Why This Doctor Takes Magnesium to Relax and Get Better Sleep
This blog has not been approved by your local health department and is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice.
In this article:
- Magnesium and Better Sleep
- Sleep and Wellbeing
- Sleep and Glycemic Regulation
- Magnesium May Help Your Muscles Relax
- Magnesium May Help Improve Your Gut Health
- Final Thoughts
Magnesium is an important mineral that helps regulate many pivotal aspects of your body. It is the fourth most common mineral in your body after calcium, potassium, and sodium. Magnesium also serves as a cofactor for many enzymes and reactions in the body while you sleep. To feel recharged every day, you need the best sleep you can get to give your body the ability to recover. Read on to learn five reasons why supplementing with magnesium daily may help regulate many of your body’s systems, helping you relax, recharge, get better sleep, and live a healthier life.
Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic systems in the body. One of the recent discoveries of magnesium's effects is the regulation of one’s circadian rhythm. After a long day of being on the go and with much on my mind, I find it important to try to relax at the end of the day to have the best possible sleep. Supplementing with magnesium, melatonin, and vitamin B complex has been shown to help with having better sleep quality.
The combination of these supplements has been shown to help reduce insomnia as well as some of the other signs that can accompany insomnia including poor concentration and irritability. Low levels of magnesium have been associated with poor sleep quality, insomnia, and a depressed mood. According to Abbasi et al., after 8 weeks of supplementing with magnesium, elderly patients had improved sleep time and quality.
Supplementing with melatonin and magnesium may help you achieve optimum recovery while you sleep. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the body that also helps regulate your circadian rhythm. It is released at nighttime and signals the body that it is time for sleep. Supplementing with melatonin has been shown to help promote sleep, especially for those who work night shift hours and sleep during the day. It is one of the safest supplements since it has a low side effect profile.
Although there is little evidence that vitamin B alone promotes sleep, vitamin B12 may have benefits in improving depressed moods, which have been associated with insomnia. Another mineral that has been shown to have synergistic properties with magnesium to help you sleep is zinc. In a study by Rondanelli et al., supplementing magnesium with melatonin and zinc was shown to help improve sleep quality in residency of long-term care facilities. Therefore, in addition to having a good sleep routine before bedtime, I take a magnesium supplement to help with my mood and sleep.
Sleeping well helps me have a calm mindset to accept many of the feelings that may arise during the day. Animal studies have demonstrated that low levels of magnesium may lead to depressive behavior. These same animal studies showed that supplementing with magnesium to achieve normal levels of magnesium may help maintain a stable mood. A depressed mood may also be accompanied by feelings of anxiety. These feelings are one of the most common conditions that affect the public with a lifetime prevalence of 15%.
It is postulated that magnesium has many effects on the brain's neurotransmitters involved in excitability and the fight or flight response. The receptor N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) has been implicated in anxiety conditions and magnesium has been shown to reduce their excitability in stressful situations. Magnesium has also been shown to help regulate the inhibiting receptor in the brain, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). Increasing activity of the GABA receptors will inhibit the activity of the NMDA receptor, leading to a calmer state of mind.
In a systematic review by Boyle, Lawton, and Dye, the researchers showed some improvement in feelings of anxiety when individuals were supplemented with 300 mg of magnesium with 20 mg of vitamin B6. Many of these studies had mixed results, but overall, they offer modest support that supplementing with magnesium may provide some support if you have feelings of anxiety.
Having a healthy diet can also help with having restful sleep. Consuming foods with a low glycemic index is one way to get good sleep. Magnesium has been shown to have the benefits of helping glycemic control and help reduce hemoglobin A1C levels paired with a healthy diet. Elevated blood glucose levels for prolonged periods can lead to diabetes, which then negatively affects the cardiovascular system, kidneys, and eyes. It is believed that magnesium can help in insulin sensitivity leading to improved glucose control. A low level of magnesium has been shown to impair the activity of insulin receptors in cells, leading to higher resistance and hyperglycemia.
In a case-control study by ELDerawi et al., 42 participants were stratified into two random groups, one to take 250 mg of magnesium supplement for 12 weeks and a control group. After 12 weeks, the group supplementing with magnesium had lower insulin resistance and, thus, had improved glycemic control. Additionally, the group supplementing with magnesium also had a hemoglobin A1C drop from 8.32 to 7.96%, the value a physician checks to see how well control a person’s diabetes is.
One of the key functions of magnesium is its role in muscle contraction and keeping bones strong. I use oral and topical forms of magnesium after either vigorous exercise or prolonged standing in the patient wards to help my muscles relax. Roughly 60% of adults report having experienced leg cramps at night, which can lead to sleep disturbance and discomfort. Since magnesium is involved in neuromuscular signaling and muscle contraction, supplementing with magnesium is believed to help prevent muscle cramps.
A Cochrane review of oral magnesium for muscle cramps showed that for muscle cramps in older adults, magnesium was unlikely to provide any benefit. Yet, in the studies involving pregnant women, magnesium supplementation did show some benefit in reducing muscle leg cramps. However, some of the results with pregnant women were inconsistent, and more research is needed to determine clear benefits from magnesium supplementation to reduce leg cramps.
Another form of magnesium that may help with muscle aches is magnesium sulfate, otherwise known as Epsom salt. Epsom salt is a naturally occurring mineral salt with its primary compound being magnesium and sulfate. Used as a mineral bath salt, Epsom salt may help relax muscles and help relieve shoulder pain neck pain like muscle pain, and even headaches. Although no clinical trials have confirmed these benefits, many do report the benefits of soaking achy feet or taking a full bath to relax your neck and back and help your recovery.
Finally, one key to having restful sleep is having a healthy digestive system, and magnesium may help with this. Magnesium oxide is a form of magnesium that has been used to help with gut motility when constipated. Reports have shown that those who experience chronic forms of constipation may experience symptoms of irritability, feelings of anxiety, depressed mood, and decreased appetite, which can overall lessen a person’s quality of life.
Although there are many forms of gut motility agents, magnesium oxide serves as an osmotic laxative that can provide immediate relief of constipation with one dose. Once it enters that stomach, it binds with the stomach acid to form magnesium carbonate in the small intestine. Here it absorbs water from the intestines causing contents to expand and stimulating the intestine to have a bowel movement. It is recommended that elderly people or people with kidney conditions check with their doctor on how much magnesium oxide they should take.
In a double-blinded trial by Mori et al., two groups were randomly assigned to supplement with either 1.5 grams of magnesium oxide tablets or placebo tablets for four weeks. The patients supplementing with magnesium oxide had an increase in the number of bowel movements compared with the placebo group. The study also showed that the supplementations of magnesium oxide also helped in softening stools reducing straining when having a bowel movement. There was no improvement in abdominal bloating or discomfort sensation of incomplete defecation.
Other benefits of magnesium in your gut health are relieving heartburn indigestion or an upset stomach. As an avid fan of spicy food, using milk magnesia, the common name for magnesium hydroxide, as an antiacid has helped with heartburn or an upset stomach. This form of magnesium combines with the stomach acid and neutralizes it relieving the upset stomach. These and other digestive aids are designed to help with your gastrointestinal health and can be taken as a chewable tablet or as a liquid.
Although magnesium is not a magical cure for many ailments, it does play a role in many pivotal parts of my daily life, and I use it regularly. Supplementing with magnesium in addition to eating a healthy diet may not only help you get better restful sleep but also may help your body fully recover to help you stay calm, relaxed, collected, and focused to conquer any busy day.
- Abbasi B, Kimiagar M, Sadeghniiat K, Shirazi MM, Hedayati M, Rashidkhani B. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2012;17(12):1161-1169.
- Aluminum hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide: Medlineplus Drug Information. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601013.html#:~:text=Aluminum%20Hydroxide%2C%20Magnesium%20Hydroxide%20are,the%20stomach%20(gastric%20hyperacidity).
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- ELDerawi WA, Naser IA, Taleb MH, Abutair AS. The Effects of Oral Magnesium Supplementation on Glycemic Response among Type 2 Diabetes Patients. Nutrients. 2018;11(1):44. Published 2018 Dec 26. doi:10.3390/nu11010044
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- Mori S, Tomita T, Fujimura K, et al. A Randomized Double-blind Placebo-controlled Trial on the Effect of Magnesium Oxide in Patients With Chronic Constipation. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2019;25(4):563-575. doi:10.5056/jnm18194
- Rondanelli M, Opizzi A, Monteferrario F, Antoniello N, Manni R, Klersy C. The effect of melatonin, magnesium, and zinc on primary insomnia in long-term care facility residents in Italy: a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2011;59(1):82-90. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.2010.03232.x
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