Can Magnesium Supplements Really Help You Sleep?

Magnesium is often touted as an antidote to poor sleep. But while some doctors say it’s good to take it as a supplement for certain sle...


Magnesium is often touted as an antidote to poor sleep. But while some doctors say it’s good to take it as a supplement for certain sleep disturbances, like those caused by restless leg syndrome, the evidence for its sleep benefits is slim.

Magnesium, a mineral abundant in the body, plays an essential role in many physiological functions. It helps support immune health, blood sugar regulation, and nerve and muscle function. Some scientists suspect that magnesium deficiencies can contribute to poor sleep by disrupting nerve signaling and altering levels of sleep-inducing hormones such as melatonin.

But most people have sufficient levels of magnesium because the mineral is easily obtained if you follow a relatively healthy diet. It is found in a variety of plant and animal foods like nuts, green vegetables, seeds, beans, yogurt, and fish. And while many people do not meet the federally recommended daily allowance, true magnesium deficiency are rare.

Over the years, studies have investigated whether supplementing with minerals can improve sleep. Most of the studies were small or poorly designed, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions. A systematic review published in April reviewed three clinical trials that investigated magnesium supplementation for insomnia in 151 older people and concluded that they generally provided “low to very low quality evidence.”

In study published in 2012, the researchers recruited 46 elderly people with chronic insomnia and divided them into two groups. One was given 500 milligrams of magnesium per day for eight weeks and the other a placebo. At the end of the study, the researchers found that compared to the placebo group, people taking magnesium were more likely to report improvements in “subjective” measures of insomnia, such as how quickly they slept. fall asleep each night and the number of times they reported waking up early in the morning. But those who took magnesium showed no difference in their total sleep time, the researchers reported.

In general, magnesium appears to have minimal side effects, and low doses are unlikely to cause much harm. According to the Institute of Medicine, healthy adults can safely take up to 350 milligrams of extra magnesium per day. Anything equal to or below this level is unlikely to have adverse health effects. But at higher doses, magnesium can cause gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea, said Dr. Colleen Lance, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital in Ohio. Dr Lance said that while the evidence that magnesium can help with insomnia is weak, she doesn’t necessarily discourage people from trying it.

“I tell patients you can give it a try and see if it helps,” she said. “It might not help, but it probably won’t hurt.”

One case where she recommends magnesium is in patients with restless legs syndrome, a nervous system disorder that causes people to have overwhelming urges to move their limbs, usually at night, which can greatly disrupt sleep. Dr Lance said magnesium could, in theory, make a difference because it helps nerves relay electrical signals properly, although the evidence for its benefits for restless legs is still limited and mixed, and it may not work for everyone.

At least a small study from 1998 found that people with the disease had less trouble sleeping after taking magnesium. However, a more recent systematic review of studies concluded that it was “not clear” whether magnesium could relieve restless leg syndrome. More research is needed, but Dr Lance said she tells patients with RLS that it might be worth trying to see if it makes a difference. “We tell patients that they can try magnesium at night to see if it calms things down,” added Dr. Lance.

Chronic insomnia, however, is usually not something that can be resolved with a pill. When Dr. Lance encounters patients who complain of insomnia, she usually performs an assessment to determine the root causes of their sleepless nights. Often times, she finds that a patient may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep due to an undiagnosed sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. Many women have menopause-related sleep problems. Some people cannot sleep soundly because their surroundings are too noisy – they may have a spouse that snores, for example, or a dog that barks all night. Others may have trouble sleeping because of pandemic anxiety, their work, their finances or any other stressful situation in their life.

One of the most effective treatments for insomnia is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, which helps people fight underlying behaviors that disrupt their sleep. Therapies like continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, can help people with sleep apnea. Medications, including supplements like melatonin, can also help in some cases, but a pill alone won’t cure insomnia, Dr. Lance said.

“We see a lot of people who have an underlying problem and yet they are looking for a sleeping pill through the problem,” she said. “So what we’re trying to do instead is find and fix the underlying problem. “

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