You don’t need an official study to tell you that sleep is important. You also don’t need scientific facts to prove to you that quality of sleep is just as essential as getting enough of it. One night of tossing and turning is all it takes to illustrate the power that sleep has to influence your energy, mood and ability to function. But if you’re like millions of Americans, you find yourself struggling to get restful, restorative sleep.
There’s no end of advice and tips for improving sleep and dealing with sleep issues, including prescription medications that can leave you feeling hungover and sluggish, in addition to producing a lot of other negative side effects.
What many people overlook is a key element for restful sleep — magnesium. It’s estimated that nearly half of all Americans are magnesium deficient, yet this mineral plays a critical role in many bodily functions, including those that support high-quality sleep.
Learn more about good dietary sources for magnesium, how the mineral helps with sleep, which forms of magnesium may work best, and how to improve sleep with supplementation.
Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body, and it is absolutely vital to your health and well-being. It is involved in hundreds of cellular reactions and impacts areas such as muscle and nerve function, immune support and regulating blood pressure and bone health.
You generally get magnesium from the foods you eat. Salmon, mackerel and halibut are good sources of magnesium, but it is readily available in many vegetables, nuts and seeds. Some magnesium-rich foods include:
- Black-eyed peas
- Black beans
- Green peas
- Pinto beans
- Potatoes (with skin)
- Swiss chard
- Tofu and Tempeh
Magnesium and sleep
Restful sleep is the goal, but it starts with some fairly complicated processes in the body. What it comes down to, however, is that your body and mind need to relax at the chemical level to sleep. If this doesn’t happen, you may struggle to fall or stay asleep.
There are several ways magnesium improves the conditions that support high-quality sleep. Magnesium regulates neurotransmitters in the brain and activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This plays a part in muscle relaxation and proper nerve function, both of which are important to your ability to drift off at night.
Magnesium also has a direct impact on chemical processes needed for sleep:
- Magnesium regulates melatonin, which in turn regulates sleep-wake cycles.
- Magnesium regulates gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that helps quiet nerves and shift the brain into sleep mode.
- Magnesium helps convert tryptophan, an essential amino acid, into serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that regulates moods, creates a feeling of calm and manages sleep cycles.
- Magnesium binds to muscular proteins, which improve muscular relaxation.
When you consider the number of people deficient in magnesium and how important it is for a good night's sleep, it’s easy to see why sleep problems are so common. It is also easy to see how taking a quality magnesium supplement can improve sleep.
What magnesium is best for sleep?
There are several types of magnesium on the market, but you’ll most often run into magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate. There are some key differences in these, as magnesium citrate is more often used to treat constipation. It may also help with muscle cramps because of its ability to induce muscle relaxation, which is also useful for sleep. However, taking magnesium citrate can cause stomach cramps and diarrhea.
Magnesium glycinate is the magnesium salt of glycine, which is an amino acid. It provides all the positive benefits of taking magnesium without the potentially disadvantages of magnesium citrate. It is also more readily absorbed by the body. For most people, magnesium glycinate is the winner when evaluating the best form of magnesium for sleeping.
Additionally, there are benefits to taking complementary vitamins and minerals together with your magnesium supplement. Since these elements work synergistically within the body, taking them together can improve the benefits you receive. This can improve absorption and enhance the overall positive impact of the supplement. Vitamin D, vitamin K and MCT oil can boost absorption of magnesium glycinate and elevate the impact of the magnesium within your body.
How much magnesium do you need?
There are factors that determine how much you need of any vitamin or supplement. Your age, weight and other physiological factors play a part in how much you need to receive optimal benefits. If you are deficient, you may have different dosage needs as well.
In general, however, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 420 mg a day. Please be sure to consult with a health professional for the appropriate dosage recommendation for you based on your medical history.
When is the best time to take magnesium?
You may take magnesium at any time of the day, as it’s not going to suddenly make you sleepy like other supplements intended for sleep. If you are taking it for sleep, however, you’ll want to take it 30 minutes to an hour before you lay down. Some people find that it is best to take magnesium with a light snack, but you will need to experiment to see what is best for you.
While there are plenty of prescription medications on the market that help with sleep, those looking for a natural way to rest should take a look at magnesium. Magnesium, especially magnesium glycinate, is an effective tool to support the bodily processes needed to calm the mind, relax the muscles and shift into sleep naturally. By including a quality magnesium supplement into your daily regime, you’ll receive all the benefits it provides, including a better night’s sleep.
FAQs about magnesium for sleep
In this article, we answered the following questions about magnesium as a supplement to aid in sleep:
- Does magnesium help you sleep? Yes. This mineral is essential to our bodies for healthy sleep, and if we don't get enough through our diets, we may consider supplements that contain magnesium.
- What is the best type of magnesium for sleep? Magnesium glycinate tends to work for most people with mild to moderate sleep issues.
- Can magnesium make you tired? It is not uncommon for people who have magnesium deficiencies to also feel tired and fatigued. We found no evidence to suggest that taking a magnesium supplement makes you feel sleepy.
- Can you take magnesium for insomnia? You should first seek a medical professional workup to rule out underlying health issues that are causing a sleep disorder such as insomnia. A magnesium supplement is a natural way to supplement your diet and help with insomnia.
- Should I take magnesium at night? Because magnesium has no narcotic-like effects, you can take magnesium in the morning or before bed to help with relaxation and sleep. Your body will benefit from it throughout your day and night, so it doesn't matter what time you take it.
- How much magnesium should I take? The US RDA is between 310 mg and 420 mg, according to a Harvard researcher; pregnant and lactating women may be instructed to increase or decrease their magnesium. Please be sure to consult with a health professional for the appropriate dosage recommendation for you based on your medical history.