleep and there's a good chance you aren't getting enough of it in your diet. Here's what you need to know about magnesium and sleep.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is a crucial mineral that plays a role in more than 300 biochemical functions, including regulating your heartbeat and maintaining bone density.
It's one of the most abundant elements on the world and the 11th most abundant element in your body. Despite its importance, magnesium is one of the most overlooked minerals that simply doesn't get the same attention as potassium and calcium.
Magnesium deficiency is a surprisingly common condition in the developed world due to soil depletion, digestive disorders, high antibiotic and prescription use, and a lack of education about this important mineral.
The Health Benefits of Magnesium
Over 300 enzymes in your body require magnesium to function. While magnesium deficiency may not be immediately apparent, symptoms can include liver and kidney damage, hypertension, recurrent bacterial infections, osteoporosis, insomnia, mood swings, nutrient deficiencies, impotence, and muscle weakness.
Check out the video below for other common symptoms of magnesium deficiency.
Research has found numerous health benefits of magnesium:
- Osteoporosis. Magnesium is crucial for healthy bones. According to a study published in Nutrients, people who have high intake of magnesium have higher bone density. This reduces the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
- Migraines. Migraine headaches can sometimes be the result of low magnesium. The American Headache Society recommends magnesium oxide supplements to prevent migraines.
- Heart and cardiovascular health. Magnesium works to reduce blood pressure, which reduces the risk for stroke and heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.
- Type 2 diabetes. People who have a diet high in magnesium usually have a lower risk of developing diabetes. This is because magnesium helps break down sugar to reduce the risk of insulin resistance, according to research published in the World Journal of Diabetes.
- Insomnia. Magnesium is important for the function of GABA receptors, according to Nutritional Therapist Marek Doyle. GABA is a neurotransmissor that the brain needs to calm down and turn off.
Not enough for you? Here are 10 very good reasons to take magnesium.
Poor Sleep is a Common Symptom of Magnesium Deficiency
There's no doubt that magnesium is important for our overall health, but magnesium deficiency is shockingly common in developed areas like the United States, according to Everyday Health. Some groups of people are more at risk than others of having magnesium deficiency, including older adults, people who abuse alcohol, diabetics, and people with digestive problems.
Magnesium deficiency can affect many areas of your health and lead to depression, stress, anxiety, personality changes, and fatigue—all of which can also impact your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
A study published in Behavioral Genetics found that there are ideal levels of magnesium necessary for healthy sleep and having levels that are too high or too low can lead to disturbed sleep.
Chronic insomnia is one of the main symptoms of magnesium deficiency with sleep that is often interrupted by nighttime awakenings. Magnesium and calcium work together in the body, and both have been linked with sleep quality.
How Magnesium Helps Insomnia
If you suffer from insomnia and poor sleep quality, you have probably tried many things to solve the problem.
Unfortunately, lifestyle changes like reducing caffeine intake, removing the TV from the bedroom, and changing your sleep routine often fall short. Prescription drugs, on the other hand, come with serious side effects and don't remain effective for long—if they ever work for you.
This graph shows the withdrawal rebound after weeks of taking "fast-acting" sleeping drugs. The rebound effects after prolonged use include difficulty falling asleep, fewer hours of sleep and more nightmares.
According to a German study, magnesium helps you sleep on a chemical level by activating your body's parasympathetic nervous system, which works to make you relaxed. Magnesium helps regulate neurotransmitters that send signals between your brain and nervous system. It also helps regulate melatonin, a hormone made by the pineal gland that controls your wake and sleep cycles.
The third way in which magnesium helps regulate sleep is by binding with GABA receptors to calm down nerve activity in the brain. The GABA neurotransmitter is also used by popular prescription drugs for sleep like Ambien. This helps prepare your brain and body for sleep.
Numerous studies have found that magnesium not only helps you fall asleep, but achieve deeper and more restful sleep.
In a study published in Neuropsychobiology, researchers found that creating magnesium deficiency in rats created lighter and more restless sleep patterns.
In a human study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, older adults who were given 500mg of magnesium reported better sleep quality than seniors who took a placebo.
The group receiving magnesium also had higher levels of melatonin and renin, two important hormones that help regulate sleep.
How Much Magnesium Should You Take for Sleep?
The recommended dosage of magnesium depends on your age and gender. Men typically need at least 400mg of magnesium daily while women require at least 300mg.
Because most studies haven't directly tested the effects of using magnesium supplements for sleep, it can be tricky to recommend a specific amount for insomnia.
Still, many clinical trials have used amounts ranging between 250mg and 500mg. The upper limit that is considered safe is 350mg per day, so I recommend starting with a lower dose at first.
Where to Get Magnesium
Because magnesium deficiency is so common, it's important to get as much of this vital mineral as possible through your diet and whole foods.
The following foods are high in magnesium:
- Spinach: 1 cup has 157 mg of magnesium
- Chard: 1 cup has 154 mg of magnesium
- Dark chocolate: 1 square has 95 mg of magnesium
- Brown rice: 1 cup has 86 mg of magnesium
- Yogurt and kefir: 1 cup has 50 mg of magnesium
- Almonds: 1 ounce has 80 mg of magnesium
- Black beans: 1/2 cup has 60 mg of magnesium
- Avocado: 1 medium avocado has 58 mg of magnesium
- Figs: 1/2 cup has 50 mg of magnesium
- Banana: 1 medium banana has 32 mg of magnesium
- Salmon: 3 ounces has 23 mg of magnesium
- Pumpkin seeds: 1 ounce has 28 mg of magnesium. Other seeds and nuts high in magnesium include brazil nuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds, almonds, and cashews.
While it's a good idea to boost your magnesium intake in healthy whole foods, supplements offer a better solution for treating insomnia because they are more potent and typically contain other minerals like calcium that help the body absorb and use the magnesium.
The Best Magnesium Supplements for Sleep
Magnesium supplements work really well for treating insomnia because you can usually see results quickly. Some magnesium supplements contain only magnesium, but others also contain calcium and other minerals that help you absorb and use the magnesium. Here are my favorite supplements for insomnia.
Magnesium dosage: 25 mg per spray
Ease Magnesium by Activation is a unique and easy to use supplement, especially if you hate taking pills. Ease Magnesium is a topical supplement that you spray onto your skin. Every spray delivers 25 mg of magnesium that's absorbed by your skin and enters your bloodstream within 90 seconds.
Ease Magnesium is easy to keep by your bedside and use shortly before bed to help establish a healthy sleep routine.
Triple Calm Magnesium
Magnesium dosage: 150 mg per serving (2 capsules)
Triple Calm Magnesium is a supplement that blends three forms of magnesium for better absorption. This supplement is designed for relaxation and anxiety, but it also works very well for sleep with magnesium taurate, magnesium malate, and magnesium glycinate.
Each capsule contains 25 mg of each type of elemental magnesium and the recommended dosage is two capsules.
Nested Naturals Magnesium
Magnesium dosage: 150 mg per serving (2 capsules)
Nested Naturals Magnesium is a quality magnesium supplement made with chelated, non-buffered magnesium, the most bioavailable form of the mineral.
These capsules are also vegan-friendly. Nested Naturals Magnesium capsules contain 150 mg of magnesium each.
KAL Magnesium Glycinate
Magnesium dosage: 400 mg per serving (2 tablets)
KAL Magnesium Glycinate 400 makes it easier to hit the recommended 400 mg of magnesium every day with just two tablets.
Magnesium Glycinate is the most absorbable form of magnesium and this brand comes in tablets, not capsules. Surprisingly, the tablets aren't large and they're vegetarian-friendly.
Maven Labs Unwind
Magnesium dosage: 250 mg per serving (2 capsules)
Unwind from Maven Labs was designed specifically to help you relax and sleep by supporting neurotransmitters associated with inducing sleep and calm while reducing anxiety and stress.
This magnesium supplement contains much more than just magnesium glycinate; it also contains melatonin, passion flower herb powder, hops flower powder, 5-HTP, L-Taurine, pyridoxine, valerian root powder, chamomile powder, lemon balm herb powder, and L-Theanine, all ingredients that have been shown to induce sleep and calm. 2 Unwind capsules deliver 250 mg of magnesium.