Magnesium and Sleep
By McKenzie Hyde Certified Sleep Coach
Last Updated on May 17th, 2021
Your body is already equipped with all the tools you need for a good night’s rest. Sometimes, however, your sleep cycle needs a little fine-tuning. When it comes to getting more quality sleep, there are a lot of remedies to choose from.
One healthy, natural solution to getting better sleep is to incorporate the recommended dose of magnesium, a mineral found in the body and in many foods, into your diet. Magnesium, along with its myriad of other health benefits, can help you fall asleep deeper and quicker, leaving you more rejuvenated for the day ahead.
While a great deal of research has been done on the subject, there is a spectrum of controversial, yet scientific opinions about the link between sleep and magnesium. An overwhelming majority of the current research reports a positive correlation between the two.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is one of the 24 essential vitamins and minerals humans need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Few dietary minerals are more influential to your body’s physical and mental health. We’ll explore some of the additional benefits below.
While our bodies need large quantities of this essential mineral, we do not produce magnesium independently, and therefore must rely on diet or supplements to get the recommended dose. The National Institute of Health recommends 310-320 mg a day for women ages 19 and older; men in the same age bracket should take 400-420 mg a day.
On average, a healthy adult will have about 25 mg of magnesium in their system, well below the recommended levels. About half of your magnesium is found in your bones. The other 40-50 percent is in your soft tissue.
Sixty-eight percent of American adults do not consume enough magnesium in their diet or through supplemental means. In addition to poor sleep, other negative side effects linked to a magnesium deficiency include hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.
How Does Magnesium Improve Sleep?
Many people with a magnesium deficiency suffer from insomnia. Women especially are prone to low levels of magnesium. Several studies have shown that increasing your magnesium intake improves your sleep performance.
Magnesium effectively reduced insomnia among elderly adults, according to an Iranian study in 2012. The study reported that nearly 50 percent of older adults suffer from insomnia.
When study participants added magnesium supplements to their diets, they experienced longer sleep times, fewer early morning wakings, and better sleep efficiency (the amount of time spent in bed compared to the amount of time asleep).
GABA Levels and Magnesium
Some people suffer from insomnia because they can’t seem to turn their brain off at night. Magnesium helps to slow down your thinking by regulating a neurotransmitter called GABA.
GABA (short for Gamma-Aminobutyric acid) is an important amino acid that plays a key role in your overall sleep health. One of the primary functions of GABA is, essentially, to help your brain power down for the night. This neurotransmitter slows down the communication between your brain and your central nervous system, helping you relax, de-stress, and ultimately, fall asleep.
Magnesium helps your body maintain healthy levels of GABA, allowing for more restorative sleep. Additionally, GABA can help calm both body and mind while you prepare for sleep. This calming ritual is a natural boost to your circadian rhythms.
Think of your circadian rhythm as your internal clock; it cues your brain to feel sleepy when the sun goes down and more awake when the sun rises. A healthy circadian rhythm is a natural routine that allows for deeper, quality sleep.
Supplemental Magnesium Regulates Stress and Anxiety
German scientists recently tested the link between magnesium and stress when it comes to sleep. Their results found that increasing the participant’s daily magnesium intake helped participants regulate both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
Regulating these two systems is critical for healthy sleep. The parasympathetic nervous system, often called the “rest and digest” system, allows your body to prepare for sleep by slowing down your heart rate and relaxing other systems in your body. The sympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, is also known as your “fight-or-flight” response system, leaving you in a heightened state of arousal.
When these two systems reach equilibrium through the use of magnesium supplements,participants in the German study saw a decrease in sleep disorders, irritability, poor concentration, and depression.
Digestion and Gut Health
Magnesium is important to gut health, a relatively new branch of research. One of the jobs of magnesium is to relax muscles in the stomach and intestines, neutralize stomach acids, and promote a healthy digestive tract.
For this reason, high doses of magnesium are often used to relieve constipation and soothe heartburn. A diet of magnesium-rich foods helps to offset these uncomfortable conditions that have direct ties to the gut.
While research examining the link between magnesium and gut health is in its primitive stages, a2018 study using male rats found that a diet high in magnesium led to a healthy gut among its test subjects.
Additional research out of Denmark found that adults deficient in magnesium may be more prone to symptoms of depression and anxiety because of animbalance of healthy microbiota in the gut.
Depression and Mood
Depression and other mood disorders can impair sleep, causing restlessness and insomnia. These disorders are incredibly widespread. According to the World Health Organization, more than263 million people of all ages across the globe suffer from depression.
Magnesium has been shown to be an effective natural treatment. A study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found a link between magnesium supplementation and fewer symptoms of depression. This link was even higher in younger adults.
Though prior research had been inconclusive, this 2015 study found that magnesium impacts several neurotransmitters that affect depression. Overall, when participants took higher doses of magnesium, their depressive symptoms improved. Magnesium was also found to improve additional mood disorders such as postpartum depression and chronic fatigue.
Magnesium works in tandem with other essential vitamins and minerals like calcium and potassium. Because of this, magnesium plays a key role in how well your muscles— including your heart-function.
Additionally, magnesium helps your muscles to contract and as a result, produce energy and protein. This is because magnesium works with more than 300 enzymes in your body to allow it to function properly.