Magnesium is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world. In fact, nearly 48% of us do not get enough magnesium in our diets. Most Americans eat the Standard American Diet, a diet full of processed foods with little to no nutrients, including magnesium. Even if you eat a diet full of whole foods, that might not be enough to get all the benefits. This essential mineral has a long list of health benefits, yet does magnesium help you optimize sleep?
Sleep is the way your body rests and recharges its batteries. When you sleep, your body goes through a series of changes. Sleep allows your brain and body to slow down and engage in recovery to promote better physical and mental health. If you don’t get enough sleep, it can affect your ability to concentrate, think clearly, and process memories.
So, where does magnesium fit into all of this? I will tell you about magnesium’s health benefits, how you can optimize your diet to get more, and whether or not magnesium helps you sleep. Let’s begin by reviewing what magnesium is.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral that plays a crucial role in more than 300 processes in your body.1 It’s an essential electrolyte that carries an electrical charge and works with other electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and calcium to carry out critical bodily processes. These processes include regulating chemical reactions, maintaining the balance between fluids inside and outside your cells, and providing an electrical charge to allow your muscles to contract and promote heart and brain health.
Magnesium’s most notable roles are supporting healthy bowel patterns, maintaining healthy bones, supporting cognitive function, relaxing tight and aching muscles, and promoting heart health. Magnesium also helps support:2
- A healthy immune system
- Muscle and nerve function
- A steady blood pressure
- Bone health
- Blood glucose regulation
- Energy supply
Yet, does magnesium help you sleep? The short answer is yes. One of magnesium’s critical roles in your body is to promote calm and relaxation, which is crucial for optimal sleep patterns. Magnesium deficiency is linked to insomnia and sleep deprivation.3 Let’s dig in some more.
How Magnesium Impacts Sleep
In order to sleep, your brain and your nervous system need to relax. Magnesium supports this process by activating your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls your heart rate and is responsible for digestion and rest.4
Magnesium regulates rest by sending signals throughout the nervous system to release the hormone melatonin, which promotes sleep and wake cycles in your body. Once the melatonin is released, magnesium binds to the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors responsible for calming nerve activity. GABA is the same neurotransmitter used by many over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids such as Ambien.
Magnesium vs. Melatonin
It’s important to understand that melatonin and magnesium have different roles in your body, yet both support optimal sleep patterns. For starters, magnesium is a nutrient that facilitates many other processes in your body, and melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that promotes healthy sleep patterns. Magnesium supports relaxation and healthy stress response, whereas melatonin helps you get to sleep faster. Both can be used to promote sleep and are often used together.
Studies show low magnesium levels negatively impact sleep patterns. Insomnia, a sleep disorder in which you can’t fall asleep, stay asleep, or both, is commonly linked with low magnesium levels. Anxiety and depression also correlate with low magnesium levels, contributing to insomnia.5
Many of those who have insomnia also experience restless leg syndrome. Restless leg syndrome is a sleep disorder that causes strong urges to move your legs. It may cause uncomfortable sensations in your legs, such as a creeping, itchy, pulling, tugging, throbbing, burning, and crawling feeling.
Benefits of Sleep
Sleep doesn’t just make you feel good. Beneath the surface, sleep is essential for brain health. If you lack quality sleep, your risk of developing chronic issues including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity increases dramatically. Your memory, learning, and creativity suffer as well. That’s just the beginning of how sleep sets the foundation for our overall health.
Here are 10 benefits of sleep on top of the ones we’ve already discussed:
- Boosts your metabolism
- It supports your mental health
- Promotes brain health
- It supports your immune system
- It makes your heart stronger
- It puts you in a better mood
- Increases productivity during the day
- Improves memory
- Builds protein molecules
- Reduces inflammation
Magnesium deficiency is also linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and migraine headaches. A magnesium deficiency could be the culprit if you’re having trouble sleeping at night. Let’s talk about common signs of low magnesium.
Signs of Low Magnesium
Magnesium deficiency happens when the intake falls lower than your body requires. Optimal levels of magnesium are about 400 to 1,000mg daily. There are many different forms of magnesium. The most absorbable are magnesium citrate, threonate, glycinate taurate, or aspartate.
Our current farming practices, water quality, and lack of magnesium in our diets have caused a widespread issue of magnesium deficiency. The National Institute of Health suggests that as many as 90% of Americans may be magnesium deficient, with adolescent females and men over 71 years old at the highest risk of not consuming enough.
Certain situations such as eating a diet high in processed foods or drinking too much alcohol can lead to magnesium deficiencies. Here are some other conditions that could cause you to be deficient in this vital mineral:
- Abnormal bowel patterns: Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and other illnesses that cause chronic diarrhea and malabsorption cause your body to lose magnesium.
- Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes causes increased urination and depleted electrolytes.
- Not replenishing electrolytes after exercise: You sweat when you exercise, which causes your body to use electrolytes. If you’re not replenishing electrolytes after exercise, you risk being magnesium deficient.
- Alcoholism: Excess alcohol consumption is associated with low nutrition, gut problems, organ dysfunction, and depletion of necessary minerals.
- Hungry bone syndrome: If you’ve had your thyroid removed, you may experience “hungry bone syndrome.” This phenomenon is when your body increases how much magnesium it uses, causing depletion.
- Pancreatitis. Pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, can lead to malabsorption of minerals, including magnesium.
- Kidney disease. Kidneys play a vital role in regulating electrolytes. If you have kidney disease, magnesium deficiency may occur along with it.
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
Those who are magnesium deficient may first notice persistent fatigue. However, other early symptoms of low magnesium include:
The good news is that there are many delicious foods to eat that are rich in magnesium. I always advocate for a diet full of organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, and wild-caught seafood. Seeds are some of the most magnesium-potent foods available. Let’s look at foods high in magnesium.
Foods with Magnesium
Magnesium is widely found in plant and animal foods and some beverages. The problem is most foods that contain magnesium also contain gluten, such as breakfast cereals and whole grains. The problem with gluten is that it causes intestinal permeability, otherwise known as leaky gut, which is one of the causes of magnesium deficiency.
The good news is there is a great variety of great-tasting foods that are rich in magnesium. They include:
- Pumpkin seeds – 156mg (1 oz)
- Chia seeds – 111mg (1 oz)
- Almonds – 80mg (1 oz)
- Spinach – 78mg (1 oz)
- Potatoes – 43mg (3.5 oz)
- Banana – 32mg
- Wild-caught salmon – 26mg (3 oz)
- Avocado – 22mg (½ cup)
- Grass-fed beef – 20mg (3 oz)
The daily recommended value of magnesium varies depending on age, and the RDV of magnesium for adult males is 400mg to 420mg and 350mg to 400mg for females. In functional medicine, we use the Optimal Daily Intake (ODI) as a guideline for the number of nutrients your body needs to function at optimal levels. As I mentioned, the optimal range of magnesium is 400 to 1,000 mg daily for benefits.
Even though you may be eating a diet of foods high in magnesium, it can be impossible to get optimal amounts from food alone. Nearly everyone who isn’t already supplementing with a high-quality magnesium supplement is likely low in this all-important mineral. I will tell you about my go-to tools to support optimal sleep and magnesium levels.
My Best Tools for Optimal Sleep
Limiting caffeine is essential to optimal sleep. Caffeine is a natural stimulant in coffee beans, tea leaves, and cocoa beans, and it can also be produced synthetically like that found in soft drinks and most energy drinks. Caffeine promotes alertness by blocking the chemical messenger adenosine, a neurotransmitter that causes that sleepy feeling.
Eating a diet high in sleep-friendly foods is also essential for optimal sleep. Yet, as I mentioned, getting optimal magnesium levels and other sleep-supporting nutrients such as melatonin can be difficult.
For maximum sleep support, I created Rest and Restore Max™. Rest and Restore Max™ is a potent physician-formulated supplement that promotes deeper restorative sleep. It contains 30mg of magnesium, 200 mg of GABA, and 3mg of melatonin to support falling and staying asleep and promotes an optimal sleep cycle.
I use Rest and Restore™ Max every evening before bed, and I find it tremendously helpful to relax my mind and body to get a great night’s sleep. It offers a powerful tool to help you relax during the day and prepare for a night of restful, restorative sleep. Sleep is essential to your health; using this tool will help you get the sleep you deserve!
- Magnesium Facts. The National Institutes of Health. 2021.
- How Magnesium Can Help You Sleep. Jay Summer. Sleep Foundation. 2022.
- The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Behnood Abbasi . Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. 2012.
- Parasympathetic Nervous System. Science Direct. 2019.
- The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare. Gerry K Schwalfenberg . Scientifica (Cairo). 2017.