Does magnesium really help you sleep?

woman stretching in bed

From milky drinks and eye masks to limiting caffeine and liberal spritzes of lavender oil – when it comes to the quest for a good night’s sleep, there’s no shortage of hacks and relaxation tips out there. But if you want to opt for a science-backed solution, it may be time to add a magnesium supplement to your evening routine.

This mineral plays an important role in numerous bodily functions, but many people aren’t aware that it is crucial to sleep. So if you’re one of the 32 million UK adults suffering from disrupted sleep, and lifestyle interventions and quick fixes have fallen short, then read on to discover more (and stock up!) on this sleep-inducing nutrient today.

What is magnesium?

Magnesium is an incredibly important and common mineral, found naturally in seawater and present in many foods, such as leafy greens, legumes and dark chocolate (any excuse!). In the body it’s the fourth-most abundant mineral, is involved in over 600 reactions and is crucial to the function of every single cell – so no biggie.

The NHS recommends men aged 19-64 should have 300mg of magnesium per day, while women aged 19-64 should have 270mg. Yet it’s estimated that many UK adults have low levels – so topping up with a magnesium supplement could be a good idea.

How can magnesium help me sleep?

There are numerous ways that magnesium can aid sleep. To fall asleep and stay asleep, both body and brain need to be relaxed. Magnesium steps in here by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for getting you into a calm and relaxed state. As well as regulating neurotransmitters which send signals throughout the nervous system, magnesium regulates the hormone melatonin, which guides your circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. 

Plus, this clever mineral binds to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. GABA is the neurotransmitter responsible for slowing nerve activity – think of it as the wakefulness ‘off switch’.

Of course, it’s all well and good falling asleep, but sleep quality is also crucial – and magnesium lends a hand here, too. Studies show that magnesium supplements can contribute to deep, restful sleep, and this is thought to be down to magnesium’s calming influence on the nervous system, as it blocks more stimulating molecules from binding to neurons.

Magnesium also plays a role in muscle relaxation and has been shown to help alleviate
both anxiety and depression, which can have a detrimental effect on sleep.

Also read:
How to sleep well 

Could a magnesium deficiency affect my sleep?

man in bed awake during night

Put simply, yes! Not having enough magnesium is linked to troubled sleep and insomnia. Some people are more prone to a magnesium deficiency, such as those with digestive diseases, diabetes or alcohol dependence, as well as older adults.

While it’s thought many people don’t meet the recommended daily intake for magnesium, far fewer will actually be classed as deficient. Symptoms of a deficiency include muscle twitches and cramps, fatigue and muscle weakness, and personality changes (such as feeling anxious, agitated or depressed). If you’re concerned, see your GP.

What other benefits does magnesium have? 

woman in start position on race track

There’s little this wonder mineral doesn’t do! But some of magnesium’s key benefits include promoting heart health, strengthening bones and regulating blood sugar and pressure. As a ‘helper’ molecule in biochemical reactions, it aids in energy creation, muscle movements, protein formation and regulation of the nervous system. 

Plus, magnesium may boost athletic performance as it helps dispose of lactate, which can build in the muscles during exercise, causing fatigue. It may also help prevent migraines, as studies suggest those who suffer are more likely to have low levels of magnesium, and it may even improve premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms – this is thought to be because magnesium levels fluctuate during menstrual cycles, causing more severe symptoms in those who are deficient.

Why are there different types of magnesium supplements?

There are many forms of magnesium supplements, but all feature magnesium bound to another substance – this is to keep it stable and aid absorption. Many multivitamin and mineral supplements also contain magnesium.

Fussy gut? Opt for magnesium oxide (combined with oxygen), ideal for short-term relief from uncomfortable digestive issues such as heartburn, indigestion and constipation. It may also help treat and prevent migraines, and is a good all-rounder. 

Remember that magnesium supplements can interfere with some medications, including antibiotics and blood pressure medicines. If you take any medication or have a medical condition, always speak to your GP before trying a new supplement.

How can I add magnesium supplements into my routine?

You can take magnesium any time, but as it can help to relax you, taking it in the evening – an hour or so before bed – may be beneficial. Take with a glass of water, and if you can, near a mealtime, as this will reduce the chances of experiencing any digestive issues. And remember that more won’t help you sleep better – in fact, it may give you an upset stomach – so always follow the directions on the label and don’t exceed the daily recommended amount.

Find out more about which supplements can support your health needs

[Disclaimer] Speak to your GP before starting a new supplement regimen.

Nature's Truth

Nature's Truth

Writer and expert