It’s a well-known fact that a good night’s sleep is essential to your general health. It’s on par with eating healthy and exercising. Unfortunately, while sleep is a natural function of our bodies, many people struggle with it.
Sleep difficulty is when you can’t sleep at night, have trouble falling asleep, or wake up several times throughout the night. In general, as an adult, you need approximately seven to eight hours of sleep each night to feel rested and refreshed. If you fail to get this amount, you may experience several adverse side effects, including an inability to focus during the day, irritability, daytime fatigue, frequent headaches, waking up in the middle of the night, waking up too early, or taking several hours to fall asleep at night. Additionally, you may have dark circles under your eyes and find that you have low energy throughout the day.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep. In this article, we’re going to focus on the role magnesium plays in your sleep hygiene.
Magnesium performs an essential and often unrecognized role in your sleep and overall health. It occurs naturally in the body, but supplementing your body’s resource of this mineral can improve sleep efficiency, sleep time, sleep onset latency, and early morning awakening. Magnesium exists inside your cells and bones, but you can get additional magnesium from foods like legumes, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and seeds.
Ready to learn more? Let’s dive into the ins and outs of magnesium and sleep.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is considered an essential mineral. This means that it’s one of seven crucial macro-minerals that the human body requires in large quantities. Specifically, magnesium is important to regulating blood pressure, supporting the immune system, and helping muscles and nerves function.
The adult body has approximately 25 grams of magnesium. Fifty to 60% of the magnesium that your body stores are in your skeletal structure, and the rest is contained in muscle, soft tissue, and bodily fluids.
While magnesium occurs in the body naturally, your body doesn’t actually produce it. The magnesium your body requires has to come from outside sources. The best way to get magnesium by including magnesium-rich foods in your diet. This includes foods such as:
- Dark leafy greens
- Seeds and nuts
- Dairy products
- Unprocessed whole grains
According to researchers estimates, about half of adult men and women in the United States don’t get enough magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is related to poor sleep. It’s also known to be related to stress and anxiety, which also affects sleep. Therefore, if you’re having trouble sleeping, it might be a good idea to start by examining your diet to see if you’re deficient in magnesium.
How Does Magnesium Work?
Magnesium carries out an extensive role in the human body. It helps to regulate and facilitate a number of essential functions. One of its most important roles is to act as an enabler of healthy enzyme function. In fact, it is involved in more than 300 different enzyme-related reactions in the body’s cells.
Additionally, magnesium performs a central role in the body’s energy production by activating ATP, the energy molecule that fuels your body’s cells. It also balances the transport of calcium, potassium, and other essential minerals. In doing so, it helps your muscles and nerves function correctly and maintains a proper heart rhythm. Other functions that magnesium performs include helping bone development and guarding against bone loss. Furthermore, it regulates your blood pressure, cholesterol production, and blood glucose levels. Lastly, magnesium helps control your body’s stress response system and manages the hormones that elevate or diminish stress.
Some of the ways magnesium benefits you include:
- Improved sleep: A common symptom of magnesium deficiency is insomnia. This is because people who have low magnesium often experience restless sleep and frequently wake during the night. Therefore by maintaining healthy levels of magnesium, you can often achieve a deeper, more sounder sleep. This effect is a result of magnesium’s ability to maintain healthy levels of GABA. GABA stands for gamma-aminobutyric-acid and is a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep. If you are deficient in magnesium, your sleep will benefit by adding more magnesium to your diet or taking a magnesium supplement because it will improve your GABA levels. Furthermore, research has shown that magnesium can help insomnia related to the sleep disorder restless-leg syndrome.
- Bone health: Magnesium is critical to bone formation and the maintenance of bone density. It helps your body to build blocks of strong bones effectively, including the nutrients calcium and Vitamin D. Magnesium is especially important to the maintenance of your bones as you age. In fact, higher magnesium intake has been linked to better bone density in older women and men. Furthermore, magnesium is associated with improved bone mass in postmenopausal women.
- Metabolic health: Magnesium plays a crucial role in regulating blood sugar and metabolizing your body’s glucose. When you have higher magnesium levels, you have less risk of developing type 2 diabetes. By contrast, low magnesium levels are related to insulin resistance. Research shows that 25-38% of people with type 2 diabetes are also deficient in magnesium. However, research also shows that taking supplemental magnesium can improve a person’s insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes who have a magnesium deficiency. One study demonstrated that pre-diabetics without a magnesium deficiency could reduce their blood glucose levels by taking supplemental magnesium. Furthermore, people with a high intake of magnesium have a lower risk for metabolic syndrome, which is a group of conditions that increase the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Mood stabilization and stress reduction: Magnesium boosts your levels of GABA. Higher levels of GABA encourage relaxation in addition to sleep. When you have low levels of GABA in your system, it can be challenging to relax. Magnesium also helps to regulate your body’s stress-response system. When you’re deficient in magnesium, research has shown that people tend to have heightened anxiety and stress. Research has shown that magnesium deficiency negatively affects your gut health which has been linked to anxiety behaviors. Furthermore, taking magnesium supplements has been seen to stabilize a person’s mood by relieving symptoms of both mild-to-moderate depression and mild-to-moderate depression.
- Cardiovascular health: As we’ve already established, magnesium plays a crucial role in regulating muscle function throughout the body, including the heart muscle. Magnesium helps maintain a healthy heart rhythm by regulating blood pressure and the production of cholesterol. Consequently, having a high intake of magnesium is related to a significant reduction in people’s mortality with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. By contrast, magnesium deficiency is linked to unhealthful inflammation and elevated inflammatory markers such as the C-reactive protein or CRP. As a result, studies show that adults who don’t have enough magnesium are more likely to have higher CRP levels, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
People who have hypertension can benefit from supplemental magnesium because it lowers blood pressure. Additionally, magnesium can treat other cardiovascular conditions, including:
- Coronary artery disease
- Mitral valve prolapse.
- ADHD Symptoms: Research has demonstrated that children who suffer from ADHD tend to have low magnesium levels at higher rates than children in the general population. This is likely because low magnesium has been linked to inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactive behavior. For this reason, studies have suggested that supplementing magnesium may decrease hyperactivity and improve cognitive function in children with ADHD.
- Athletic Performance: Magnesium is central to muscle health and energy production. For this reason, research indicates that supplemental magnesium can reduce an athlete’s stress response to exertion and increase their red blood cells and hemoglobin, which improves their performance. In fact, a study of triathletes who took magnesium supplements had faster start times in cycling and running. Furthermore, research has shown that magnesium improves exercise tolerance in sleep-deprived people.
Possible Side Effects of Magnesium
In general, healthy adults tolerate magnesium well. However, possible side effects of taking magnesium include upset stomach, diarrhea, bloating, nausea, and vomiting. Furthermore, extremely large doses of magnesium may result in serious side effects such as irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, mental confusion, changes to breathing, coma, and death.
For these reasons, you should consult a physician before using a magnesium supplement if you meet any of these conditions:
- You’re pregnant or breastfeeding
- You have a heart block
- You have kidney problems
- You have a bleeding disorder
Additionally, there are some conditions that are associated with higher risks for magnesium deficiency, such as alcoholism and diabetes. There are also conditions that may result in a reduction in how much magnesium the body can absorb. This includes:
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Immune conditions
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Stomach infections
You also need to be cautious of medications and supplements that interact with magnesium. If you take any of these medications or supplements, you’ll need to consult a physician before starting to use magnesium:
- Anticoagulant medications
- Diabetes medication
- High blood pressure medication
- Muscle relaxants
- Water pills.
- Vitamin D
Magnesium is a crucial macronutrient for your body. It performs a central role in many body processes, including muscle, nerve, bone, and mood. Although magnesium occurs naturally in your body, you can also find it in many foods. It’s important to include these foods in your diet because your body doesn’t produce its own magnesium. Therefore, to maintain the health of your muscles, nerves, bones, and mood, you need to make sure you’re getting enough magnesium.
Magnesium has many benefits, but the one we’ve chosen to focus on today is sleep. Magnesium helps to maintain healthy levels of the neurotransmitter GABA, which is central in promoting sleep. GABA is also associated with the body’s stress-response system. When you have low levels of GABA, you may find it difficult to relax. This is why heightened stress and anxiety is associated with magnesium deficiency.
Other benefits of magnesium that we touched on in this article include bone, cardiovascular, and metabolic health and ADHD symptoms, and athletic performance.
So to conclude, magnesium has a positive effect on sleep and other areas of your life.