If you’re searching for deep, restful sleep, you may have overlooked one of the simplest solutions: magnesium. An essential mineral, magnesium plays a role in sleep because it promotes the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid — also known as GABA. This neurotransmitter reduces the “excitability” of cells in your brain and nervous system. Those wild-thoughts running through your mind and anxious feelings that keep you awake? Yep. Those are excited neurons and can be calmed by higher GABA levels.
If you have trouble falling asleep or can’t stay asleep, you have company. More than 30 percent of the U.S. population has difficulty with sleep. Lack of restorative sleep can affect your immune system, the health of every major body system, and it can generally just make you crabby.
If you are wondering how magnesium can help, read on.
What Is Magnesium?
Magnesium plays an essential physiological role in your body. It promotes a healthy cardiovascular system by supporting normal blood pressure and heart rate. This mineral also supports the immune system, plays a role in muscle contraction, and promotes bone health.
Of all the minerals in the human body, magnesium is one of the most prevalent, located mostly in the bones. It is also one of the minerals many people do not get enough of, and up to one quarter of Americans may even be deficient.
We naturally lose some of it as we grow older, which can cause you to miss out on some much desired ZZZs. Eating magnesium-rich foods and taking supplements may give relief.
How Magnesium Helps Sleep
This essential mineral helps your body in numerous ways, but one of the lesser-known benefits is how it improves your nightly slumber. Below are the main ways magnesium influences restful sleep.
Helps You Get a Good Night’s Rest
Magnesium works together with melatonin and GABA — hormones and neurotransmitters in your body that influence how well you sleep. As people grow older, it becomes more challenging to get a full night’s sleep. The body’s circadian rhythms change, and we absorb and process nutrients and hormones differently. The aging body also goes through substantial lifestyle changes that impact our sleep-wake cycle.
People who take magnesium supplements — older adults especially — report better quality sleep as well as more of it. Not only that, they also fall asleep more quickly.
Relaxes Your Body & Brain
Magnesium soothes both the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, two parts of your nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system deals with your body’s “fight or flight” response, which kicks in when you face a genuine threat — but also when you feel stress and anxiety. The parasympathetic nervous system deals with your body’s regular activities, like breathing and digestion.
Magnesium helps calm both of these systems, which naturally helps you sleep better. Overall, magnesium may help with restlessness and irritability while calming those stray thoughts that keep you up at night.
Eases Daily Stress & Anxiety
For most people, stress is a part of everyday life. One measure of stress that medical experts use is heart rate variability (HRV).
It turns out that taking magnesium improves heart rate variability, especially when you also incorporate strength training into your workout regimen.
Lifts Your Mood
Magnesium plays a role in brain function, affecting several neurological pathways that can give you the blues.
When someone is magnesium-deficient, they're more likely to have personality and mood changes. A deficiency can cause you to feel down in the dumps more than usual — and that can keep you awake. .
Supports Normal Blood Pressure
Having a normal, healthy blood pressure can help you get better sleep because it relaxes you. And as previously mentioned, magnesium promotes a normal heart rate variability pattern and heart rhythms, thus reducing stress.
But there’s more where that came from. Taking a daily dose of magnesium or eating more magnesium-rich foods also promotes normal blood pressure, particularly the diastolic (bottom) number. Magnesium helps relax muscles, and blood vessels are made of muscle! When you take magnesium, it promotes normal blood pressure by calming the muscles within arteries, in particular.
Calms Those Restless Legs
Who can get a good night’s sleep when your legs are twitching and moving? Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a frustrating sleep disorder that causes tickling or tingling in your legs in the evening, leading to an uncontrollable urge to move them.
About 10 percent of adults in the United States experience RLS. People with RLS have lower levels of magnesium in their blood. Ensuring you have adequate levels can counteract any symptoms that arise from a deficiency.
Could Low Magnesium Be Affecting You?
Nearly half of Americans have too-low magnesium levels. If you are wondering whether you are one of many who do not get enough magnesium, or may even be deficient, read on. Some groups of people are prone to deficiencies. These include:[7, 8]
- People with kidney conditions
- People with gastrointestinal issues
- Individuals with Type 2 diabetes
- Anyone undergoing chemotherapy
- People with osteoporosis
- Heavy drinkers
- People with chronic migraines
- People with ADHD
Best Magnesium Sources
The best and safest form of magnesium comes from the food we eat, but it's also available in supplements.
Magnesium-rich foods include spinach, kale, broccoli, artichokes, and brown rice. Eating more of these foods may help people sleep longer.[9, 10, 11] Below is a chart showing the amount of magnesium in various healthy foods.
|Food||Percent of Recommended Daily Value|
|Black beans, cooked, ½ cup||15%|
|Almonds, dry-roasted, 1 ounce||20%|
|Brown rice, cooked, ½ cup||11%|
|Spinach, boiled, ½ cup||20%|
|Avocado, cubed, 1 cup||11%|
|Dark Chocolate, 1 ounce||16%|
|Broccoli, chopped and cooked, ½ cup||3%|
|Kale, raw, 1 cup||2%|
|Artichoke, boiled, 1 whole||13%|
|Birth to 6 months||30 mg*||30 mg*|
|7–12 months||75 mg*||75 mg*|
|1–3 years||80 mg||80 mg|
|4–8 years||130 mg||130 mg|
|9–13 years||240 mg||240 mg|
|14–18 years||410 mg||360 mg||400 mg||360 mg|
|19–30 years||400 mg||310 mg||350 mg||310 mg|
|31–50 years||420 mg||320 mg||360 mg||320 mg|
|51+ years||420 mg||320 mg|
While you will find a variety of magnesium supplement types on the market, I recommend magnesium orotate, which is the most bioavailable option. Always choose a reputable brand that uses the highest quality ingredients.
Supplements are available for people who naturally have low levels of magnesium. Some supplements are better than others and allow the body to absorb more magnesium. Global Healing's IntraCal™ contains calcium orotate and magnesium orotate in an ideal ratio. IntraCal not only supports healthy teeth and bones with the calcium it contains, but the magnesium can also help you get some much-wanted rest.
Precautions & Potential Side Effects
If you're an otherwise healthy person but consuming too much magnesium, you won't have much to worry about. Extra magnesium is excreted in your urine. However, taking too much of any supplement or medicine can have adverse effects, including diarrhea, cramping, and nausea.
If you take other medications, check with your healthcare provider about any possible interactions with magnesium. It’s ideal to try to get magnesium and other minerals and vitamins from your food, but you can also take supplements where your diet falls short.
Points to Remember
Sleep challenges affect a large portion of the population every night, whether it's from stress, health, or another cause. Magnesium, an essential mineral, helps regulate sleep cycles. If you have trouble with sleep, try upping your magnesium intake. Because magnesium helps relax tight muscles, you will wake up feeling refreshed and with less tension.
Seeds, nuts, leafy green vegetables, and certain grains are a few of the sources that contain a high level of the recommended daily value of magnesium. Specifically, broccoli, kale, artichokes, and brown rice have higher amounts of this essential mineral.
Do you take magnesium for sleep? How does it help you? Share your experiences below.
- Abbasi B, et al. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2012 Dec;17(12):1161-1169.
- Wienecke E, Nolden C. [Long-term HRV analysis shows stress reduction by magnesium intake]. MMW Fortschr Med. 2016 Dec;158(Suppl 6):12-16.
- Serefko A, et al. Magnesium and depression. Magnes Res. 2016 Mar 1;29(3):112-119.
- Zhang X, et al. Effects of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: A meta-analysis of randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trials. Hypertension. 2016 Aug;68(2):324-333.
- Hornyak M, et al. Magnesium therapy for periodic leg movements-related insomnia and restless legs syndrome: An open pilot study. Sleep. 1998 Aug 1;21(5):501-505.
- Rosanoff A, et al. Suboptimal magnesium status in the United States: Are the health consequences underestimated? Nutr Rev. 2012:70(3):153-164.
- Magnesium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. 26 Sept 2018. Accessed 3 Dec 2018.
- Starobrat-Hermelin B, Kozielec T. The effects of magnesium physiological supplementation on hyperactivity in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Positive response to magnesium oral loading test. Magnes Res. 1997 Jun;10(2):149-156.
- Yawen Z, et al. Strategies of functional foods promote sleep in human being. Curr Signal Transduct Ther. 2014 Dec;9(3):148-155.
- Magnesium Fact Sheet for Consumers. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. 17 Feb 2016. Accessed 3 Dec 2018.
- Jellinek H, Takacs E. Morphological aspects of the effects of orotic acid and magnesium orotate on hypercholesterolaemia in rabbits. Arzneimittelforschung. 1995 Aug;45(8):836-842.
- Chollet D, et al. Magnesium involvement in sleep: Genetic and nutritional models. Behav Genet. 2001 Sep;31(5):413-425.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.