Magnesium and Sleep – Will Magnesium Help Your Sleep?

Last updated: March 24, 2019

Quick Overview

Magnesium is among the most abundant metals in our body. Researchers estimate that an adult body has at least 25gm of it. Half of that amount is in bones, another half in soft tissues. Less than 1% magnesium is in circulation or blood.

Kidneys strictly control the levels of magnesium in the blood. It means that if there is too much of it in the blood, kidneys remove it via urine. If magnesium intake is low, kidneys will minimize its removal from the body.

We know that more than 300 enzymes need the presence of magnesium to work. Many critical chemical reactions cannot happen in our body without magnesium. Our body needs it for producing various proteins, genetic materials, and much more. It is essential for healthy bones. Above all, it is necessary for the proper functioning of nerves and heart muscles.

No surprise, that deficiency of magnesium is terrible for nerves and muscles. Low levels of magnesium would cause pain in nerves and muscles. Muscle cramps and anxious nerves would cause sleep problems. On the other hand, adequate magnesium intake may help improve sleep quality.

Yes, magnesium is necessary for well-being. It has to come through diet. Many leafy green vegetables, nuts, and seeds are rich in it. In the specific medical condition, our body may need more magnesium, resulting in its deficiency. In such cases, one needs to supplement it.

Further, medical specialists also use various forms of magnesium to treat diseases. Thus magnesium is used as a laxative, to relieve anxiety, reduce blood pressure, strengthen bones, and improve the quality of sleep.

How much magnesium is required daily for good health and sleep?

With years of research, dietary intake recommendations for magnesium are now well established.  Infants may need to intake up to 75 mg a day, while children may need around 80 mg a day. For teenagers recommended daily intake is above 240 mg. Whereas, for adults recommended intake is 400 mg for men and more than 360 mg for women.

People may need to increase magnesium intake under stressful conditions. Thus one may require a higher amount of it in pregnancy, lactation. Similarly, one must increase its intake during periods of the emotional stress of physical ailments.

Magnesium is in abundance in various food items. Green vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, beans, legumes, seeds, and whole grains are rich in magnesium. It is also present in a moderate amount in the meat products. Some of the products rich in magnesium are pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, quinoa, almonds, soya beans, white beans, peanuts, brown rice.

Does Magnesium Have Any Side Effects?

Supplements are quite safe unless magnesium dosage is exceeded continually for prolonged periods. High doses may cause stomach upset and abdominal cramps. If very high doses are taken (like 5 gm a day), they may cause symptoms of toxicity like difficulty in breathing, low blood pressure, dizziness, and muscular weakness. Abusing magnesium supplements may also worsen symptoms of depression.

Magnesium supplements should be taken with caution if a person has a disease of kidneys. Kidneys remove excess of magnesium salts from the body. However, if kidneys are not working well, it may result in magnesium accumulation.

One must take precautions when giving magnesium supplements to infants and young children.

Magnesium salts may also interact with certain medications like antibiotics, diuretics, and other medications. Thus one should take magnesium supplements at least an hour apart from other drugs. It is always a wise idea to consult a doctor before taking any supplement.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency

Magnesium deficiency is rare but may occur if a person does not eat well or is ill. Some medications or even alcohol may also cause excessive loss of magnesium leading to its shortage.

Some of the common signs of magnesium deficiency are muscular cramps, vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness, and chronic fatigue. If you do not treat its deficiency, it may cause numbness of limbs, restless leg syndrome, leg cramps, seizures, mood changes, changes in heart rhythm, and even coronary spasm.

Magnesium is also essential for maintaining optimal levels of potassium and calcium in the blood. Its low levels will lower calcium and potassium in the blood. All this means that magnesium deficiency may cause widespread imbalances of electrolytes in the body.

Certain people are at much higher risk of developing magnesium deficiency.

Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract may cause malabsorption syndrome. Thus magnesium deficiency is common in gluten intolerance (celiac disease), Crohn’s disease. Magnesium may be poorly absorbed by those who have undergone intestine resection due to some reasons.

Those diagnosed with diabetes are also at higher risk of sleep disturbances, muscular cramps, and neuropathies. In diabetes, magnesium deficiency is common, as kidneys secrete more of it along with glucose.

In those living with alcohol dependence, magnesium deficiency occurs due to numerous reasons. Quite such people have poor dietary habits. Further, they may have diseases of liver, kidneys, and pancreas.

Old people are also at higher risk of magnesium deficiency as their intestines cannot absorb it well from food products. Old people are also more likely to be living with diseases of other organs, and taking various medications.

How does magnesium work?

So you may wonder about how does magnesium help to keep nerves calm, body healthy, and affect sleep quality?

First and foremost, our body needs magnesium for hundreds of chemical processes. Most chemical reactions like breaking of carbs to produce energy or making or proteins, need the help of enzymes to fasten these reactions. Magnesium is a cofactor for many ferments (enzymes), it means that without it enzymes cannot be activated.

Energy production in the body is not possible without magnesium. Our body needs a considerable amount of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to meet its energy needs. As per estimates, our body needs several kgs of ATP each day, though it stores only about 50 gm of it. Fortunately, our body is highly efficient at recycling ATP molecules, and magnesium is essential for it.

Magnesium is also needed to produce proteins, and make genetic materials (DNA and RNA).

Without magnesium, our nerves cannot conduct. Magnesium facilitates movement of calcium, potassium, and sodium ions in an out of nerve cells, thus making nerve conduction possible. This facilitation of movement of various ions is also needed for muscles to contract.

It explains why deficiency of magnesium leads to poor nerve conduction, numbness, tingling sensations, and muscular cramps. Whereas, the prolonged shortage may affect the working of the brain.

Sleep disorders, insomnia, and other uses of magnesium

Research has shown that magnesium supplements may help improve the quality and duration of sleep. It happens due to its direct action on the brain cells, and due to other health benefits.

Magnesium improves production of melatonin, and thus enhances sleep pattern. It is beneficial in insomnia. It helps relax tense muscles.

Magnesium may also help improve sleep by alleviating depression and anxiety. It has a calming effect on mood, and thus it helps to fall asleep faster. Further, it may also benefit those living with painful conditions.

Sleep disturbances or insomnia are not just the results of brain or mood issues. Quite often people fail to sleep well due to a range of health problems. Magnesium supplements come in different forms to treat many diseases.

Thus magnesium salts are often used to treat heartburn. Milk of magnesia is an excellent laxative that promotes gastrointestinal health. Magnesium may also reduce inflammation.

Magnesium is good for heart and blood vessels. Magnesium has anticoagulant properties, and it helps prevent the formation of blood clots. It helps prevent irregular heartbeats or arrhythmia. Magnesium also helps to lower blood pressure. It has a soothing effect on the smooth muscles of blood vessels. Thus magnesium not only improves sleep quality but also prolongs life.

Magnesium is good for teeth and bone health. It helps maintain the balance of various electrolytes. All this contributes to good health and sound sleep.

Magnesium can prevent seizures, as it stops nerve cells from misfiring. It also prevents overexcitement of nerve cells due to tension or stress. It is another way through which it betters sleep quality.

Severe and frequent headaches or migraines may not let a person sleep well. Magnesium is may not only prevent events of headaches, but it may also help abort migraine attack.

Magnesium has a soothing effect on nerves, and at the same time, it promotes the production of energy by cells. It means that magnesium can help in chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. It reduces symptoms of muscular pains and aches, incidences of spasms or cramps. All this further help to improve sleep quality.

Further, magnesium may also be useful in the treatment of respiratory diseases. It helps overcome symptoms of menstrual cramps, PMS, and much more.

In short, magnesium has numerous health benefits. Some are known, and many more are expected to be discovered. Magnesium helps treat sleep disturbances both due to its direct and indirect effects on brain cells.

Choosing a magnesium supplement

It is not easy to decide about what supplement to take to increase magnesium levels in the body. Considering that for adults 400 mg a day is enough, a daily dose of supplements should be less than this. It is necessary to understand that you will also be getting magnesium through diet. An overdose of magnesium may harm health.

However, all is not that simple. When taking a supplement, you also need to know the bio-availability of it. So if you take a supplement with 50% bio-availability, then out of 500 mg, only half of it will get absorbed. It means that doses of magnesium supplements may sometimes be more than a daily recommendation, and still be safe.

Below are some of the forms of magnesium found in various supplements to keep your magnesium levels at optimal levels:

  • Magnesium connected to amino acids (chelated magnesium) like glycine, arginine, or aspartic acid. They have high bioavailability and are considered to be suitable for treating sleep disorders.
  • Magnesium glycinate is one of the most commonly used salt of magnesium. Glycinate is fast absorbing form, thus it is widely used to treat sleep disorders, anxiety, pregnancy cramps, PMS symptoms.
  • Magnesium threonate is said to be developed by MIT researchers. It is thought to provide higher levels of bioactive magnesium. Thus it is one of the fast acting supplements. It may quickly help in sleep disorder, anxiety, cramps, high blood pressure, and other conditions where time is critical.
  • Magnesium taurate is more commonly used to improve vascular health. Thus it is recommended in heart disease, high blood pressure. It is also good to treat pregnancy related complications, and migraines.
  • Magnesium oxide is poorly absorbed and better works as a laxative or to treat heartburn, instead address magnesium deficiency. However, when taken for prolonged interval and at high doses, it may also help improve sleep.
  • Magnesium citrate is better absorbed than oxide salt, but still, it is mostly used to stimulate a bowel
  • Magnesium orotate is well absorbed and is preferred to treat magnesium deficiency. Research indicates that orotate salt is better in many ways. It has better ability to penetrate inside the cells and cellular structures like mitochondria. It is readily absorbed from the intestine. All this means that magnesium orotate may help faster and at lower doses. It is regarded as one of the best forms of magnesium to treat diseases of nerve cells. It has a better safety profile too.
  • Magnesium chloride is topical oil supersaturated with magnesium chloride may help in sore muscles. It may be useful for those who cannot tolerate pills.
  • Magnesium sulfate or Epsom salt is one of the oldest forms of magnesium in use in medicine. It is taken by mouth to treat constipation; it can help control asthma attack, can improve sleep quality. As an injection, it helps prevent seizures in toxicity related to pregnancy.
  • Magnesium carbonate is not used to treat sleep disorders or magnesium deficiency as it has a strong laxative effect. It is a chalk-like material used by gymnasts or rock climbers to keep their hands dry.

Magnesium comes in various forms. Thus when taking magnesium supplements, one must consider its absorption. Poorly absorbing magnesium salts are useful as a laxative, and some may benefit in heartburn. On the other hand, well absorbing magnesium salts are better to treat diseases and improve sleep quality.

In conclusion, it is important to know that magnesium is an essential mineral for solid bones and health, which help improve sleep quality. It is also used to treat numerous other medical conditions. Taking magnesium supplement would be quite like hitting several targets with a single arrow.

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.

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