Can Magnesium Help You Sleep?

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Medical Disclaimer: The following content should not be used as medical advice or as a recommendation for any specific supplement or medication. It is important to consult your healthcare provider prior to starting a new medication or altering your current dosage.

Magnesium is one of the many minerals found in the human body. Best known for promoting strong bones and keeping the muscular and nervous systems running smoothly, magnesium also plays a role in sleep.

Several older studies have examined the relationship between magnesium and sleep in human infants, mice, and rats. These studies suggest that humans and animals sleep best when their magnesium level falls within a certain range.

With one-third of Americans going short on sleep, many are interested in natural sleep solutions, including magnesium supplements. We examine what magnesium supplements are, if they might help you sleep, and how much to take if you decide to try this supplement.

What Is Magnesium?

Magnesium is technically an electrolyte, which is a mineral that becomes electrically charged in liquid. Magnesium helps regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels, aids in the correct functioning of muscles and nerves, and plays a role in the formation of DNA, protein, and bones.

Most magnesium in the human body is found in bone or attached to protein in its uncharged form. Blood levels of magnesium are much lower, and they fluctuate depending on how much magnesium we ingest and how much we excrete.

We obtain magnesium by eating foods that contain magnesium, such as beans, nuts, whole grains, leafy vegetables, and dairy products. Manufactured foods such as cereal may also be fortified with magnesium, which means they have magnesium added to them.

Does Magnesium Help You Sleep?

Limited research suggests that taking magnesium supplements may help some people sleep.

One experimental study found that older adults taking magnesium fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer than those not taking the supplement. In another study, researchers found that women who consumed more magnesium were less likely to fall asleep during the day than those who consumed less magnesium. However, they did not find that higher magnesium consumption related to more sleep.

Since only a few studies of this type have been conducted, some researchers consider there is not enough evidence for doctors to recommend magnesium as a sleep aid. Still, taking magnesium supplements for sleep problems under the advice of their physician may be appropriate for those who want to try. Magnesium is affordable and easy to procure, and low doses of magnesium have not been shown to have any serious side effects.

How Magnesium Works for Sleep

Studies show that sleep deprivation is often linked to deficiencies in nutrients, including magnesium. If a person's sleep problems are due to a magnesium deficiency, correcting that deficiency may promote better sleep.

Magnesium and health problems share a bidirectional relationship. Whereas stress may lower magnesium levels, magnesium deficiency is thought to contribute to stress, anxiety, and depression, and it may exacerbate sleep problems. More research is needed to understand how all these factors influence each other. However, since stress itself can also lead to sleep troubles, magnesium supplements for stress could help induce relaxation and indirectly improve sleep.

Some researchers suggest that magnesium supplements may also help sleep by easing physical symptoms that interfere with sleep. For example, magnesium supplementation may relieve pain of many types. Since pain often causes or occurs with sleep problems, reducing that pain may improve sleep. Magnesium may also help reduce headaches that affect sleep and improve sleep quality for women with polycystic ovary syndrome.

For many years, researchers have believed that magnesium can alleviate bothersome nighttime symptoms of leg cramps, restless legs syndrome, and periodic limb movement disorder. However, so far there is little evidence to support this theory. In a study of people with leg cramps, magnesium supplements provided no more benefit than a placebo, or fake treatment.

How Much Magnesium Should You Take For Sleep?

For most adults, the National Institutes of Health recommends limiting magnesium intake from supplements to 350 milligrams or less per day. Remember that you can also obtain melatonin through a balanced diet.

Talk to your doctor when deciding on a dose, as higher doses are more likely to cause side effects. You should also consult your doctor before taking magnesium if you are pregnant or if you have any health conditions that may interact with the magnesium supplements.

How Does Magnesium Compare to Other NaturalĀ  Sleep Aids?

The use of magnesium for sleep has not been studied to the same extent as other substances like melatonin, and there is a lack of experimental trials directly comparing magnesium to other sleep aids. In an analysis of dozens of studies, experts found that overall, supplements such as vitamin D, amino acids, and melatonin improved sleep more than magnesium. Rather than directly inducing sleep, healthy magnesium levels may help prevent problems that disrupt sleep.

Some people with sleep issues may benefit from taking a combination of natural sleep aids. For example, researchers have found promising results for treating insomnia with a cocktail of magnesium, melatonin, and B vitamins or melatonin, magnesium, and zinc. As these studies did not examine the effects of magnesium on its own, it is difficult to say which of the substances exerted the strongest influence.

Talk to your doctor before taking magnesium or other supplements. Not only can they advise you on the best dosage and timing, but they may also be able to identify other factors that could be interfering with your sleep.

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