How Taking Magnesium for Sleep Could Affect Your Slumber

Find out whether magnesium supplements can truly help you drift off to sleep.

Magnesium for Sleep
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Struggling to fall asleep at night is no one's idea of fun, so if you've taken to social media to find tips on how to fall asleep, you're certainly not alone. Wading through every popular suggestion (e.g. melatonin diffuser pens and strategically-timed snacking) to find out what's actually worth trying can take a lot of effort.

When researching, you're bound to come across posts about taking magnesium for sleep before long. If you're curious about trying these supplements, find out the pros and cons of taking magnesium for sleep.

What Is Magnesium and How Does It Relate to Sleep?

Magnesium is a mineral found naturally in your body, and it plays a part in numerous body functions, according to Shelby Harris, Psy.D., director of sleep health at Sleepopolis.com and a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in sleep medicine. "This mineral plays a role in the body’s energy production, cardiovascular system, and nervous system," she says. "Proper muscle and nerve function are also supported by magnesium, which can be helpful in relieving pain from muscle cramps, menstrual cramps, and headaches."

As for how the mineral relates to catching zzz's, "magnesium plays a role in supporting deep, restorative sleep by maintaining healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep," says Michael Breus, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and founder of TheSleepDoctor.com. People who have low magnesium levels tend to experience restless sleep and wake up a lot throughout the night, he says. "Maintaining healthy magnesium levels often leads to deeper, more sound sleep," says Breus. You might experience a magnesium deficiency due to hormone replacement therapy or taking certain types of medications, such as oral birth control, antibiotics, antacids, corticosteroids, and blood pressure medication, he notes. In those cases, a supplement may improve your sleep quality.

Does Taking a Magnesium Supplement for Sleep Work?

At this point, magnesium supplements' ability to encourage sleep isn't guaranteed by existing research, says Harris. "Magnesium supplements might be helpful for prompting sleep, but the reality is that this hasn’t been routinely proven in research to know for certain," she says.

That said, the studies that do exist show promise. "Research indicates supplemental magnesium can improve sleep quality, especially in people with poor sleep," says Breus. So magnesium may be helpful both to people who experience insomnia and those who just have occasional sleep trouble.

"Magnesium can also help insomnia that’s linked to the sleep disorder restless leg syndrome," says Breus. "And many people who have a magnesium deficiency will report insomnia, and when taking the supplements they report improved sleep quality." (Restless leg syndrome, ICYDK, is "a condition that causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs and often occurs at night while resting," says Harris.)

How to Take Magnesium for Sleep

Before you start taking a magnesium supplement for sleep, it's best to check in with a medical professional, who can confirm that it's a good option for you and help you choose your best magnesium for sleep supplement from the various types of magnesium salt, says Harris.

Generally, taking magnesium once per day is considered safe, says Harris. You should check with a medical professional to figure out how much magnesium you should take, but the average dosage recommendation is 270 to 400 milligrams per day for adult and teenage males and 280 to 300 mg per day for adult and teenage females, according to the Mayo Clinic. Taking the supplement about 30 minutes before you go to bed is ideal, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Worth noting, taking the supplements can have negative effects. Taking more than 350 mg of magnesium at one time can cause loose stools and diarrhea, and magnesium supplements can affect the absorption of some medications, such as antibiotics, notes Breus.

If you have a magnesium deficiency, consuming the mineral through food is preferable to taking magnesium supplements, and eating magnesium-rich foods before bed may help relax you, says Harris. These foods include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, broccoli, oranges, and sardines, she says. "It’s best to get vitamins and minerals (such as magnesium) through your diet if possible," says Harris. "The effects of eating a well-balanced diet will be much greater on your overall health and wellbeing."

If you've been seeing social media posts about taking magnesium supplements and wondering what all the fuss is about, know that their popularity checks out. Given the mineral's role in the body, magnesium supplements may be helpful for people who don't get enough quality sleep.

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