Poor sleep is a theme at the moment for me in clinic. Trouble falling asleep, difficulties staying asleep and waking tired are really common concerns I'm hearing from patients right now.
While certainly not a cure-all, the right supplement can support high-quality sleep when paired with healthy nightly habits (read: minimising electronics, managing stress, and keeping bedtime consistent). There are many sleep supplements on the market these days—some with more research behind them than others. Today, we're investigating the role that magnesium supplements, in particular, can play in a solid night's sleep.
What is magnesium?
Magnesium is an essential mineral to the human body that has an important role in energy production, bone development, muscle contraction, and much more.
Our bodies cannot produce magnesium, so we must consume this essential macromineral daily through diet. This can be easier said than done, as some industrial agricultural practices strip the essential mineral out of food. It's estimated that about 40% of adults currently fail to meet their daily needs through diet alone.
The magnesium in our bodies also tends to naturally dip as we age, due to reduced intestinal absorption, reduced bone storage, and excess urinary loss. This makes maintaining healthy magnesium levels a lifelong endeavour for many.
Magnesium benefits for sleep.
Ever the multitasker, magnesium has its hand in many processes that affect sleep. For starters, it seems to help regulate our circadian rhythm—the internal clock that tells the body when to be awake and when to go to bed.
Magnesium also assists with the production of certain neurotransmitters that promote relaxation and quiet nerve activity—most notably, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
Here are the promising findings and range of sleep-supportive benefits of magnesium supplements that research has identified:
1. May improve markers of sleep quality.
In a small 2012 study in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, researchers found those who took magnesium showed reduced levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, further supporting magnesium's relaxing potential.
2. May make it easier to fall asleep and wake up energised.
A 2011 study found those who took the supplement found it easier to fall asleep and wake up energised.
3. May increase slow-wave sleep.
Magnesium has been shown to increase slow-wave sleep—the deep sleep stage that is essential for memory consolidation and muscle repair. The same research found that magnesium may help regulate our HPA axis, quelling the energising fight-or-flight stress response."
What time of day should it be taken?
While you can really take a magnesium supplement at any time of the day, those who are using it for sleep will want to do so in the hours leading up to bedtime.
You'll also want to consider your own sleep needs: If falling asleep is a challenge for you, taking a supplement on the earlier side will help it kick in by the time you get into bed. If staying asleep is the issue, you could likely take it closer to your snooze.
There a many Magnesium supplements on the market, we recommend Magnesium glycinate for sleep. It's always best to discuss supplementation with your health care practitioner.