The proven health benefits of magnesium are many and include stress relief, improved hydration, lower blood pressure and improved muscle growth and recovery. In addition to such advantages, many believe the mineral can also improve the quality of one’s sleep.
It’s an enticing claim. Sleep is an area many people want to improve upon; adults between the ages of 18 and 60 should get seven or more hours of sleep per night, but about 35% of adults in a 2020 survey reported sleeping less than that.
Does magnesium help you sleep?
Some promising research suggests that magnesium could play a part in improving one’s sleep. One study, for instance, found that a group of older adults who were given 500 milligrams of magnesium before bed had better sleep quality than participants in the study who were given a placebo. The former group also showed higher levels of melatonin than those in the other group.
“Melatonin is the hormone that governs sleep,” says Josh Redd, NMD, the founder of RedRiver Health and Wellness and author of “The Truth About Low Thyroid.” He adds that magnesium could also support sleep “by regulating the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) – a neurotransmitter known for calming the nervous system.”
It’s also known that “magnesium is involved in relaxing one’s muscles,” says Lisa Young, PhD, an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University and author of “Finally Full, Finally Slim.” As a result, she says the mineral “may help with restless leg syndrome which may affect sleep quality.”
Beyond such findings, however, further research on just how magnesium affects sleep still needs to be done. Kate Zeratsky, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, says some magnesium studies “suggest some benefit to improving duration or quality of sleep,” but adds that “the science to support magnesium and sleep is not robust.”
How long before bed should I take magnesium?
At the same time, experts say that natural remedies like minerals are safer, won’t cause dependence, and have fewer side effects than some sleep interventions such as sleeping pills. Magnesium, therefore, may be a good alternative to some medications. For anyone struggling with sleep wanting to give the supplement a try, its best to take it about 30 minutes before bed.
It’s also worth noting that there are many forms of magnesium, and some are thought to contribute to a restful night’s sleep more than others. Magnesium glycinate, for instance, is one such type and is also “gentle on the stomach,” says Redd. Magnesium citrate is another good option because it “promotes relaxation,” he says.
How much magnesium should I take?
The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements recommends for adult males to get between 400 and 420 milligrams of magnesium per day, and for adult females to get between 310 and 320 milligrams of the mineral daily. The agency has additional recommendations for children and for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. “Taking the daily recommendation for magnesium is OK,” says Young, “however, I do not suggest megadosing.”
Magnesium takers should also be aware that supplemental magnesium is different from the magnesium found naturally in the one’s food, and that supplementation isn’t necessary unless someone is magnesium deficient or has “a diet lacking in magnesium-rich foods,” says Zeratsky. Such foods include nuts like almonds, peanuts and cashews; plus seeds, soy milk, black beans and leafy greens such as spinach.
The Office of Dietary Supplements says that “too much magnesium from food does not pose a health risk in healthy individuals because the kidneys eliminate excess amounts in the urine.” But the agency also notes that issues may arise from ingesting “high doses of magnesium from dietary supplements or medications.” Zeratsky says such problems include nausea, abdominal cramping and diarrhea.
The good news is that side effects like that are rare for individuals supplementing magnesium within recommended limits; and whether the mineral measurably improves sleep or not, its health benefits remain high.
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