Medically Reviewed

Does Magnesium Really Help You Sleep? A Scientific Answer

Can magnesium help you to get a better night’s sleep? Understanding how magnesium supports sleep and when to take it helps to provide the best benefits.

Does magnesium really help you sleep better?

Sleep is an essential, restorative, pleasurable part of any healthy lifestyle. But sleep issues can make this time of rest and repair an exhausting and many times frustrating part of the day. Did you know a magnesium deficiency, which can be quite common, can have a negative impact on sleep? This essential mineral promises to help those who have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. But it’s important to understand how to best take magnesium and the way in which it can help with supporting sleep.

What is magnesium?

At its most basic, magnesium is an earth metal, an element that is essential for cellular life. Things like stress, caffeine, alcohol, and even some medications can cause magnesium levels in the body to deplete.

Magnesium helps with many systems in the body, regulating muscle and nerve function, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels (already in normal range), and maintaining healthy blood pressure (already in normal range). In fact, magnesium is necessary for over 300 biochemical reactions. That includes helping to keep bones strong and healthy, the immune system functioning properly, and maintaining cardiovascular health.

A magnesium deficiency can affect many parts of the body, including fatigue, weakness, and muscle cramps, and can lead to irritability, lack of concentration, and even an abnormal heart rhythm; however these symptoms are not exclusive to magnesium deficiencies only. As a result, always talk to your doctor about any health concerns. Some health conditions and certain medications can make you more prone to deficiency. Older people are also more likely to have low magnesium levels. To make sure you get enough magnesium each day, aim to consume the recommended dietary allowance, which is 320 mg for women and 420 mg for men.

How does magnesium work in the body to improve sleep quality?

Magnesium is widely associated with healthy muscular responses throughout the body. In fact, muscle comfort plays direct and indirect roles in sleep quality. That said, a systematic review of 9 trials that included 7,582 subjects found mixed results. On the one hand, many observational studies and systematic reviews have discovered associations between low magnesium levels and reduced sleep quality, daytime sleepiness, snoring, and shortened sleep duration. Conversely, randomized controlled trials haven’t produced the same level of certainty or results. Studies that extend beyond 12 weeks, with larger sample sizes, are needed to clarify how magnesium supplementation may directly affect sleep quality and related parameters.

Overall, the relationship between magnesium and sleep quality is most closely linked when your magnesium levels are inadequate. Supporting optimal intake is necessary since it’s essential for over 300 enzyme reactions, balanced well-being, and optimal health. Thus sleep quality can be viewed as a reflection of other aspects of health including magnesium levels.

Role of magnesium in calming the nervous system

Level I evidence associates magnesium with various nervous system responses, including cell signaling, energy processes, metabolism, and muscular health. But its role doesn't stop there. It can also serve as adjunct support for mental well-being alongside other therapies. Magnesium may support mental health and ease temporary tension in adults, particularly during challenging health situations. The calming effects of magnesium may also positively affect sleep quality.

How to use magnesium as a sleep aid

While magnesium is essential for many of the body’s functions, it often draws attention because of its potential to help boost sleep. Magnesium plays a role in the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the relaxation and calming of the brain and the body overall. Magnesium can help by sending the right signals to the nervous system and the brain, telling them it’s time to relax. This helps relax the muscles, the body, and settle the brain to get it ready for sleep by promoting certain neurotransmitters. At the same time, magnesium also impacts melatonin production, a hormone in the brain that regulates the sleep cycle.

So, magnesium can help relax muscles so you can be more relaxed when it’s time to go to sleep and allow you to sleep better. For someone who is deficient in magnesium, supplementing can help support healthy sleep. Research shows that magnesium supplements may also help manage mental and physical stress.

As we age, our sleep cycles change, and it can become harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Cortisol levels (sometimes called the stress hormone) can also be higher in older people. One study showed an increase in slow-wave sleep in elderly study participants who took a magnesium supplement.

What's the right dose of magnesium for sleep?

Between 200-500 mg of magnesium intake is optimal to help with sleep health. Care/of’s Magnesium contains 200 mg of magnesium per capsule. It’s a highly soluble form and designed for maximum absorption. It’s also vegetarian, vegan, and made with non-genetically modified ingredients.

How long before going to sleep should I take magnesium?

Since it can take up to 30 minutes for magnesium’s effects to be felt, it’s best to take it at the start of your bedtime routine. This may help with unwinding and calming the mind before bed.

What is the best form of magnesium to sleep?

There are different types of magnesium supplements, so it’s important to know the right one to take for maximizing the benefits of sleep. Magnesium citrate and magnesium hydroxide are best to use for bowel support. Magnesium glycinate, however, is the type of magnesium associated with calming the body and boosting sleep. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any chronic sleep concerns and persistent symptoms.

Who can benefit most from magnesium supplementation for sleep?

A staggering 48% of Americans consume less than the recommended amount of magnesium per day, indicating a widespread need for increased intake! Certain groups may be at higher risk for a deficiency, including those with digestive disorders, frequent alcohol users, older adults, and individuals with metabolic disruptions.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that magnesium supplements supported sleep onset, time asleep, early morning waking, and other subjective and objective measures like renin, melatonin, and cortisol levels in older adults. However, systematic reviews and meta-analyses concluded that the current literature is not strong enough to make conclusive determinations regarding magnesium supplements and sleep support for older adults.

Despite this, the fact that magnesium is cheap, widely available, and exhibits low toxicity when used appropriately means that it may still be used for sleep quality support. Interestingly, magnesium intake may also have long-term benefits for daytime energy, particularly in adults born female.

The Role of magnesium in mental health and sleep

It’s no doubt that after a good night's sleep, you feel more refreshed and ready to take on the day. This is because sleep quality plays a major role in outlook, mood, and perception of well-being. Studies have found a small association between magnesium levels and sleep quality, with higher intakes associated with better sleep and lower intakes associated with shorter sleep.

Yet magnesium’s impact may be more pronounced in combating daytime sleepiness rather than improving sleep quality at night for those with clinically low levels of magnesium according to findings from this study. Better daytime energy may be associated with improved mental health and feeling alert to participate in the day.

Incorporating magnesium-rich foods into your diet

There is an abundance of delicious and nutritious magnesium-rich foods! Incorporating more of them into your diet can be a simple way to increase your magnesium intake.

Here's a list of foods that contain the highest concentrations of magnesium per serving:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Almonds
  • Spinach
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts, peanut butter
  • Cereal
  • Soymilk
  • Black beans
  • Edamame
  • Baked potatoes

For those who may not be able to eat enough magnesium-rich foods, dietary supplements can serve as a helpful alternative or help bridge any gaps in the diet.

Does magnesium have any risks?

Magnesium is a safe supplement with relatively few side effects. When the recommended daily dose is taken, there are only very rare potential side effects that can include changes in bowel movements, cramping, and nausea. Excess magnesium can be easily eliminated by the kidneys in healthy adults. Research shows that taking excessive amounts of magnesium, however, does not lead to better sleep results. But, just like all supplements, it’s important to consult your doctor before taking them.

Magnesium vs. Melatonin for sleep

To start, magnesium and melatonin are quite different. Magnesium is a nutrient essential to the body for many functions. Melatonin, on the other hand, is a hormone produced by the brain. Melatonin helps regulate the sleep cycle and is responsible for the body’s circadian rhythm. This is the only hormone that is synthesized in the pineal gland and is released when the body recognizes darkness in its environment. Magnesium helps relax muscles and calm the brain, which can help you to sleep better. But, unlike melatonin, it won’t actually make you drowsy or feel sleepy.

Can I take magnesium and melatonin together?

Magnesium won’t give you the drowsy feeling that a melatonin supplement does. For this reason, many people wonder, “Can I take melatonin with a magnesium supplement to get to sleep faster?” Thankfully, it’s perfectly safe to take the recommended dosage of magnesium and melatonin together. Combined, they can help support a longer, more restful sleep.

The bottom line

Magnesium is a common deficiency. Processed diets that lack whole, fresh foods may be low in magnesium. Magnesium-rich foods include green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Mineral and tap water can also contain magnesium.

Beyond magnesium, herbal extracts can be used for sleep support. Varieties such as valerian, ashwagandha, passionflower, hops, and lavender may be beneficial for restful sleep. Care/of also has a Sleep Blend supplement with melatonin, ashwagandha, valerian, and passionflower that helps you fall asleep naturally and relaxes the mind for better sleep.

The optimum dose of between 200-400 mg of magnesium, taken around 30 minutes before bedtime can help the body and mind wind down, relaxing muscles and creating a more peaceful state for sleep.

It is safe to combine magnesium with melatonin for added sleep-enhancing benefits.

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