Struggling to sleep and looking for a solution? Magnesium is commonly used as a sleep aid. But if you’re considering using magnesium to help you sleep, you should first understand exactly how it works.
Maybe you’ve already tried sticking to a regular sleep routine, managing your caffeine intake, investing in a high-quality mattress, and turning off your electronics two hours before bed. Using supplements like magnesium can be another strategy, with the right safety measures, to promote better sleep. But I warn my clients not to rush to supplements before addressing the real cause of sleep problems.
What Is Magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral that takes part in over 600 cellular reactions throughout your body. The body needs magnesium to maintain optimal DNA synthesis, smooth sleep cycles, enzyme and hormone balance, healthy bones, and brain, heart, muscle, and nerve function. Magnesium also helps control inflammation through its effects in reducing stress. A growing body of research suggests that magnesium may also treat high blood pressure.
How Does Magnesium Help You Sleep?
Magnesium Can Relax Your Body and Brain
In order to sleep, your brain must be calm, and your body must be relaxed. Magnesium activates the part of your brain responsible for calm and relaxation, also known as the parasympathetic nervous system. For example, after I ran a marathon, my muscles were sore and painful for a few days. Magnesium relaxed my muscles and I was ready for a restful sleep. But for such a positive experience, you must choose the right magnesium.
How Magnesium May Prepare Your Body and Brain to Sleep
Magnesium regulates melatonin production, which kickstarts your sleep cycle. Magnesium also binds to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA works to restore calm while allowing your nervous system to get out of fight-or-flight mode. By calming your mind, magnesium may promote a good night’s sleep. However, it might not override other underlying cause of nervous stimulation, such as a bacterial imbalance in the gut.
Magnesium May Help Reduce Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression can cause sleep problems. Most recent studies pointing to magnesium’s ability to reduce anxiety and depression are non-randomized. This means that participants knew what variables they were being evaluated for, which can lead to biased results. However, given magnesium’s impact on calming neurotransmitters, if your sleep problems relate to mood disorders, it might be worth asking your healthcare professional if magnesium supplements are a good option for you.
Most of Us Might Be Magnesium-Deficient
Magnesium is required for the production and regulation of stress hormones. Therefore, any stressful situation depletes your magnesium storage. Simple daily tasks, like going through a hectic commute to work, bring your levels down. Chronic stress can make your magnesium storage dangerously low, while negatively affecting the other hundreds of cellular processes that require magnesium.
Low Magnesium in Soil
Normally the best source of magnesium would be food, but due to climate change and modern farming methods that use fertilizers that lower magnesium in the soil, foods are lower in magnesium than ever before. Good sources of magnesium include spinach, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, almonds, black beans, bananas, sunflower seeds, shrimp, and almonds, and those grown in organic soils usually have higher levels.
According to the National Institute of Health, medical conditions such as intestinal malabsorption, insulin resistance and diabetes, alcohol dependence, calcium imbalances, and chronic stress can all negatively affect your magnesium levels. This is why you’ll want to talk to a professional to determine whether magnesium imbalances is a root cause of your sleep problems.
How to Know If You Get Enough Magnesium
Studies in the Journal of Magnesium Research have shown that the body needs magnesium for normal sleep. High or low ranges can cause severe sleep problems. Signs of low magnesium such as headache, anxiety, irritability, dizziness, poor digestion, nervousness, and broken sleep resemble other health issues. Only a licensed healthcare professional can diagnose magnesium imbalances. If you think you might be deficient in magnesium, you should see a doctor.
Should I Take Magnesium Supplements for Sleep?
Due to the risk of overdose, I don’t recommend magnesium supplements if you are not low in magnesium. Magnesium supplements can interact with many medications, such as antibiotics. While soaking in Epsom salt baths once in a while might not harm you, higher than normal doses of magnesium can cause diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramping. So, it’s best to seek professional assistance before taking magnesium supplements.
My Experience Using Magnesium to Promote Sleep
I tried magnesium spray to help relax my muscles before going to bed. I started by applying it to my shoulders, where it caused itchiness.
Epsom salts are my favorite way to relax tense muscles, especially after running, to promote sleep. I always used magnesium along with proper sleep hygiene and I paid attention to other things that affect my sleep. With patience, and the right support, you will find out if magnesium supplements are right for you, and the best type to use.
Other Ways to Improve Your Sleep Naturally
- Get some sunshine every day
- Create a regular sleep schedule
- Create a regular winding-down routine
- Avoid long-term use of sleeping pills
- Avoid caffeine eight hours before your bedtime
- Turn off electronics two hours before bed
- Optimize your bedroom environment
- Avoid heavy or spicy meals within four hours of going to bed
- Exercise and move daily, but keep it light before bed
- Get to the root cause of your sleep problems
Your inability to sleep is not the problem — it is only a symptom. If these lifestyle interventions haven’t worked, it’s possible that there is an underlying cause for your broken sleep. Check with a sleep professional to try to determine why you’re having trouble sleeping.