‘Natural sleep-aid’ is probably not the first thing that you think of when you hear the word magnesium – but it should be! Magnesium plays a key role in your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Boosting your natural levels of magnesium can result in falling asleep faster, sleeping more deeply, and staying asleep longer.1
Magnesium is actually an enzyme that your body naturally produces. But the problem is that many people actually have a magnesium deficiency. And this may actually be the cause of your poor sleeping patterns.
We all know that getting enough uninterrupted, quality sleep is crucial for your overall health. If you struggle with falling or staying asleep, increasing your magnesium intake might be the natural solution you have been looking for.
So don’t suffer through another sleepless night! Let’s explore the powerful ways that magnesium can easily improve your quality of sleep.
How Magnesium Boosts Your Sleep
Magnesium is known to play a vital role in the amount and quality of sleep that you get each night. Research has indicated that even a slight deficit in magnesium can keep you from falling and staying asleep.2
While having sufficient levels of magnesium doesn’t 100% guarantee that you’ll fall asleep quickly and remain in a deep sleep, insufficient levels of magnesium do guarantee that you won’t.
There are several different ways that magnesium is thought to impact your sleep:
1. Helping the Body Transition to Sleep-Mode
Magnesium is known as being a natural muscle relaxant.3 It moves calcium out of the muscles and into the bloodstream so that it can be dealt with elsewhere in the body and your muscles can relax.
When your muscles are relaxed, your entire body feels tranquil and can more easily prepare for sleep. By acting as a muscle relaxant, magnesium essentially allows your body to enter that calm and sleepy phase. This is an essential transition for a restful night’s sleep.
2. Maintaining Sleep Stages
Throughout the night, your body naturally cycles through various sleep stages that occur in a very specific order. Studies have shown that magnesium effectively helps maintain these necessary stages of sleep.4
Without proper magnesium levels, these sleep stages can become chaotic and lose their natural order. This can be disastrous when it comes to your ability to feel rested and refreshed upon waking up.
3. Calming the Nervous System
Magnesium has a direct impact on your nervous system.5 It helps to regulate your heart rate and sympathetic nervous system, naturally encouraging your body to de-stress. It also effectively deactivates adrenaline throughout the body. Adrenaline, when unregulated, can actively keep you awake.
Basically, a lack of magnesium can throw your nervous system out of whack, causing you to feel jittery and anxious. And who can fall asleep when they feel jittery or anxious?
Additionally, magnesium has been proven to alter the electrical activity that occurs in your brain. Boosted levels of magnesium help to minimize brain activity so that you can quickly fall and stay asleep. When you’re lacking sufficient levels of magnesium, your brain stays ‘turned-on’ and your sleep becomes agitated and restless.
4. Decreasing Stress & Balancing Hormones
Studies show that magnesium helps to reduce levels of the hormone cortisol.6 Cortisol is known as the ‘stress hormone’ and is often responsible for keeping you awake at night.
By balancing out cortisol, and other fluctuating hormones, magnesium directly influences your ability to easily fall and stay asleep. Regulating and lowering stress levels equals better sleep.
5. Melatonin Stimulation
Melatonin is a fundamental sleep hormone that your body produces. It’s the primary hormone that dictates and maintains your natural circadian rhythm. Basically, proper melatonin synthesis is essential for achieving quality sleep.
Sufficient levels of magnesium and melatonin production may go hand in hand7 Magnesium not only helps in the production and delivery of melatonin to the brain but it’s essential in stimulating melatonin synthesis.
When you have too little magnesium, melatonin struggles to work effectively at regulating your natural sleep-wake cycle. In order to sleep better, it is crucial to maintain proper magnesium levels so that melatonin can do its job.
How to Increase Your Magnesium For Better Sleep
Even though we naturally produce magnesium in our bodies, many of us don’t maintain sufficient levels on a regular basis. Our digestive system actually struggles to take full advantage of the magnesium that we obtain from food. We generally only absorb about 50% of the magnesium that we consume, and often that is not enough for a good night’s sleep.
Since most people don’t eat enough magnesium rich foods, and our bodies absorb so little magnesium as it is, many of us are seriously lacking this amazing mineral.
Magnesium is also great for preventing menstrual cramps, another common condition that hampers sleep.
If you want to reap the profound sleep benefits that magnesium offers, you likely need to supplement the natural amounts that your body produces.
1. Magnesium from Food
You can help increase your magnesium levels by eating more foods that are naturally magnesium rich.8 Foods that are high in magnesium include:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Wheat germ
- Pumpkin seeds
- Mineral water
- Various fish such as: mackerel, salmon, and halibut
The issue with trying to increase your magnesium by eating foods like these is that they can be unreliable sources of magnesium. The magnesium content in food is based on the soil that it’s grown in. Unfortunately, modern agriculture is depleting magnesium levels in the soil, which in turn depletes magnesium content from the foods grown in it.9 And unfortunately, you can’t tell how much magnesium is in food just by looking at it.
Furthermore, in order to obtain the recommended daily intake of magnesium (420mg/day10), you would have to eat A LOT of magnesium rich foods. Examples of food quantity needed to hit the daily intake include: 7 avocados, 16 glasses of milk, or 3 cans of kidney beans. Can you say belly ache?
Eating foods rich in magnesium is never a bad idea, but you may not be able to get enough magnesium from your food to positively impact your sleep. Taking a magnesium supplement in the form of a pill, powder, or trans-dermally (through the skin) is a surefire way to boost your magnesium and improve your sleep. This can be done in place of or in addition to eating more magnesium rich foods.
2. Magnesium Pills
Finding the right magnesium pill to benefit your sleep can be confusing. When you walk into the health food store there’s tons of different types and brands of magnesium – magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate, magnesium oxide. How do you decide?
Of the three most common magnesium compounds mentioned above, the only one to avoid is magnesium oxide. For reasons that aren’t totally understood, your body can’t absorb this particular type of magnesium. No point in taking a pill that your body can’t use!
The other thing to be aware of when supplementing your magnesium in the form of a pill is the possible effect that it might have on your bowel movements.
Aside from improved sleep, many people take magnesium for its laxative side effects. The laxative effects of magnesium are more likely to happen when you take it as a pill – as opposed to powders or topically.
If you don’t need any help in the bowel movement department, magnesium pills may not be your best bet. You’re taking magnesium to improve your sleep, not to have you up and running to the bathroom all night!
If you do decide to take a magnesium pill, 400-500mg before bed is the general recommendation. But be mindful of the possible laxative effects and make sure that you have easy access to a bathroom throughout the night until you know how it affects your bowels.
3. Magnesium Powder & Transdermal Magnesium
Many people find that magnesium powder is an excellent way to supplement your magnesium for improved sleep. The laxative side effects of magnesium are much less intense when taken in the form of a powder, but the sleep benefits are still highly effective.
Magnesium powder is available in both flavored and unflavored options and can be easily mixed in with a glass of water before bed.
The other option for boosting your magnesium and improving your sleep is by absorbing magnesium through your skin.11 Epsom salts are an excellent source of magnesium and can be added to a warm bath.
As you enjoy a long soak in the tub, your body will naturally absorb magnesium from the Epsom salts. Not only will the magnesium help you fall and stay asleep, but a relaxing bath prior to bedtime is always a good idea for transitioning into sleep mode.
If baths aren’t really your thing, you can also apply a magnesium oil topically. Magnesium oil is best applied topically to your skin with a spray bottle.
By delivering magnesium trans-dermally (thro ugh the skin), you bypass the gastrointestinal tract and minimize the laxative effects that magnesium might have. This allows you to reap the powerful sleep benefits without spending all night in the bathroom.
Simply apply a light mist over your arms or neck prior to bed. Rub the oil into your skin, settle into bed, and let the natural sleep benefits of magnesium get to work.
Have you ever tried magnesium as a natural sleep aid? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!