What To Know About Taking Magnesium To Sleep Better

Magnesium is an essential nutrient that you need for good health.

You may know that sleep is essential for your health, but just how important it is might surprise you. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a lack of sleep is associated with many chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and depression. Not getting enough sleep also increases your risk of injury.

It's crucial to get to the root of your sleep problem due to its importance. You should check in with your healthcare provider if you aren't sleeping well to discard any underlying health conditions that could cause your sleep disruption. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, these conditions can include sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, depression, and anxiety.

But sometimes, nothing concrete is behind the sleep issue, and getting more rest might come down to changing your lifestyle habits. If you're looking for new options to try, there's another route you might not have heard of: magnesium—an essential nutrient found in many foods that some people believe may help improve sleep quality.

What Is Magnesium?

Magnesium is a mineral that plays a role in many bodily functions, so getting enough magnesium is important for multiple reasons. Magnesium is necessary for your body to produce enough energy. Also, magnesium plays a part in the development of bones. This mineral even contributes to key bodily functions such as a normal heart rhythm, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

According to the NIH, good food sources of magnesium include leafy green veggies like spinach, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains.

Can Taking Magnesium Help You Sleep?

There's a theory that magnesium aids sleep by calming down the central nervous system, according to Daniel Barone, MD, associate medical director of the Weill Cornell Center for Sleep Medicine, an associate professor of Clinical Neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College, attending neurologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and author of Let's Talk about Sleep: A Guide to Understanding and Improving Your Slumber. "A lot of this stuff is kind of peripheral in terms of hardcore science," said Dr. Barone.

Cinthya Pena Orbea, MD, sleep specialist at Cleveland Clinic, explained how the theory gained popularity, even though magnesium hasn't yet been proven to improve sleep quality. "People sometimes refer to that because there were some studies done earlier, [but] they were not strong," explained Dr. Orbea.

Case in point: One 2021 systematic review published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies determined that some studies on magnesium supplementation in older adults were subpar. More research is needed for healthcare providers to make well-informed recommendations regarding patients taking magnesium for sleep.

However, the researchers of the 2021 review believe that other well-developed studies did support the use of low-dose oral magnesium supplementation for older adults.

Of note: Older adults are more likely to be magnesium deficient than younger adults, according to research published in 2021 in the journal Nutrients. The reasons include eating fewer foods high in magnesium, impaired magnesium absorption, and peeing more of it out. So it makes sense that magnesium supplementation might help older adults sleep better if they're already low in the mineral.

Other studies suggest magnesium might help you sleep better when combined with other supplements. For example, in a 2019 Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences issue, researchers gave patients diagnosed with insomnia a combo of magnesium, melatonin, and vitamin B complex. After three months of supplementation, researchers felt that this triad of supplements had a beneficial effect on insomnia regardless of its cause.

While this doesn't prove that magnesium alone can help with sleep, taking a magnesium supplement each night before bed won't necessarily hurt you. However, it's recommended that you see your healthcare provider before you start popping magnesium supplements at bedtime. Sleep specialists can rule out any treatable root causes of your sleep issues. Once other causes have been ruled out, it can't hurt to try turning to magnesium if you're still having trouble sleeping, said Dr. Barone.

How Can You Safely Take Magnesium for Sleep?

Getting more magnesium through your diet is an easy way to increase your intake if you think magnesium might help you rest more easily. The NIH recommends that all females aged 19 to 30 get 310 milligrams of magnesium daily. From age 31 on, the recommended intake is 320 milligrams. These amounts increase if you're pregnant to 350 milligrams for those aged 19 to 30 and 360 milligrams for those aged 31 to 50.

Taking a magnesium supplement before bed each night is another option. However, you should run this by your healthcare provider 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," said Dr. Barone.

As with anything, more is not necessarily better. Going overboard with the magnesium could be dangerous. "Magnesium in high concentrations could raise magnesium levels in blood, [and] that can affect the heart," explained Dr. Barone.

And while the kidneys typically pee out any extra magnesium in healthy individuals, too much magnesium from supplements can also give you diarrhea and abdominal cramps, per the NIH.

If your healthcare provider okays your decision to take magnesium, it's crucial—as it is with all medications—to stick to the recommended dosage on the label. Also, watch for any unwanted side effects of taking too much of it. After all, running to the toilet in the middle of the night kind of defeats the purpose of taking magnesium to get more sleep.

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