What types of magnesium are good for sleep?



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Medically reviewed by Sanja Jelic, MD

You may have heard of the potential benefits of supplementing with magnesium for sleep. Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a role in over 300 biochemical processes in the body, including those related to sleep. Some research suggests that certain types of magnesium, including magnesium glycinate AND magnesium L-threonatecan improve sleep quality and duration.

This article explores how magnesium can help improve sleep quality and the potential benefits and side effects of supplementing with magnesium for sleep.



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Types of magnesium for sleep

There are several types of magnesium supplements, and each has potential benefits for the brain and body. The following forms of magnesium may help improve sleep quality:

  • Magnesium glycinate: Magnesium glycinate is magnesium bound to glycine (an amino acid). Easy for the body to absorb, magnesium glycinate is known for its calming properties and can promote relaxation and sleep. Research shows that magnesium glycinate can help relax the mind and body, potentially reducing stress and anxiety that can interfere with sleep.

  • Magnesium oxide: Magnesium oxide it is sometimes used for magnesium deficiency and to reduce acid reflux (heartburn). Some studies suggest that magnesium deficiency can negatively affect sleep duration and quality, so boosting magnesium levels in the body with magnesium oxide may help improve sleep.

  • Magnesium L-Threonate: This form of magnesium has attracted attention for its potential cognitive benefits. Research suggests that magnesium L-threonate may improve cognitive function, address age-related insomnia in the elderly, and contribute to more peaceful sleep.

Magnesium citrate for constipation

Magnesium citrate is often used as a laxative to treat constipation. It draws water into the intestines, which helps soften the stool and relieve constipation. Follow the dosage guidelines recommended by a healthcare professional when using magnesium citrate for constipation and drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.

Benefits of supplementing with magnesium for sleep

About 30% of adults suffer from insomnia and magnesium is gaining popularity as a natural sleep supplement. Although researchers are still exploring the connection between magnesium and sleep, some evidence suggests that magnesium has potential benefits that can help you get more restful and restorative sleep.

Calms the nervous system

Magnesium plays a crucial role in regulating the nervous system by balancing the activity of chemical messengers that send signals within the nervous system and brain (neurotransmitters). Magnesium binds and activates gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), increasing GABA levels in the brain to help slow brain activity and promote relaxation.

Magnesium also helps regulate melatonin, a hormone that maintains your circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle). By enhancing GABA activity, magnesium can help calm the mind, relieve anxiety, and help you get a good night’s sleep.

Reduce insomnia

Some research suggests that magnesium deficiency can lead to sleep problems, such as insomnia. Supplementing with magnesium can help restore magnesium levels, promoting healthier sleep patterns. A recent review of three small studies found that magnesium supplementation boosts natural melatonin production and may help older adults with insomnia fall asleep faster, wake up less frequently during the night, and stay asleep longer.

In another study, participants who took a combination magnesium, melatonin and vitamin B supplements daily for three months reported improved sleep and fewer sleep disturbances.

Relieves anxiety and depression

Mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, are linked to an increased risk of insomnia and poor quality sleep. Research shows that magnesium supplementation can improve symptoms of depression and reduce anxiety, which suggests that magnesium may help improve sleep quality.

Soothe Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a neurological condition characterized by uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an unrelenting need to move them. People with RLS often have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep due to uncomfortable sensations in their legs. Research suggests that magnesium supplementation may help relieve symptoms of restless legs syndrome, as it can help relax muscles, which can ease discomfort and the urge to move your legs while you sleep.

Magnesium versus melatonin for sleep

The effectiveness of magnesium versus melatonin can vary from person to person. Magnesium works by calming the nervous system and relaxing the muscles, promoting relaxation which promotes sleep. Melatonin helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle by signaling the body when it’s time to sleep. Speak to a healthcare professional for support in choosing the supplement that fits your needs, preferences, and overall health.

Magnesium dosage for sleep

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium varies according to age and biological sex. The National Institutes of Health recommend a daily dietary intake of 310320 milligrams (mg) of magnesium for adult women and 400420 mg for adult men.

The RDA is a general guideline for overall magnesium intake, not specifically to aid sleep. As with any supplement, it is best to consult a doctor to determine the most suitable dosage based on your overall health.

There is no official recommended time to take magnesium for sleep. However, taking it about an hour before bedtime should give the mineral enough time to bind to and activate the brain’s GABA receptors and relax muscles, which can help the brain and body relax.

How long it takes for magnesium to improve sleep varies from person to person. Some people may notice an improvement in sleep quality within a week, while others with a severe deficiency may take longer to see benefits.

Who Needs Magnesium for Sleep?

Most people can meet their magnesium needs by eating a well-balanced diet. However, some medical conditions can impair the body’s ability to absorb magnesium, which increases the risk of deficiency. Certain groups of people may benefit from magnesium supplementation for sleep, including:

  • Older adults: Aging is often accompanied by a reduced absorption of magnesium and an increased risk of sleep disturbances.

  • People with digestive disorders: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb magnesium and other nutrients.

  • People with alcohol use disorder: Excessive alcohol consumption can deplete magnesium levels in the body.

  • People with type 2 diabetes: Diabetes can cause you to lose too much magnesium through your urine, contributing to magnesium deficiency.

  • People with insomnia: The calming properties of magnesium can help relax the nervous system, potentially relieving symptoms of insomnia and facilitating better sleep.

  • People with anxiety and depression: Magnesium’s ability to regulate neurotransmitters such as GABA can reduce stress and anxiety, making it easier to relax and get more restful sleep.

You can eat foods with magnesium for sleep too

Incorporating magnesium-rich foods into your diet helps meet your body’s magnesium needs, supports overall health, and can improve your sleep. The following foods provide a natural and balanced source of magnesium:

  • Green leafy vegetables: Dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and chard

  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds

  • Whole grains: brown rice, quinoa and oats

  • Legumes: Beans, lentils and chickpeas

  • Fruit: avocado, bananas and dried apricots

Side effects of taking magnesium for sleep

Magnesium is considered safe for most people, but it is possible that you will experience side effects when supplementing with magnesium, especially when taking high doses. Possible side effects of magnesium supplementation include:

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Stomach cramps

  • Low blood pressure

  • Drowsiness

  • Muscle weakness

Summary

Magnesium supplementation may promote better sleep by calming the nervous system, relaxing muscles, reducing anxiety, relieving restless legs syndrome and helping regulate circadian rhythm. Different types of magnesium, such as magnesium glycinate and magnesium L-threonate, offer specific benefits for the mind and body by promoting good sleep. While most people can consume sufficient amounts of magnesium through diet alone, some groups, such as those with digestive disorders or diabetes, may benefit from magnesium supplementation.

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