Beautiful young woman waking up in the morning after restful sleep

Maximizing the Benefits of Magnesium for a Restful Sleep

The Benefits of Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

When you hear about the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep, you might instead hear about the horrors of not getting enough sleep at night. True, restful sleep is essential, and many aspects of health suffer if you don’t sleep well.

If you do get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep and enough restorative deep sleep, the benefits are many, including the following:

  • Improved memory
  • More energy
  • Better concentration
  • Improved weight
  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Improved long-term cardiovascular health

With so many sleep benefits, maximizing your sleep quality as best you can is often a good idea.

Woman lying awake in bed at 4am

Common Sleep Problems and Their Causes

Sleep problems are universal. Few people have never had complaints about their sleep. Common sleep issues include the following:

  • Inability to fall asleep – This is the most common sleep issue. It can be due to excess stress or worries; however, most individuals simply have poor sleep hygiene habits. Pain, restless leg syndrome, and neuropathy (nerve pain) all lead to issues with falling asleep.
  • Early awakening – Early awakening can be a phenomenon of aging. It can also mean you’re sleeping too lightly and awakening during dreams or upon hearing external noises. You are more likely to awaken and stay awake if you’re already sleeping lightly.
  • Disrupted sleep – Disrupted sleep can come from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea happens due to genetics, being overweight, or taking certain medications (like opioids) that cause brief episodes of breath stoppage. Sleep apnea is just one cause of disrupted sleep. Bladder issues, pain, or having to awaken for children are other causes of disrupted sleep.
  • Parasomnias – Common parasomnias are sleep-walking, sleep-talking, night terrors, sleep-related eating, and nightmares are all examples of parasomnias. Many are genetically caused; however, brain disorders (like Parkinson’s disease) and psychological trauma can be causative.

The Role of Magnesium in Promoting Sleep

Magnesium has repeatedly demonstrated that it can improve sleep quality, quantity, and ability to fall asleep easily. Magnesium is essential for good nerve and muscle function. You need magnesium to have normal functioning of all muscles – including your heart muscle.

Eating enough magnesium protects your nervous system from being too excitable. Excitability of the nervous system leads to poor sleep, nerve cell death, and nervous system diseases like Parkinson’s disease, seizures, migraines, and Alzheimer’s disease. As you’ll see, certain sleep-related issues are specifically helped by taking magnesium.

How Magnesium Helps with Sleep

Magnesium’s role in promoting better sleep comes from its ability to calm your nervous system and relieve nerve-related pain. When you are more relaxed, you can more easily fall asleep.

Magnesium helps reduce the incidence of restless legs syndrome – an uncomfortable sensation of needing to move one’s legs that often interfere with rest and sleep.

Recommended Daily Intake of Magnesium

The recommended magnesium intake in adults is 400 mg to 420 mg daily for men and 310 mg to 320 mg for women. Most people do not get too much from diet; however, if too much is consumed in supplements or food sources, you can develop diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps.

There is an upper tolerable limit for magnesium supplementation of 350 mg per day. Dietary supplements are those sources used on top of the food you eat.

Blue magnesium capsules over periodic table with magnesium element

Types of Magnesium Supplements

Supplements containing magnesium can come in capsules, tablets, or gummy formulations. Less commonly, individuals can rub magnesium onto their skin. There are different magnesium salts you can choose from:

  • Magnesium citrate – This is a popular salt of magnesium. It absorbs pretty easily but can cause unwanted diarrhea in some people.
  • Magnesium glycinate – This form is well tolerated, especially when higher doses are needed.
  • Magnesium malate – This absorbs very quickly and has fewer gastrointestinal side effects than many other forms.
  • Topical forms – These include magnesium chloride and magnesium sulfate (the salt in Epsom salts).

Magnesium-Rich Foods That Promote Sleep

You can consume magnesium in your diet by eating magnesium-rich foods. Some foods known to be high in magnesium are also good for you in other ways:

  • Nuts and seeds – almonds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, peanuts, peanut butter
  • Beans – black beans, kidney beans, soybeans
  • Leafy greens – spinach, Swiss chard
  • Other vegetables – artichokes, peas, lima beans, acorn squash, sweet corn, potatoes (with skin)
  • Grains – including brown rice and oats
  • Meat, fish, and poultry – these include salmon, beef, and poultry
  • Dairy
  • Bananas, raisins, and dark chocolate

Benefits of Getting Magnesium Through Diet

While you can get magnesium in supplement form, there are many advantages of using diet instead to get enough of this vital nutrient. Dietary magnesium is easily absorbed and causes few symptoms. You can eat many magnesium-containing foods without side effects or toxicity.

On the other hand, supplements have recommended upper limits for a reason. They may cause high blood magnesium levels and toxicity. Toxic magnesium levels can cause diarrhea, depression, muscle weakness, and abnormal heart rhythms. If you have kidney disease, your risk of toxicity is greater because you can’t clear magnesium as easily.

Sample Meal Plan with Magnesium-Rich Foods

How can you get enough magnesium in your diet? The meals that best add magnesium would be balanced. If you divide it into three meals a day, this meal plan adds the recommended dietary intake (and more):

  • Breakfast – Oatmeal, cashew butter toast, and yogurt or milk
  • Lunch – Peanut butter sandwich or chicken salad sandwich, fresh spinach salad, milk
  • Dinner – Salmon, brown rice, and either lima beans or peas
  • Snacks – Eat raisins, trail mix, bananas, or a piece of dark chocolate (more than 70%)

Other Lifestyle Changes to Complement Magnesium Intake

Is eating magnesium-containing foods or taking magnesium supplements enough to get to sleep? Not always. Sleep is complex; the reasons we don’t sleep can vary from night to night.  Besides taking magnesium (which can happen anytime during the day), you should think of ways to get the sleep you need.

Sleep Hygiene Tips for a Restful Sleep

Enhancing your sleep hygiene is one of the best ways to sleep better. Sleep hygiene involves optimizing sleep in your environment based on your unique circumstances. Enhancing sleep using better sleep hygiene is easy:

  • Plan to sleep at the same time each night.
  • Sleep only in your bed and do nothing else in your bed but sleep.
  • Use white noise or soothing nature sounds to reduce extraneous sounds.
  • Keep the room cool (around 66 degrees) and sleep in comfortable clothing.
  • Avoid blue light screens before bedtime (including laptops, phones, and tablets).

Stress-Reducing Techniques to Aid Sleep

Besides using optimal sleep hygiene, you can utilize simple stress-reduction strategies to calm your mind and relieve tension before sleep. Some good strategies you can consider include the following:

  • Journaling before bedtime to let your worries go onto paper and not in your mind.
  • Mindfulness meditation any time of the day.
  • Biofeedback to reduce the fight-or-flight response.
  • Yoga, tai chi, or Qi Gong to reduce tension and stress.
  • Other breathwork before bedtime to lessen the perception of stress.

A calm mind is sleepy and ready for bed without taking a sleep aid or sedative before bedtime.

FAQs

What is the best time to take magnesium for sleep?

While many take magnesium before bedtime, you can take it at any time of the day. If you suffer from restless legs syndrome, it may help to get an added boost of magnesium to settle your legs before you sleep. The evening is when restless legs syndrome is more likely to be more active.

Can I overdose on magnesium supplements?

Magnesium supplements have a safe upper limit of around 350 milligrams. There isn’t a known upper tolerable limit for magnesium in your food. You can overdose on supplemental magnesium, leading to weakness, diarrhea, heart arrhythmias, low blood pressure, and mental health issues, like anxiety or depression.

Can magnesium help with sleep disorders like insomnia?

Magnesium has repeatedly been shown to improve all types of sleep disorders, including insomnia, poor sleep quality, and general restlessness that interfere with sleep. By calming your nervous system, magnesium improves many conditions that may cause a lack of sleep.


Author

  • Christine Traxler, M.D.

    Dr. Traxler has over 17 years of experience writing in the medical field. She specializes in medical, health and wellness, dermatology, pregnancy, nursing, and medical assisting. She has a B.S. in Biochemistry and a Medical Doctorate. Visit LinkedIn page.