You’ve likely heard about the countless benefits of magnesium for overall health, but did you know it also plays a crucial role in sleep? As one of The 3 Pillars of VIGOR, getting sufficient quality sleep must be a nonnegotiable for anyone who wants to maintain good health. Unfortunately, many people struggle with sleep, with almost 10% of Americans taking sleep medication. One way to enhance sleep quality is by getting enough magnesium.
This guide explores the connection between magnesium and sleep, covers various magnesium supplements, and helps you find the best magnesium for sleep to optimize your rest.
Why Magnesium Matters for Sleep
Magnesium is a vital mineral involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including nerve and muscle function, maintaining a healthy immune system, and regulating blood pressure.1de Baaij, J. H., Hoenderop, J. G., & Bindels, R. J. (2015). Magnesium in man: implications for health and disease. Physiological reviews, 95(1), 1-46.
One of the most significant roles magnesium plays is in sleep quality. Magnesium contributes to the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles, and supports the function of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and sleep.2Abbasi, B., Kimiagar, M., Sadeghniiat, K., Shirazi, M. M., Hedayati, M., & Rashidkhani, B. (2012). The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of research in medical sciences, 17(12), 1161.
Unfortunately, magnesium deficiency is quite common, with studies suggesting that up to 68% of adults in the United States do not meet the recommended daily intake.3Moshfegh, A., Goldman, J., Ahuja, J., Rhodes, D., & LaComb, R. (2009). What We Eat in America, NHANES 2005-2006: Usual Nutrient Intakes from Food and Water Compared to 1997 Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D, Calcium, Phosphorus, and Magnesium. US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. A lack of magnesium can result in poor sleep quality, insomnia, and even restless leg syndrome.4Hornyak, M., Haas, P., Veit, J., Gann, H., & Riemann, D. (2004). Magnesium therapy for periodic leg movements-related insomnia and restless legs syndrome: an open pilot study. Sleep, 27(5), 1040-1048.
Types of Magnesium Supplements
There are several types of magnesium supplements available, each with unique pros and cons:
- Magnesium oxide: A common, low-cost option with a high magnesium content but low absorption rate.5Lindberg, J. S., Zobitz, M. M., Poindexter, J. R., & Pak, C. Y. (1990). Magnesium bioavailability from magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 9(1), 48-55. Due to its poor bioavailability, magnesium oxide may not be the best choice for sleep improvement.
- Magnesium citrate: More readily absorbed than magnesium oxide but may cause gastrointestinal side effects, such as diarrhea, in some individuals.6Walker, A. F., Marakis, G., Christie, S., & Byng, M. (2003). Mg citrate found more bioavailable than other Mg preparations in a randomised, double-blind study. Magnesium research, 16(3), 183-191. Although it’s more bioavailable than magnesium oxide, its potential side effects make it less suitable for sleep improvement.
- Magnesium glycinate: A well-absorbed form that is gentle on the stomach and may improve sleep quality.7Cao, Y., Zhen, S., Taylor, A. W., Appleton, S., Atlantis, E., & Shi, Z. (2018). Magnesium Intake and Sleep Disorder Symptoms: Findings from the Jiangsu Nutrition Study of Chinese Adults at Five-Year Follow-Up. Nutrients, 10(10), 1354. This chelated form of magnesium binds magnesium to the amino acid glycine, which has calming effects on the brain and nervous system, making it an excellent choice for sleep improvement.
- Magnesium malate: Known for its energy-boosting properties, it may not be the best option for sleep.8Uysal, N., Kizildag, S., Yuce, Z., Guvendi, G., Kandis, S., Koc, B., … & Ates, M. (2018). Timeline (bioavailability) of magnesium compounds in hours: which magnesium compound works best? Biological Trace Element Research, 187(1), 128-136. While magnesium malate has a good absorption rate, its energizing effects might counteract its sleep-promoting benefits.
- Magnesium taurate: Combines magnesium with the amino acid taurine, which has calming effects on the nervous system.9Poleszak, E., Szewczyk, B., Kędzierska, E., Wlaź, P., Pilc, A., & Nowak, G. (2004). Antidepressant-and anxiolytic-like activity of magnesium in mice. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 78(1), 7-12. This combination makes magnesium taurate a potentially suitable option for sleep improvement, although more research is needed to confirm its efficacy.
- Magnesium threonate: A highly absorbable form that can cross the blood-brain barrier, improving cognitive function and sleep.10Liu, G., Weinger, J. G., Lu, Z. L., Xue, F., & Sadeghpour, S. (2016). Efficacy and safety of MMFS-01, a synapse density enhancer, for treating cognitive impairment in older adults: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease, 49(4), 971-990. This unique form of magnesium may be particularly beneficial for sleep improvement because it can penetrate brain cells and positively impact neurotransmitter function.
Choosing the Best Magnesium for Sleep
When selecting a magnesium supplement, consider the following factors:
- Absorption rate: Opt for a form with high bioavailability, ensuring your body effectively absorbs and utilizes the magnesium.
- Potential side effects: Some forms, like magnesium citrate, may cause gastrointestinal issues. Choose a form that is gentle on the stomach.
- Personal preferences and lifestyle factors: Consider any specific health concerns or preferences when selecting a magnesium supplement. For example, if your doctor is treating you for a disease, check with him or her. Also, you can get magnesium in powder or capsule form. One may be more appealing in your daily routine than another.
Based on these factors, the best magnesium supplements for sleep are:
- Magnesium glycinate: This form is highly absorbable, gentle on the stomach, and known to improve sleep quality due to its calming effects on the brain and nervous system.
- Magnesium threonate: Although more research is needed, magnesium threonate shows promise in enhancing cognitive function and sleep due to its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and impact neurotransmitter function.
To optimize your magnesium intake, follow these tips:
- Dosage guidelines: Consult with a healthcare professional for personalized recommendations, as individual needs may vary. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests a daily magnesium intake of 310-420 mg for adults, depending on age and sex.11National Institutes of Health. (2021). Magnesium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/
- Timing of intake: Take your magnesium supplement 30-60 minutes before bedtime to maximize its sleep-promoting effects. This allows time for the magnesium to be absorbed and impacts sleep-related neurotransmitters.
- Combining with other supplements: Consider pairing magnesium with melatonin or valerian root for even better sleep quality. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, while valerian root is an herbal supplement known for its calming effects.12Auld, F., Maschauer, E. L., Morrison, I., Skene, D. J., & Riha, R. L. (2017). Evidence for the efficacy of melatonin in the treatment of primary adult sleep disorders. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 34, 10-22.,13Bent, S., Padula, A., Moore, D., Patterson, M., & Mehling, W. (2006). Valerian for sleep: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The American Journal of Medicine, 119(12), 1005-1012.
Additional Tips for Improving Sleep Quality
Aside from magnesium supplementation, consider these strategies to enhance your sleep:
- Establish a sleep routine: Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps regulate your body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed. Consistency is key, so try to maintain your routine, even on weekends.
- Reduce exposure to blue light: Exposure to blue light from screens (phones, tablets, computers, and TVs) in the evening can disrupt melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep.14Cajochen, C., Frey, S., Anders, D., Späti, J., Bues, M., Pross, A., … & Stefani, O. (2011). Evening exposure to a light-emitting diodes (LED)-backlit computer screen affects circadian physiology and cognitive performance. Journal of Applied Physiology, 110(5), 1432-1438. Limit screen time before bed, or use blue light-blocking glasses to minimize the impact of blue light.
- Create a sleep-friendly environment: Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet to promote better sleep. Use blackout curtains, a white noise machine, or a fan to create an ideal sleep setting.
- Manage stress and anxiety: Chronic stress and anxiety can interfere with sleep quality. Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or progressive muscle relaxation, to help manage stress and encourage better sleep.
- Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity improves sleep quality and reduces insomnia symptoms.15Reid, K. J., Baron, K. G., Lu, B., Naylor, E., Wolfe, L., & Zee, P. C. (2010). Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Sleep Medicine, 11(9), 934-940. If you’re not workout out consistently right now, start with strength training, as it’s the most important for long-term health. Add walking or cardio as your schedule allows, but not in place of resistance training.
- Diffuse sleep-supporting essential oils: Aromatherapy with essential oils such as lavender, chamomile, tangerine, and bergamot can create a calming atmosphere conducive to sleep.16Lillehei, A. S., & Halcon, L. L. (2014). A Systematic Review of the Effect of Inhaled Essential Oils on Sleep. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 20(6), 441-451. Diffuse these oils in your bedroom or apply them topically (diluted with a carrier oil) before bedtime to help promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.
Magnesium plays a vital role in sleep quality, and selecting the best magnesium supplement for sleep can significantly improve your rest. Magnesium glycinate and magnesium threonate are two excellent options to consider. You might need to experiment with different types of magnesium to find the best fit for your individual needs. You’ll find them, including magnesium threonate, through my Wellevate dispensary.
However, improving sleep quality goes beyond supplementation. A holistic approach, including establishing a sleep routine, reducing blue light exposure, creating a sleep-friendly environment, managing stress, and engaging in regular exercise, can lead to better rest and overall well-being.