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Does Magnesium Help You Sleep? Here's What The Experts Say

If you've ever strolled through the aisle of your nearest pharmacy, chances are you have passed by a number of sleep aids. These include well-known names like melatonin, which people can use safely to help get a little extra shuteye at night. But did you know that there are some macronutrients that may have a similar effect?

 

One unsung hero in the macronutrient department goes by the name of magnesium. Again, chances are you're familiar with this nutrient. But most people are likely unfamiliar with exactly what magnesium does — and what it can help you with, on a day to day (or night to night) basis.

 

Let's take a look together at one particular question that's highly relevant to us today: can magnesium help you sleep? Here's what the experts have to say.

 

What is Magnesium?

To begin, let's cover the basics. Magnesium is a macronutrient that is essential to the human body in our muscles, protein production, metabolism, blood sugar regulation, blood pressure control, and more. It also helps in the making of DNA and RNA.

 

Most of it is stored in the bone (somewhere in the neighborhood of about two-thirds) to help keep us strong and sturdy. Another important function of magnesium: it serves as an electrolyte in our bodily fluids, similar to sodium chloride (aka, table salt).

 

This quality makes magnesium a vital part of the process for anything entering or leaving our cells, along with the human nervous system, including our sense of touch and even muscle movement. The human body uses magnesium for structural support in cells, bones, and molecules and as a "cofactor" or "coenzyme" (a required part) for over 300 different enzymes. 

 

 

Magnesium Recommended Dose

Another big question relates to how much magnesium the human body can use (or absorb) and utilize effectively and safely in a given time period, such as one day. Recommended Dietary Allowance, in terms of daily intake, for adults 19 and older, includes the following dosages:

  • Men: 400-420 mg
  • Women: 310-320 mg
  • Pregnant Women: 350-360 mg
  • Lactating Women: 310-320 mg

Consuming more than the recommended intake might give you some unsightly side effects like gastrointestinal issues or diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, low mood, loss of appetite, numbness, fatigue or muscle weakness, abdominal cramping, and sometimes can lead to an abnormal heartbeat, or even heart attack.

 

Another thing to consider: the type of magnesium that you take. Some types can give people "tummy issues" even at small doses. Some laxatives even include magnesium as an ingredient. Check with your doctor and pharmacist to find the right type for your body.

 

 

Sleep Benefits of Magnesium

Our bodies don't produce magnesium, so it's best to take this essential macromineral (there are 7 in total for humans) through our daily diet. Studies show that 80% of Americans have low magnesium levels, so this is clearly an issue for a large number of people.

 

Here's where we get to the sleep part... Magnesium helps to regulate our circadian rhythm—the internal clock that informs the body when it's time to sleep and wake up. Magnesium also binds to something called GABA — or gamma-aminobutyric acid — which produces an internal calming effect. This is important for several reasons, including the fact that GABA is a neurotransmitter or a chemical message-carrier in your mind that turns off wakefulness by blocking specific signals in your brain and spinal cord.

 

Magnesium also affects our sleep if we happen to be suffering from "restless leg syndrome." Research shows that the right amount of magnesium may mitigate restless leg syndrome at times and prevent you from waking up.

 

 

Does Magnesium Help You Sleep?

Doctors recommend magnesium supplements to many patients for a wide variety of reasons. In truth, the results speak for themselves. For example, if someone has poor blood flow in their brain, they could have trouble focusing and/or sleeping. One potential factor here is magnesium deficiency (see more below).

 

As mentioned, magnesium helps our brain, central nervous system, and muscles in key ways, such as relaxing. Naturally, if we're deficient in magnesium, we may find it more difficult to fall asleep at night (or for a nap, for that matter). Magnesium deficiency that results in sleep difficulties can ultimately be a source of anxiety and/or depression. These mental conditions are often linked to insomnia.

 

With all that being said, we seem to have found our answer. In other words, "Does magnesium help you sleep?" Yes, magnesium can help you to sleep, as well as regulating much else that goes on in your body, especially if you have a magnesium deficiency. 

Sign of deficiency of Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency or Hypomagnesemia can occur when the amount of magnesium in the blood is lower than what's needed for the human body. Symptoms typically develop at levels below 1 mEq/L. 

 

Some common causes of low magnesium may include the following:

  • Alcohol use
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Migraine headaches 
  • Osteoporosis
  • Excessive urination
  • Malnutrition
  • Excessive sweating
  • Asthma
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Kidney Failure
  • Type 2 diabetes

 

If you are concerned about low magnesium, consult with your physician.

 

Health Issues from Too Much Magnesium

 

As we have seen so far, magnesium from food and diet is not only acceptable, but essential for humans to function properly. But what happens with high doses of magnesium, likely from supplements? Hypermagnesemia is the technical term that means a person has an elevated magnesium level in their blood. Symptoms of hypermagnesemia typically develop at levels exceeding 4 mEq/L.

 

A large amount of magnesium in laxatives or antacids has been associated with magnesium toxicity. This increases the risk of damaged renal function or kidney failure, due to the ability to remove excess magnesium from the body's system. So, if you have kidney disease or other conditions, you should definitely check your doctor before trying magnesium supplements. In fact, everyone should check with their physician before adding supplements to their health plan. It's simply the safest route for lifelong health.

 

 

 

What's the Difference: Magnesium vs. Melatonin?

Earlier, we mentioned that melatonin is perhaps more widely known than magnesium for its sleep benefits. With that in mind, you may be wondering, "What's the difference between melatonin and magnesium?" Here's the answer.

 

Melatonin is one of the single most common supplements suggested as a sleep aid, by doctors and non-physicians alike. However, as we have seen, studies show that magnesium is also an excellent supplement to help you sleep.

 

So, if you're going to ask, "What is better for sleep? Magnesium or Melatonin?" The answer may be that neither is better than the other, in general. The supplement you should take will always depend on your body and your consultation with your doctor and pharmacist for the best supplement for you. It's also possible that you may not know for certain which one works better until you give both a try.

 

As the Sleep Foundation points out, magnesium and melatonin both have distinct (and often quite different) tasks in the human body: magnesium is a macronutrient that regulates a variety of different bodily processes, while melatonin is a hormone that regulates our sleep (and is produced by the body, unlike magnesium). Magnesium is one of many things that enable the body and mind to relax, reduce stress, and even to sleep longer. In contrast, melatonin specifically helps you get to sleep faster by telling the body it's time to go to sleep.

 

People taking these supplements and other medications regularly should discuss their magnesium and melatonin intake with their healthcare providers. To ensure that neither supplement will interfere with any of your other medicines or medications or supplements, professional consultation is critical.

 

Where Can I Get Magnesium?

There's actually a huge variety of natural foods where we can get magnesium in our diet on a daily basis. Some of these include:

 

  • Vegetables, especially Spinach, Broccoli, and Squash
  • Roasted Peanuts, Raisins, Legumes, Almonds, Cashews, Peas, Dry beans, Black beans, Pumpkin seeds, and Chia seeds
  • Brown rice, Whole grains, Wheat germ, Oat bran, and Oatmeal
  • Egg, Milk, Yogurt, and other dairy products
  • Meat, Chicken breast, and Fish
  • Water containing high minerals, or "hard" water, is also known as a good supply of magnesium

 

Again, a little extra magnesium from food can sometimes be fine, because magnesium gets absorbed in the intestines, and then excreted through the urination process. Issues arise when we ingest too much magnesium, typically through supplementation rather than solely from diet sources.

 

Conclusion

At the end of the day, magnesium helps us to relax and enables our brain and body to stave off signals that may wake us up. So, yes, magnesium is one part of a proper diet and supplement regimen that can allow us to have a good night's sleep.

 

Magnesium, then, does have a plethora of health benefits. But we must also exercise caution and be mindful of the potentially harmful effects of using too much magnesium at once, or on a daily or nightly basis.

 

As a result, it is always best to find out what causes your difficulty sleeping (or other health issues) before using a magnesium (or any other) supplement. Again, this is where speaking to trained medical professionals comes in. They will be able to provide an immense amount of valuable information and, ultimately, health and safety for the days ahead, whether it's for magnesium and sleep, or anything else.