Are Magnesium and Sleep Connected?

Are Magnesium and Sleep Connected?

Will taking magnesium for sleep help you slide into dreamland faster or keep you there longer?These are the burning questions circling the sleep convos – and we’re taking a closer look to find out

letters from the Scrabble board game spell out the word magnesium on a solid orange background

Sleep is having a moment. Whether we’re talking about how to get more or just better quality sleep, conversations about snoozing are increasing. And now there’s a new topic slipping into the sleep chatter – magnesium. 

Magnesium is fronting as a sleep aid, and we’re curious. Will taking magnesium for sleep help you slide into dreamland faster or keep you there longer? These are the burning questions circling the sleep convos – and we’re taking a closer look to find out what all the fuss is about – and if science is backing any possible connection between magnesium and sleep quality.  

What is magnesium? 

Let’s begin with the basics. Magnesium is a nutrient that the body needs to stay healthy. It is essential for many processes in the body, including regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and making protein, bone, and DNA.

Magnesium is found naturally in many foods as well as added to some fortified foods. You will likely get the recommended amounts of magnesium by including the following foods in a balanced diet:

  • Legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables (such as spinach)
  • Fortified breakfast cereals and other fortified foods
  • Milk, yogurt, and some other milk products
  • Bananas

Overall, magnesium deficiencies are pretty rare in healthy people. However, you may be at risk of a deficiency if you are an older adult, have type 2 diabetes, have a gastrointestinal order, or have an alcohol use disorder.1

How are magnesium and sleep linked?

So far, the studies scientifically linking magnesium and better sleep are too thin to provide a conclusive medical answer. However, here’s what we do know about magnesium intake and the body. On a chemical level, magnesium aids in relaxation by activating the parasympathetic nervous system2 – which is the system responsible for getting you calm and relaxed. 

Additionally, magnesium also regulates the hormone melatonin, which guides sleep-wake cycles in your body.3 It also binds to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. GABA is the neurotransmitter responsible for quieting down nerve activity4, which is why sleep drugs like Ambien use it.

So, by helping to quiet the nervous system, magnesium can help prepare your body and mind for sleep.

Where’s the research?

Although a few studies have shown that magnesium could help with falling asleep in addition to helping achieve deep and restful sleep, the research is pretty limited.

For example, a double-blind, randomized controlled clinical trial was conducted on 46 elderly subjects. In this trial, the subjects were randomly allocated into the magnesium or the placebo group and received 500 mg magnesium or placebo daily for eight weeks. Overall, the magnesium group achieved better quality sleep. The same group also exhibited higher levels of renin and melatonin, two hormones that help regulate sleep.5

However, experts in the field of sleep are quick to point out that the current research is pretty scarce and has only really studied magnesium supplements among older adults with insomnia. Hence, it’s not clear whether other age groups would also benefit. 

“Overall, the evidence for magnesium is thin, but some people have found it helps them,” explains integrative medicine specialist Naoki Umeda, MD.

Any dosage requirements?

Since very few studies have directly tested the effect of magnesium supplements on insomnia, it’s difficult to recommend specific amounts. However, the best place to start is with the correct form of magnesium, which is magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate. Magnesium oxide, on the other hand, is a stool softener, which can help you in the bathroom, not the bedroom.

According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office on Dietary Supplements, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for magnesium when used for sleep or general health is 200 – 310 milligrams a day. However, since Magnesium is not “officially” classified as a sleep aid, there’s no recommended time for taking it before bed. 

Nicole Avena, PhD, assistant professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and visiting professor of health psychology at Princeton University, explains that taking magnesium isn’t going to knock you out. However, she continues, “it can help to calm and relax you if taken one hour or so before you settle in for the evening.” 

What about calcium and magnesium?

Magnesium has been linked with calcium in a number of ways, including discussions around the benefits of taking calcium and magnesium together. Again, curiosity piqued – what’s the correlation?

Here’s what we found – calcium and magnesium play an interdependent role in the body. Magnesium is needed for the body to absorb calcium properly, and studies show it even helps dissolve calcium in the blood, deterring the formation of kidney stones.  However, when calcium levels are too high and magnesium too low, the body produces excess cortisol, sometimes called the stress hormone, which can interfere with sleep.

Therefore, an adequate supply of each can help the body regulate hormones like melatonin and cortisol, which can influence your sleep. The ideal ratio of calcium to magnesium is usually 2:1 but can vary depending on many factors, including your age and your current health status.6. Always ask your doctor before beginning any new supplements or combination of supplements.

Anything Else?

Magnesium supplements could potentially interfere with some medications, like antibiotics, muscle relaxants, and blood pressure medications.  

Additionally, magnesium is easily obtained when consuming whole foods and water as part of a healthy, balanced diet. The Institute of Medicine suggests a daily dietary intake of 310–360 mg of magnesium for adult women and 400–420 mg for adult men6. So a supplement isn’t necessary if you get the daily recommended amount from your diet. 

Furthermore, experts warn that high doses of magnesium supplements can have potential health hazards. Consuming too much magnesium from dietary supplements or medications that contain magnesium, such as laxatives and antacids, can cause minor reactions like diarrhea or vomiting – and in some cases, extreme health problems, like irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrest. 

In sum, magnesium is not officially classified as a sleep aid, and the available research – so far – doesn’t provide enough concrete evidence to support sleep aid claims in groups outside the elderly who suffer from insomnia. So, before trying magnesium for sleep, we recommend addressing your sleep habits first. Also, essential to consult your healthcare provider before adding any new supplement to your routine.

Are you looking for more need-to-know information about getting better sleep? We’ve got answers to your burning questions about sleep, plus plenty of helpful resources, tips, and tricks to help you find better zzz’s today!








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