Can Magnesium Help You Sleep Better?

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Is Magnesium A Good Sleep Aid?

Magnesium is a vital mineral for your body and if you're not getting enough, it can cost you in many ways - including wreaking havoc on your sleep. It plays a central role in muscular and nerve function and a deficiency can easily manifest as insomnia. Consuming foods high in Mg can ward off problems like restless leg syndrome, thus improving sleep parameters.

About 50 to 70 million people in the United States have a chronic sleep disorder. In fact, about 7 to 19 percent of all American adults have reported not being able to get adequate sleep on a daily basis.1 And, unfortunately, along with sleep deprivation come more problems like the increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. This is besides making you less efficient and more prone to errors in the workplace and otherwise.2 Reason enough to want to take corrective action!

A host of lifestyle changes, including the right food and nutrients, is vital to get your sleeping act together. But could magnesium, in particular, be the missing ingredient in your perfect sleep routine?

How Magnesium Can Help

Magnesium is needed for an estimated 300 biochemical reactions in your body.3 But one of its critical roles, which incidentally relates directly to your sleep trouble, is maintaining normal muscle and nerve function.4 By maintaining this aspect of bodily function, you can ward off problems like muscular cramping and restless leg syndrome which interfere with sleep.

In turn, not getting enough magnesium can bring on sleep disorders, cause restless leg syndrome, which may keep you from having quality, uninterrupted sleep due to nighttime wakings, or just leave you feeling on edge and anxious, making it hard to get to sleep at all.5 As one study of the use of supplemental magnesium in the elderly showed, the intake of the mineral helped improve various parameters of insomnia. From the onset of sleep to sleep efficiency and even the time the person slept, there were improvements on all counts. Even early morning awakening reduced. Objective measures like the melatonin and serum cortisol, hormones which impact sleep, also improved.6

Another study found that oral magnesium therapy helped decrease arousals due to periodic limb movements during sleep (PLMS) and improved sleep efficiency for test subjects who experienced sleep disturbance as a result of PLMS.7

Do You Need Magnesium To Sleep Better?

Is your sleep problem triggered by a shortfall in magnesium? Look out for these specific signs of a magnesium deficiency and nip the problem in the bud. You will soon find you are able to sleep better.

  • Insomnia itself is a sign of a magnesium deficiency.
  • Muscle twitching or restless leg syndrome, which can cause you to have disturbed sleep, may also result from a deficiency.
  • You may feel more fatigued, confused, or irritable besides being more apathetic.
  • If you feel your memory is failing you or you can no longer learn as well as before, it could be due to a lack of magnesium in your body.
  • Even eating disorders such as anorexia can be a sign that you need more magnesium.8

There are certain categories of people who are more at risk of a deficiency. If you have diabetes, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, or gastrointestinal diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, the chances of a magnesium deficiency are higher. A diet that’s high in salt or drinks like alcohol, soda, or coffee can also cause a magnesium deficiency. In addition, if you take diuretics, have heavy menstrual periods, are under constant stress, or sweat excessively, you may need to watch out!9

If you fall into any of these categories or have experienced symptoms of a deficiency, work toward raising those magnesium levels and enjoy the benefits with a good night’s rest.

The Case For Dietary Magnesium

Magnesium levels in the country are well below what they should be. The recommended levels are 400–420 mg a day for men and 310–320 mg a day for women.10 Magnesium supplements may seem like the easy way out, but they come with strings attached.

Taking too high a dose could be detrimental to your health, causing nausea, abdominal cramps, or diarrhea. With extremely high levels of intake, you could even experience an irregular heartbeat or go into cardiac arrest.11 Recommended intake through supplements is set at a maximum of 350 mg a day for adults.

Increasing Magnesium Intake Through Your Diet

This is a far more safe and side-effect free option. There are multiple dietary sources of magnesium, so getting in the required amount isn’t as difficult as you’d imagine. The key, however, is to eat more fresh produce, whole-grain foods, legumes, and nuts. Avoid the empty calories from processed or refined foods which also tend to strip vegetables, fruit, or grains of their nutrients.12 Get in plenty of:

  • Fresh fruit like avocados or bananas
  • Fresh vegetables, especially green leafy ones
  • Cashews, almonds, and other nuts
  • Millet, brown rice, and whole grains
  • Legumes, beans, peas, and seeds
  • Milk and yogurt
  • Soy, tofu, soy flour, and other soy products
  • Fortified cereals and foods

To give you a better idea of the magnesium content of various foods, here’s a sampling:

  • A half ounce serving of almonds has about 80 mg of magnesium.
  • Half a cup of boiled spinach has about 78 mg of magnesium.
  • A cup of soy milk has about 61 mg of magnesium.
  • Half a cup of black beans has about 60 mg of magnesium.
  • An eight ounce serving of low-fat yogurt has about 42 mg of magnesium.
  • Two slices of whole wheat bread have about 46 mg of magnesium.
  • Half a cup of cooked brown rice has about 42 mg of magnesium.13

Enjoy these natural foods regularly as part of a balanced diet and you’ll find yourself sleeping better, too!

References   [ + ]

1. What Are Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency?. NIH.
2. Consequences of Insufficient Sleep. Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
3, 8. Magnesium in diet. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
4. Sleep and magnesium supplements. Harvard Health Publications.
5, 9. Magnesium. University of Maryland Medical Center.
6. Abbasi, Behnood, Masud Kimiagar, Khosro Sadeghniiat, Minoo M. Shirazi, Mehdi Hedayati, and Bahram Rashidkhani. “The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: a double blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Journal of Research in Medical Sciences 17, no. 12 (2012).
7. Hornyak, Magdolna, Ulrich Voderholzer, Fritz Hohagen, Mathias Berger, and Dieter Riemann. “Magnesium therapy for periodic leg movements-related insomnia and restless legs syndrome: an open pilot study.” Sleep 21, no. 5 (1998): 501-505.
10, 11. Magnesium Fact Sheet for Consumers. NIH.
12, 13. Magnesium. NIH.