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Does magnesium help you sleep? Sleep solutions for peaceful nights

November 17, 2023
4 minutes
Lifestyle Health & Wellness
Sleep wellness strategies

Not getting enough sleep can take a major toll on your well-being, and it makes sense to look for techniques that can help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Many people who are interested in improving the quantity and quality of their sleep are interested in trying natural methods, rather than turning to pharmaceutical options. Thankfully, magnesium supplementation is an option for people who are interested in using natural methods to boost the quality of their sleep. Research on whether magnesium supplementation works to boost sleep quality is mixed, but many people find that adding magnesium-rich foods to their diets and taking magnesium tablets helps them rest easily.

Here, we'll take a look at the role that magnesium plays in helping you get great sleep, what the current research says on magnesium and sleep quality, whether you should consider supplementation, and a few things to watch out for if you decide to introduce magnesium supplements as a part of your sleeping routine.

Why does magnesium help you sleep?

The jury is out on whether magnesium supplementation contributes to improved sleep quality, but one thing is for sure: there's a connection between magnesium and sleep.

Scientists aren't exactly sure why magnesium seems to improve sleep quality for some people. Magnesium can help to aid with muscle relaxation, which may mean that the body releases tension after ingesting magnesium, making it easier to fall and stay asleep. It's also possible that magnesium works to lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels, while also increasing the brain's natural levels of melatonin, an important sleep chemical.

It's possible that magnesium may regulate the level of GABA (a neurotransmitter) in the body's central nervous system. GABA can help to calm the nervous system, and researchers believe that magnesium may help the body maintain the appropriate levels of GABA to act as a gentle sedative when it's time to sleep.

In addition to the potential sleep benefits, adding magnesium to your diet can also support your overall health. Magnesium may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure, reduce the frequency of migraine headaches, and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

The research on magnesium and sleep quality

Research shows that older adults may benefit greatly from magnesium supplementation when it comes to getting better sleep. Magnesium seems to be related to the reversal of age-related sleep changes that can make it harder for seniors to get the rest necessary to maintain their overall health.

Healthy magnesium can also help little ones get the rest that they need--it's possible that healthy magnesium levels contribute to healthy wake and sleep cycles for infants and babies.

Scientists still aren't completely sure of the role that magnesium plays when it comes to getting great sleep, but research is promising. A recent study showed that older adults dealing with insomnia were able to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer after supplementing with 500mg of magnesium per day for eight weeks.

Are magnesium-rich foods or supplements better for you?

If possible, it's generally best to get your vitamins and minerals from whole food sources. Eating a diet rich in magnesium can boost your health in many ways, as foods that contain high levels of magnesium typically also contain high levels of other nutrients.

If you aren't sure whether you're able to get all of the magnesium you need from food sources alone, it's a good idea to talk with your doctor about a blood test to measure your magnesium levels. Based on the results of your test, your doctor may recommend a supplement to help you get maximum magnesium benefits.

Foods rich in magnesium include:

  • Almonds
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Beef
  • Brown rice
  • Dark chocolate
  • Milk
  • Oatmeal
  • Peanut butter
  • Poultry
  • Salmon
  • Spinach

If you're enjoying magnesium-rich foods in an effort to improve your sleep, be sure that the foods you choose don't contain ingredients that have the opposite effect. For example, enjoying some dark chocolate before bed can be a fantastic treat, but if it's combined with foods that have high levels of sugar, you may find yourself jittery and trying to relax instead of easily drifting off to dreamland.

Recommended magnesium dosages

It's important to take the right dose of magnesium for your body. Taking too much magnesium can increase the likelihood that you'll experience negative side effects.

Guidelines for magnesium supplementation in the United States are as follows:

  • Adult and teenage males—270 to 400 milligrams (mg) per day.
  • Adult and teenage females—280 to 300 mg per day.
  • Pregnant females—320 mg per day.
  • Breast-feeding females—340 to 355 mg per day.
  • Children 7 to 10 years of age—170 mg per day.
  • Children 4 to 6 years of age—120 mg per day.
  • Children birth to 3 years of age—40 to 80 mg per day.

A word of caution

As with all supplements, it's important to approach magnesium supplementation carefully. There can be side effects that come with taking too much magnesium, including digestive issues like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. It's also possible to experience lethargy and muscle weakness, as well as cardiovascular and respiratory issues.

Taking magnesium with a meal can help to reduce the risk of side effects associated with the supplement. It's important to swallow magnesium tablets whole. If you're using a fiber magnesium supplement, be sure to mix it with the appropriate amount of water.

Before beginning magnesium supplementation, it's a good idea to talk with your doctor to learn whether adding magnesium to your diet is a good fit for you. This is especially important if you take any prescription medications, as these can interact with magnesium and cause additional unwanted side effects. Certain supplements--like diuretics (water pills)--can cause the body to hold onto magnesium, increasing the risks of health issues and side effects.

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