What to Know About Taking Magnesium for Sleep, According to Sleep Specialists
Here's what you need to do before turning to the supplement.
You hear it all the time: Sleep is essential to every aspect of your mental and physical wellbeing. That means, first and foremost, it's important to check in with your doctor if you aren't sleeping well, since a host of health conditions could be causing the problem, such as sleep apnea, dementia, or even some mental disorders.
But sometimes nothing concrete is behind the issue, and getting more rest can come down to changing your lifestyle habits. This could mean taking melatonin or experimenting with CBD, but there's another route you might not have heard of: magnesium, a nutrient found in many foods that may even help improve sleep quality. Health spoke with experts to find out everything you need to know about getting more magnesium to improve the quality of your sleep.
What is magnesium?
Getting enough magnesium is important for multiple reasons. First, magnesium is necessary for your body to produce enough energy. Magnesium also plays a part in the development of bones, and it even contributes to key bodily functions such as a normal heart rhythm and muscle contractions, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Good sources of magnesium include leafy green veggies like spinach, as well as nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains, according to the NIH.
How can taking magnesium help you sleep?
To be clear, prescribing magnesium for better sleep isn’t necessarily standard practice. “A lot of this stuff is kind of peripheral in terms of hardcore science,” Daniel Barone, MD, sleep expert at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian and author of Let’s Talk about Sleep: A Guide to Understanding and Improving Your Slumber, tells Health. “That being said, the theory is magnesium works by calming down the central nervous system,” Dr. Barone explains.
Cinthya Pena Orbea, MD, sleep specialist at Cleveland Clinic, explains how the theory gained popularity, even though magnesium hasn't been proven to improve sleep quality. “People sometimes refer to that because there were some studies done earlier, [but] they were not strong," she explains. Also worth noting: The benefits of taking magnesium for sleep have been observed only in elderly patients, meaning taking magnesium for sleep might not be beneficial to you if you’re younger or middle-aged.
Still, taking a magnesium supplement each night before bed won’t necessarily hurt you—as long you’ve consulted a sleep specialist about it, so you don't unnecessarily self-medicate with magnesium supplements. But, once you’ve seen a sleep specialist who’s ruled out everything else via a full workup, it can’t hurt to try turning to magnesium if you’re still having trouble sleeping, Dr. Barone says.
How can you take magnesium for sleep safely?
Getting more magnesium through your diet is an easy way to up your intake if you think magnesium might help you rest easier. The NIH recommends that all women aged 19 to 30 get 310 milligrams of magnesium each day. From age 31 on, the recommended intake is 320 milligrams.
But going overboard with the magnesium could be dangerous: “Magnesium in high concentrations could raise magnesium level in blood, [and] that can affect the heart,” Dr. Barone explains.
Taking a magnesium supplement before bed each night is another option, though you should definitely run this by your primary care doctor first (since it’s a good idea to let them know about any new supplements or medications you’re on). “Everybody who’s taking any kind of supplement should let their doctor know,” Dr. Barone says. If your physician okays your decision to take magnesium, it’s crucial—as it is with all medications—to stick to the recommended dosage on the label.
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