Effective Sleep Aid: The Benefits of Magnesium
Magnesium is essential to our health. It is used in over 300 enzymatic reactions. In other words, it’s one of the most important nutrients the body needs on a daily basis.
If you’re regularly struggling to get a decent night’s sleep, it could be that you are amongst 10% of the population with a serious magnesium deficiency.
According to Dr Michael Mosely, speaking on BBC Radio 2 Breakfast; it’s very easy for us to become deficient in magnesium, therefore, it’s likely many more of us are likely to be deficient.
After suffering from insomnia himself, Dr Mosely found compelling research evidence on the benefits of magnesium, not just as a sleep aid but for depression and anxiety too.
He goes on to explain that whilst there is no routine test to diagnose a deficiency, it is very easy to increase your intake with both food and natural supplements.
In this article, we’ll explain the different types of magnesium needed and why it’s so beneficial for treating both sleep disorders and anxiety.
We’ll also give you some tips on which foods to eat to boost your intake.
So, there’s different types of magnesium? Which one do I need to aid sleep?
Yup - there are at least 7 different types of magnesium and whilst it is often hailed as a cure for everything - there are differing levels of evidence around its effectiveness.
Fortunately, the evidence from clinical trials around magnesium as an effective aid for both sleep and anxiety is strong. There is also strong clinical evidence that its beneficial in easing depression.
Which magnesium do I need for sleep?
There are a few magnesiums that benefit sleep. The specific ones we recommended for are:
- Magnesium Oxide
- Magnesium Citrate and
- Magnesium Bis Glycerate
We recommend these because they provide different absorption rates. For instance, magnesium oxide provides the most elemental magnesium, but has a lower absorption rate. Magnesium citrate is absorbed very easily. Magnesium Bis-Glycinate, meanwhile, has the highest bioavailability and of all the forms of magnesium and provides a high level of absorption.
Could a magnesium deficiency seriously be the reason I can’t sleep?
It seriously could be. Studies show magnesium can help you get to sleep quicker, sleep longer, and make it through the night without waking up. Taking the right dose is extremely important - take too much magnesium and it has the opposite effect. Sleep will become difficult as the body starts to detox, inhibiting restfulness.
How magnesium helps improve sleep
Magnesium works in three different ways to help us get to sleep each night.
The first is by reducing our stress hormones – more specifically, cortisol. It’s called the stress hormone because it generally only gets elevated when you go into fight or flight mode.
However, with heightened levels of stress and worry from modern living, cortisol can remain in your system even at night. High cortisol levels may be responsible for insomnia. This is where magnesium comes in - it helps to clear cortisol.
The second way it improves sleep is by a working in a way that positively affects brain chemicals like GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA tells the brain it’s time to relax. Obviously, with a relaxed brain, it’s much easier to go to sleep.
And the third is by regulating melatonin, the sleep hormone. Normally, melatonin increases as the sun goes down. With modern conveniences like lights and television, melatonin production is at an all time low. So one of the best ways to get around this deficiency is to ensure you’re getting adequate amounts of magnesium.
Causes of magnesium deficiency
Magnesium deficiency is steadily increasing as a result of modern farming techniques causing the depletion of magnesium in the soil. If there’s not much magnesium in the soil, the plants we eat won’t have high enough levels to provide any measurable benefits.
It’s already difficult to get enough magnesium from diet alone and magnesium deficiency is even more likely if you intake high levels of sugar and caffeine. Both caffeine and sugar bind to magnesium, causing you to excrete it without getting any benefits from it.
Not only will decreasing caffeine intake make you less likely to stay awake through the night, you’ll also increase your absorption of magnesium. So if you haven’t dropped your caffeine habit, this is the perfect reason to stop drinking caffeine immediately (or taper yourself off of it if you have problems quitting right away).
What is the daily recommended dose for magnesium used as a sleep aid?
Adult males require as much as 400 mg of magnesium per day, while women need 320 mg. When pregnant, women should get between 350 and 400 mg.
What are the best foods for boosting magnesium intake?
Below are the 10 best food sources of magnesium for sleep. Keep in mind that these are approximate. You may not actually be getting as much magnesium as you think due to different soil conditions.
- Dark chocolate – 64 mg per 28 grams (16% daily value)
- Avocado – 1 medium avocado provides 58 mg (15% daily value)
- Nuts – 82 mg per 28 g of cashews (20% daily value)
- Legumes – 120 mg per 1 cup cooked black beans (20% daily value)
- Tofu – 53 mg per 3.5 ounces (13% daily value)
- Seeds – 150 mg per 28 g of pumpkin seeds (37% daily value)
- Whole grains – 65 mg per 28 g of dry buckwheat (16% daily value)
- Fatty fish – 53 mg of magnesium per 178 g (13% daily value)
- Bananas – 1 medium banana provides 37 mg (9% daily value)
- Leafy greens – 157 mg per 1 cup cooked spinach (39% daily value)
Magnesium supplements that can aid sleep
As mentioned several times throughout, it can be difficult to ascertain whether you’re getting enough magnesium in your diet. If you’re eating plenty of good sources of magnesium and you still have trouble going to sleep, your best bet is to turn to a supplement with guaranteed amounts.
You want to look for a magnesium supplement that has multiple sources, like MagneRest® in our Advanced Night-Time Nutrients.
Are there any risks to taking magnesium supplements?
Magnesium has very few side effects since your body naturally flushes out any excess.
Liquid magnesium citrate is often used as a laxative. As such, diarrhoea may occur when taking a magnesium supplement, but it can be easily overcome by simply taking it with food.
Dizziness, flushing, and fainting have been known to occur in very rare cases.
All considered, magnesium supplements are very safe and the effects of a magnesium deficiency are far worse - especially in relation to sleep.
Over-the-counter sleeping pills rich in magnesium
As mentioned previously, sleep is an absolute must to stay healthy. You can take all the supplements in the world, have the best diet, and exercise every day; but if you’re not sleeping properly, you won’t experience the health benefits you want.
There are plenty of over-the-counter magnesium supplements and natural sleep aids you can choose from. The key to finding a high quality over-the-counter sleeping pill is to find one with multiple sources of magnesium, like our sleep aid.
The more sources, the better because it will increase your ability to absorb magnesium. Typically, magnesium can be difficult to absorb. Using three sources: magnesium oxide, magnesium citrate, and magnesium glycinate ensures you get enough magnesium to help you fall asleep quicker, stay asleep, and have high quality sleep - every night.