It’s very common to have trouble sleeping. If you have insomnia, you know how hard it is to break that cycle. There are dozens of things you might have tried; reducing your caffeine intake, trying to change your sleep routine, and other lifestyle changes, no matter how well-intentioned, just don’t get the job done sometimes.
Another option, and one that might have some better science behind it, is using supplements to help you sleep. One of these supplements, magnesium, has shown some real potential as a sleep aid. Interested in learning how this mineral can interact with your body and how it might be just the thing you need to help you sleep more easily? Here’s what the science says about magnesium and sleep.
One of the most common minerals around, magnesium is naturally present in many of the foods we eat every day. It’s an essential mineral; our bodies need it to perform hundreds of cellular actions, but we can’t synthesize it on our own. In other words, the magnesium our body needs come exclusively from our diet.
Just about every cell and organ needs magnesium for proper function. Whether it’s bone health, muscle strength, or brain function, it’s integral to our overall health. Taking magnesium supplements have been shown to have serious benefits for the body ranging from lowering blood pressure, relieving constipation, and fighting inflammation, and now it seems that research has unveiled a connection between magnesium and sleep.
The relationship magnesium has with sleep seems to be multifaceted. There are so many different factors when it comes to getting restful sleep. Being able to relax both your brain and body, for example, are a requirement to fall asleep; science says that magnesium may play a role in that. Additionally, in the case that your insomnia is related to a mood disorder like anxiety or depression, magnesium may reduce the severity of these symptoms as well, making it easier for you get to sleep and stay that way.
Meanwhile, not having enough magnesium seems to be a common problem with people who are suffering from sleep deprivation. This is made worse because there are a number of people who may suffer from magnesium deprivation because of medical issues such as digestive problems, diabetes, and alcohol dependence. Older adults also tend to have lower levels of magnesium as well; if you happen to be in one of these populations, you’re considerably more likely to have sleep problems.
Sadly, there’s no cut-and-dry “cure” for insomnia. There are just too many factors at play when it comes to why people can’t sleep. Magnesium may lead to improving the symptoms of insomnia in many people because of the huge raft of positive effects it can have on so many of the systems and organs of our body. Yet even if magnesium has a positive effect on these issues, it might still not be enough to eliminate causes of insomnia from other sources. In other words, magnesium can help cure insomnia, but it’s not a cure on its own.
So let’s get down to the science behind why many people take magnesium for insomnia. As mentioned previously, research has revealed that magnesium can help your brain and body relax. It does so, according to science, by activating something called the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls whether you’re feeling calm and relaxed or not. Not only that, but research has also shown that magnesium binds to specific nerve receptors in your brain – the same ones that sleep aids like Ambien do.
That’s not all, however. Not enough magnesium has been linked with light and restless sleep in lab conditions, and human trials have seen older patients reporting better quality sleep after taking 500mg of magnesium a day for 8 weeks. Surprisingly, these patients saw their levels of renin and melatonin, two hormones linked to better sleep, increase on their own as well.
Finally, in cases of anxiety and depression causing a lack of sleep, research shows that a magnesium deficiency is often associated with these mood disorders. The same research study found that patients taking magnesium supplements as well as antidepressants for their mood disorders could make these antidepressants work better and possibly also treat anxiety. Since lessening depression and anxiety helps you sleep better at night, this is just one more feather in the cap of a magnesium sleep aid.
Your body needs to take in at least a minimum of magnesium every day through diet (or supplements) to stay healthy. For adult men, that number is between 400 to 420mg, with older men at the higher end of the scale. For women, recommendations are between 310 and 360mg, again with older women towards the higher end as well to account for the human body’s natural tendency to take in less magnesium as we age.
There are plenty of magnesium-rich foods out there. You’ll find the highest concentration of magnesium in greens, whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, and dry beans. One of the best sources, for example, is pumpkin seeds – a single ounce of these seeds contains 168mg of magnesium. You can’t live on pumpkin seeds alone, of course; examples of other magnesium-rich foods include half a cup of boiled spinach (78mg), a 3.5-ounce baked potato (43mg), and a single, medium-sized banana (32mg).
It’s reasonable that you can get enough of your magnesium from your diet alone. However, if you have food allergies or other dietary restrictions, this might prove difficult. That’s why taking magnesium supplements can be the next best thing, as these supplements can provide you with the magnesium you need to stay healthy and maybe just help you get some better sleep at night!