If you can’t sleep, you’ve probably googled tips on how to sleep more or get to sleep sooner.
From warm milk to melatonin and less well known ideas like banana tea, there are plenty of sleep hacks, some more effective than others. But what if I told you that a way to sleep better was a natural sleep supplement that you probably have in your medicine cabinet?
Not only does magnesium help you sleep better, but it’s non habit forming, readily available, and has other benefits, too. But one problem with trying out a natural sleep remedy, is that you can’t take full advantage of its sleep-inducing effects unless you understand how to use magnesium and which magnesium supplement is best for better sleep.
So whether you’re reading this early in the morning or lying awake tossing and turning, I’ll tell you why I’m such a big advocate for using magnesium to supplement a healthy sleep routine and how to do it the right way.
Why Is Magnesium Important?
Before we discuss whether or not you should take magnesium to help you sleep, I’d like to explain why magnesium is so essential to have in your diet.
Magnesium is an essential mineral, with documented health benefits. In fact, magnesium is important for as many as 300 different enzyme reactions in our body. Research shows that magnesium is involved in the following:
If you’re feeling sluggish, regardless of sleep, a magnesium deficiency could be to blame. Magnesium is directly involved in helping convert proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in conjunction with ATP.
Magnesium is also involved in the activation of important enzymes. Just one of these functions is regulating glucose (blood sugar) levels.
Calcium is most often the first mineral we think of for protecting bone health, but magnesium is important for both bone density and to prevent osteoporosis. A 2013 study published in Nutrients found that magnesium is linked to bone crystal formation, which reduces risks for osteoporosis. Magnesium deficiency is also linked to increased inflammation which affects bone remodeling.
Having healthy levels of magnesium in the body also helps regulate Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is important for absorbing calcium and building strong bones. This is especially important for menopausal or post-menopausal women who are more prone to osteoporosis as their bone density naturally declines during these hormonal periods.
Magnesium also plays a role in our cardiovascular health, by regulating potassium, supporting heart pump functioning, and reducing platelet build up (which is connected to a higher risk of strokes and blood clots).
Finally, magnesium is important for your body in many ways you may not realize, including transporting electrolytes; supporting intercellular functioning, and making use of other essential minerals. There are few ways the body doesn’t benefit from this important mineral.
Can Magnesium Really Help Me Sleep?
Now the big question: what’s behind the claims that magnesium can help you sleep?
As a big advocate of natural sleep remedies that are non habit forming–the very reason I created my Sleep Doctor PM Spray for those struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep–I want to caution against quick fixes.
Sleep is complex, so there is no ‘magic bullet’–but the good news is that getting enough magnesium in your diet really can help you sleep better.
Magnesium, in addition to the specific functions I’ve already touched on, is also known to calm the central nervous system and relax our muscles. By relaxing both body and mind, magnesium can promote sleep especially if you’re feeling anxious or experiencing tension in your body.
Magnesium also helps regulate melatonin, your body’s “sleep hormone”, which guides your sleep-wake cycle.
In short, magnesium can help you sleep, but as I cover below it must be taken in the right amounts and in conjunction with adopting healthy sleep habits and a balanced diet.
Will Magnesium Help My Sleep Disorder?
There’s another reason magnesium may help you sleep better: it can play an important role in treating some sleep disorders.
Magnesium and Restless Leg Syndrome
If you’ve had restless leg syndrome, you know just how disruptive and uncomfortable it can be.
Restless leg syndrome typically happens at night or late evening and is the sensation of constantly needing to move your legs. It can also happen after being sedentary for an extended time, like a long car or plane ride. Many people experience something like twitching.
More research is needed, but having adequate magnesium levels in the body has been shown to improve symptoms or help combat restless leg syndrome because of its muscle relaxing properties. If your diet isn’t providing you with enough magnesium to meet your body’s needs, magnesium salts for a foot soak or a magnesium supplement may help increase your body’s levels.
Magnesium and Insomnia
Insomnia has many causes. Some causes of insomnia include poor sleep hygiene or body temperature. These insomnia causes are easier to address. For example, you can make changes to improve your sleep environment, or wear moisture wicking pajamas to reduce uncomfortable sweat and keep your body cool, like Cool Jams Performance Sleepwear.
Other causes of insomnia are more difficult to address. One cause I see far too many ignore is their mental health. Depression, anxiety and everyday stress not only can cause us to spiral into negative, racing thoughts, but they can have a profound impact on our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Many people who struggle with insomnia don’t realize a deficiency in magnesium plays a role in their mental health. Magnesium helps regulate GABA, a neurotransmitter that relaxes our brain; it also helps regulate the stress hormone cortisol. And studies have shown a link between magnesium supplementation and improvements for those suffering from generalized anxiety disorder.
In fact, one groundbreaking study found that supplementing 500mg a day was linked to reduced rates of both depression and anxiety symptoms for all ages and genders.
Should I Take A Magnesium Supplement?
So now that you have a better understanding of how magnesium works and its potential to help you sleep better or even combat a sleeping disorder, the question is: should you take a magnesium supplement?
The first rule of thumb is to always consult your doctor. The fact is there’s a shocking number of Americans with a magnesium deficiency. The World Health Organization estimates that one third of us don’t get our recommended amount.
Besides not sleeping well, here are some reasons you may want to consider taking a magnesium supplement:
You’re At Risk for a Magnesium Deficiency
Certain individuals are at a higher risk of being deficient in magnesium. According to the National Institutes of Health, this includes people with Type II Diabetes, alcohol dependence, and chronic gastrointestinal conditions, such as Crohn’s and Celiac’s. Older adults in general are at a greater risk for magnesium deficiency than the general population.
You Don’t Eat Magnesium Rich Food
Magnesium can be found naturally in foods like leafy greens, nuts, seeds and whole grains. But if you aren’t consistent with consuming adequate amounts of these foods, you are at risk for a deficiency and may be experiencing worse insomnia symptoms because of it. In fact, for many, unless you track your intake of these foods, it’s all too easy to fall short.
A Blood Test Tells You
The best reason to consider a magnesium supplement is that lab work shows you’re deficient. If you’ve been experiencing symptoms of magnesium deficiency, such as cramps, muscle spasms, fatigue, or trouble sleeping, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor to have a blood draw.
What’s the Best Magnesium Supplement to Take, and How Much?
If you’ve decided that you aren’t getting enough magnesium in your diet and want to have more energy and sleep better, the next step is to find a high quality magnesium supplement.
My go to is Jigsaw Health Magnesium. The family owned natural supplement company has had its supplements evaluated in placebo-controlled clinical trials, featured in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition (JACN). They also boast high customer satisfaction, with an average of 5 stars.
No matter what magnesium supplement you choose, though, dosage is important. While high dosages of magnesium are not typically dangerous, as healthy kidneys can eliminate excess, high intake has been associated with complaints like diarrhea and stomach pain.
The table below, provided through the National Institutes of Health, shows the upper recommended limits of magnesium by age. If you’re taking antibiotics, magnesium-based meds like Fosomax, diuretics or protein-pump inhibitors, you must talk with your doctor, as magnesium can interfere or have negative effects.
I’m Already Taking Magnesium for Sleep. What Else Can I Do?
If you’re already taking magnesium to help you sleep better and feel it isn’t helping as much as you’d like, consider the type of magnesium supplement you’re taking. Not all magnesium supplements are created equal. Some forms of magnesium are better absorbed by the body. It’s one reason I recommend Jigsaw’s MagSoothe. It provides a highly absorbable form of magnesium glycinate coupled with cofactors that further enhance absorption.
In addition to getting adequate levels of magnesium, either through supplementation or your diet, there are ways to boost the benefits of magnesium, like practicing proper sleep hygiene, reducing blue light exposure at night, and keeping a regular sleeping schedule.
If you’ve been struggling with sleep and sleep deprivation for a long time, it may also be a good idea to get an overall sleep check. My Sleep Course is designed to do just that. It can help provide you direction to address your sleep issues, starting with helping you identify your personal chronotype to troubleshooting things in your sleep environment or routine that may be a source of insomnia.
Magnesium may not be the magic pill for all sleep issues, but if you’re deficient, getting adequate levels of it may just help you get one step closer to getting sleep better tonight. In fact, I’m often surprised at how this one small thing can have such a big impact on getting quality sleep.