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Everything You Need to Know About Magnesium for Sleep

Magnesium for sleep - woman enjoying a good night sleep

MAGNESIUM IS ONE OF THE MOST essential minerals in the human body, with experts indicating that it is present in all organs of the human body.

The adult body contains 24 grams (24000 mg) of magnesium with 50 – 60% residing in the bones. The rest of the magnesium is present in soft tissues, and only 1% of total body magnesium is present in the blood.

Recommended levels of magnesium in the body

Dietary needs for magnesium vary from individual to individual. However, experts have come up with daily magnesium intake values that can help you understand how much magnesium you require. The values are calculated based on your age, gender, and other lifestyle variables.

Aim for the following daily magnesium amounts:

Infants – 6months 30mgs
Babies between 7 – 12months 75mgs
Children between 1 – 3 years 80mgs
Children between 4 – 8years: 130mgs
People between 9 – 13years 240mgs
Males between 14 – 18years 410mgs
Females between 14 – 18years 360mgs
Males between 19 – 30 years 400mgs
Females between 19 – 30 years 310mgs
Males 31 years and older 420mgs
Females 31 years and older 320mgs
Pregnant women 350 – 360mgs
Breastfeeding women 310 – 320mgs

Did you know?

In a study of hospitalized patients, 42% were found to have low levels of magnesium (hypomagnesemia). 53% of patients in the Intensive Care Unit had magnesium levels below the lowest normal control.

Uses of magnesium in the body

Science indicates that magnesium is required in more than 360 essential metabolic reactions in the body and numerous physiological processes. Some of the uses of magnesium in the body include:

Creating and maintaining bone integrity

About 50 to 60 % of your magnesium is stored in the bones. As such, magnesium plays an essential role in bone metabolism. Experts advise that even a slight ongoing magnesium deficiency can cause a huge amount of bone loss.

Magnesium enables energy production

One of the essential duties of the body’s cells is to produce energy. Energy production involves many chemical reactions, all flowing in a unique sequence.

Within this energy production sequence, magnesium plays a significant role. Many of the chemical reactions required for energy production will not take place unless magnesium is present. As such, low levels of magnesium will cause fatigue.

Maintenance of the nervous system balance

Receptors are unique molecules in the cell membranes that help chemical messages move through the body’s cells. Among the most critical receptors are the N- Methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. This receptor is responsible for the site in the brain where drugs and anesthetics affect the brain function.

Magnesium plays a significant role in the activities of NMDA receptors. When your body is low on magnesium, you are at high risk of depression. That is why treatment with magnesium can have anti-depressant effects.

Magnesium enhances control of blood sugar.

Magnesium has been identified as a cofactor for more than 100 enzymes that are active in the control of blood sugar and glucose metabolism. Consequently, low magnesium has adverse effects on blood sugar control.

Magnesium enhances control of inflammation

Experts indicate that a deficiency in magnesium leads to increased inflammatory process. Although some level of inflammation is necessary for supporting healthy immune function and tissue repair, chronic inflammation magnifies the risks of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Restoring magnesium levels in the body leads to normalization of inflammation.

Studies reveal that 75% of adults are not meeting their recommended magnesium intake while 50% are experiencing magnesium deficiency.

Magnesium deficiency

Magnesium deficiency is dubbed the ‘invisible deficiency’ by experts. This is because magnesium deficiency is hard to spot and diagnose, considering that only 1% of the magnesium in your body is present in the blood.

Magnesium is the eighth most abundant element found on the earth’s crust. The bacteria’s in the soil help plants to absorb magnesium. However, many environmental influences can deplete the magnesium in food; from the fertilizers that we are using for farming, to the pesticides that are used to kill off bacteria.

Other factors that cause magnesium deficiency include:

  • Digestive disorders that lead to poor absorption of magnesium and other minerals.
  • Drinking too many carbonated beverages: Sodas contain phosphates which bind with the magnesium inside the digestive tract and makes it unavailable to the body, even if you are eating foods rich in magnesium
  • Eating too many sweet foods. Refined sugar causes the body to excrete magnesium through the kidneys.
  • Too much coffee, tea, and other caffeinated drinks. The kidneys control magnesium levels in the body. However, caffeine causes the kidneys to release extra magnesium regardless of the amounts in the body.
  • Diuretic heart and asthma medication, birth control pills and estrogen replacement therapy. These drugs have been found to interfere with magnesium levels in the body by increasing magnesium loss through excretion by the kidneys.
  • Too much alcohol: Alcohol affects magnesium levels by inducing excessive excretion of magnesium by the kidneys.
  • Taking calcium supplements without magnesium or in a ratio less than 1:1: Research shows that calcium reduces magnesium absorption and retention. Experts recommend a 1:1 calcium to magnesium ratio to avoid arterial calcification.

Did you know?

Many studies reveal that clinical magnesium deficiency is found in 30% of alcoholics.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency

Inadequate magnesium levels are not likely to cause any noticeable symptoms, but a full-blown hypomagnesemia can cause the following symptoms:

  • Muscle disorders including apathy, anxiety, depression
  • Osteoporosis
  • Fatigue and muscle weakness
  • High blood pressure
  • Asthma
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Migraines
  • Constipation
  • Diabetes
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Coronary spasms
  • Hypocalcemia – low-level calcium
  • Hypokalemia – low-level potassium
  • Heart attack, respiratory arrest, and death in extreme cases.

High magnesium levels

Experts indicate that it is difficult to get too much magnesium because kidneys regulate excretion of excess magnesium through the urine. However, people with kidney problems are likely to get an overdose of magnesium.

Symptoms of toxic magnesium levels

Once magnesium levels are in highly excessive amounts in the body, some of the symptoms that you are likely to experience include:

  • Upset stomach and diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Slow heart rate
  • Dangerously low blood pressure

Severe magnesium overdose will lead to breathing problems, irregular heartbeat coma, and even death.

Magnesium and sleep

To fall asleep, you need your brain and body to relax. Magnesium facilitates this process by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the neuron system that is responsible for getting you relaxed. Magnesium also regulates the neurotransmitters which regulate your sleep-wake cycle.

Further, Magnesium blinds to gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) receptors which are responsible for quieting down nerve activity. By calming down the nervous system, magnesium helps to prepare your body for sleep.

Magnesium not only helps you sleep but also assists you to achieve a deep and restful sleep. Lastly, magnesium helps to alleviate anxiety and depression, which are known to have a negative impact on sleep.

Magnesium supplements for enhanced sleep

If you are having trouble sleeping, consider putting into effect lifestyle interventions, such as cutting back on caffeine. However, magnesium is also useful in helping your mind to relax so that you can achieve the quality of sleep you need.

Types of magnesium supplements

There are various forms of magnesium supplements. The most important factor to consider before choosing one is the absorption rate.

  • Magnesium Gluconate: This supplement is made from magnesium salt of gluconic acid. It has been found to have the highest absorption rate.
  • Magnesium oxide: magnesium oxide has the highest of the actual magnesium. However, since magnesium oxide is insoluble in water, it is poorly absorbed by the body.
  • Magnesium malate: It is excellent for energy production, chronic fatigue, and fibromyalgia.
  • Magnesium citrate: This is magnesium in a salt form that is then combined with citric acid. It has been found to be absorbed by the body relatively well and is also used as a saline laxative before colonoscopy or a major surgery
  • Magnesium chloride: The body relatively well absorbs magnesium chloride. It is also available as oil that you can apply topically. It is great for kidney function, metabolism and detoxing.
  • Magnesium hydroxide: Magnesium hydroxide is also known as ‘milk of magnesia’. It is mostly used as a laxative to treat constipation and heartburn.
  • Magnesium Aspartate: Magnesium Aspartate has been found to be highly absorbable by the body
  • Magnesium glycinate: Magnesium glycinate has been found to have a relatively good absorption rate with less of a laxative effect. This is probably because it is absorbed in a different area of the intestines in comparison with other magnesium supplements. It is best for anyone with a deficiency. It also helps with nerve pain and relaxation.

Which is the best magnesium supplement for sleep?

Magnesium glycinate is the preferred supplement for sleep because:

  • It is highly absorbable
  • It has a high rate of bioavailability
  • It's likely to cause laxative effects as compared to other forms of magnesium.
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How much magnesium for sleep?

The dosage of magnesium for sleep depends on how much magnesium you are already getting in your diet. The capsules are typically available in doses from 100mg – 400mg per capsule. So, ensure you choose the supplement that is right for your body’s needs.

How long does it take for magnesium to work for sleep?

How long magnesium takes to induce sleep in your body mainly depends on how depleted of magnesium your body is. If your magnesium levels are low, you will need to take magnesium for some time before you notice any sleep benefits.

If you are taking magnesium because you have chronic insomnia, you can expect your sleep patterns to come back to normal in a few weeks, to a month or two, depending on other factors like how stressed you are. Also, try and take magnesium for sleep about half an hour before bed so that it can prepare your mind and body for sleep.

The side effects

Experts warn that magnesium can interact with several drugs, for instance, ciprofloxacin and moxifloxacin, and interferes with how the body absorbs the medicine. Magnesium also negatively interacts with some thyroid medication. Besides, magnesium can worsen the side effects of some blood pressure and diabetes medicines.

Foods that are rich in magnesium

Considering that supplements may come with their own obstacles, the best source of magnesium is natural food. Some of the foods that are in magnesium include:

  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Beet greens
  • Pumpkins
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Summer squash
  • Turnip Greens
  • Soybeans
  • Sesame greens & seeds
  • Black Beans
  • Quinoa
  • Cashews
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Mung Beans
  • Almonds
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Brazil nuts
  • Collard greens
  • Dark chocolate
  • Kale
  • Lentils
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna

magnesium for sleep - foods high in magnesium infographic

Providing you eat a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of these foods, you should get plenty of magnesium and should have no reason to take supplements. The only problem with this is that most of us simply don't get enough of these foods in our diet. This is where finding the best magnesium supplements for sleep becomes very important.

So, are you magnesium deficient?

Between ensuring that you get enough fiber in your diet and trying not to skip on iron monitoring, your magnesium levels can fall through the cracks. Remember, this invisible deficiency manifests in different stages, depending on how severe your deficiency is.

Initially, the symptoms will be minor, but eventually, you will have noticeable symptoms in your muscle and nerve function. Do not wait until you experience seizures and abnormal heart rhythms to pay attention to your magnesium levels.


Your best bet when it comes to dealing with magnesium levels is the prevention of the deficiency. Even though supplements will give you a boost, it is best to focus on foods. Amp you consumption of leafy greens, legumes, nuts, fish and whole grains.

Also, bear in mind that with magnesium, it is what you are not eating as well what you are eating that is interfering with your magnesium levels:

  • processed foods
  • antibiotics
  • antihistamines
  • sugar
  • alcohol
  • coffee
  • carbonated sodas

Will all leech magnesium from your body.

Thanks for reading this guide on everything you need to know about Magnesium and sleep. Here is more information on different sleep aids.

DISCLAIMER: This web site does not take the place of your usual medical practitioner, it is intended to give information only and not to diagnose or provide medical treatment. It cannot cover all possible uses, interactions and adverse side effects. If you are at all worried about your health - please see your own doctor. Do not delay this as a result of anything you may have read about on the web. Many symptoms can result from a variety of causes, some may require specialist diagnosis and treatment. You should also consult your medical practitioner before taking any supplements as some of them may react with essential medicines or have harmful side effects.

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