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Could Magnesium Be the Secret to Better Sleep? Here’s What to Know

Magnesium is always at work inside our cells, doing hundreds of tasks that help keep our bodies humming along in a healthy way. And lately it’s gotten a lot of attention for its potential to help us in a common quest: to get a really good night’s sleep.

First, what is magnesium?

Magnesium is a nutrient that’s essential to many functions of the human body, including how we metabolize energy and synthesize protein. It helps our bodies regulate both blood pressure and blood sugar, and has a key role in how our brains, hearts and muscles function. For example, the way our muscles contract and relax is dependent on magnesium, as is the release of neurotransmitters in our brains.

So, can magnesium help you sleep?

“There isn’t a simple answer to this question, as studies are ongoing and the full effect of magnesium on neural function, in particularly sleep, is not fully understood,” says Marri Horvat, MD, MS, of the Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center, who is dual board certified in Sleep Medicine and Neurology.

Magnesium is involved with neurons that play a critical role in sleep regulation. “Probably the largest effect of magnesium on sleep is that is reduces glutamate release,” says Dr. Horvat. “Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that’s involved in arousal. In fact, studies have shown that the levels of glutamate were increased in patients with insomnia. So low magnesium, via its interaction with NMDA receptors [receptors found in neurons], theoretically could increase glutamatergic neurotransmission, leading to arousal and possibly insomnia.” In other words, science shows that if you don’t have enough of the nutrient in your body, the result could be insomnia and poor sleep quality.

 

However, it’s important to note that low magnesium could be a factor leading to insomnia and poor sleep, but this may not be the only cause. “Not everyone with low magnesium reports poor sleep, and [if they do] when we replace magnesium in these patients it often does not fix their sleep. There are likely other contributing factors. We tend to use magnesium in other areas of neurology as well — some studies have shown that it’s beneficial in migraine, anxiety, and possibly restless leg syndrome. All of these things could be a factor impacting sleep quality as well.”

What can make you deficient in magnesium?

As of now, there’s a lack of accurate clinical tests to see if you’re lacking in magnesium. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) points out that a blood test won’t necessarily give accurate results, because most of the magnesium in our bodies is inside our cells or bones. But a serious deficiency is not common in healthy people, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Those with the following conditions may have an inadequate amount (though possibly not a serious deficiency): type 2 diabetes, renal disorders, gastrointestinal diseases, hyperthyroidism and alcohol dependency. That said, many people in the U.S. aren’t getting enough magnesium in their diets — and step one in correcting that is by upping your intake of healthy mag-rich foods.

 

How to increase your magnesium intake via your diet:

According to the NIH, magnesium is naturally found in many foods — certain plant and animal foods, and some beverages. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for women ages 19 and up is 310-320 mg; for men, it’s 400-420 mg.

You can get half of your daily magnesium needs by eating a cup of cooked greens (beet greens, Swiss chard, spinach). The mineral is also in pumpkin seeds (a great source — 156 mg in an ounce!), chia seeds, whole grains, almonds and cashews, quinoa, black beans, soymilk and soybeans, yogurt and salmon, among others. A good tip? Usually, if a food is high in dietary fiber, it may well be a good source of magnesium. And keep in mind that processed foods often have less magnesium than unrefined ones. Another dietary point to know: If you eat a lot of saturated fat, this can reduce magnesium absorption. (Another ding against saturated fat!)

 

What’s the difference between magnesium and melatonin?

Well, for one thing, magnesium (a nutrient) and melatonin (a hormone) function differently in our bodies. Both are used in supplement form in the hopes of inducing slumber, but while magnesium may ease stress and help the body relax, melatonin — which helps regulate our sleep — may help you start snoozing faster.

Is magnesium good for anxiety and depression as well?

People who are dealing with a high level of stress in their lives or who suffer from clinical depression or anxiety often have trouble falling or staying asleep, and some research shows that they may benefit from taking a magnesium supplement, though more studies are needed.

For example, one study examined heart rate variability (HRV — the variation in time between heartbeats) and stated that a low HRV is an indicator of stress; it found that a daily 400 mg dose of magnesium — combined with strength-endurance training—increased HRV parameters. The researchers concluded that people under mental or physical stress could be helped by taking a magnesium supplement daily. (That said, some experts question the reliability of HRV as a measure of health, at this point. Also note that this dose of magnesium is higher than what the NIH recommends, below.) Another small, 8-week study found that a magnesium supplement helped improve depressive symptoms in those suffering from a magnesium deficiency, compared to a placebo group.

Source: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/a40254443/magnesium-for-sleep/

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