Four out of every five adults in the US has trouble falling asleep at least once a week, leaving far too many of us exhausted, depleted, and oftentimes, in poor physical health. Lack of sleep has been linked to weight gain, diabetes, low libido, and heart disease, in addition to many other physical and psychological health issues. But how do we get a better night's sleep? Sure, you could try to remove screens or take sleeping pills, but neither of these remedies address one of the most common reasons for sleeplessness: magnesium deficiency. The good news is, increasing your level of magnesium is easy, all natural, and comes with almost no downsides.
Studies have shown links between low levels of magnesium and sleep disorders, in addition to increased states of stress and anxiety. If you're having difficulty relaxing when you get into bed at night—and this includes a running mind, restless legs, and a general inability to sleep despite feeling tired—then a magnesium deficiency may be to blame.
Magnesium, a naturally occurring mineral, is involved in the functioning of over 200 enzymes in our bodies, and is essential to our bone, nerve, and cardiovascular health. It can be found in leafy greens like spinach and legumes, in addition to other good-for-you foods. Changing your diet is one way to get more magnesium, though if you're really having trouble falling asleep, you may want to opt for a magnesium supplement, not least because more and more foods are containing lower levels of magnesium due to poor soil quality and other environmental factors.
Here's everything you need to know about magnesium supplements and why it could be your best, and most natural, bet for finally getting a good night's sleep.
What are magnesium supplements?
You will generally not find magnesium in a standard multivitamin—and if a multivitamin does contain magnesium, it's likely magnesium oxide, a form that the body doesn't easily absorb—so you'll need to get a magnesium supplement. Magnesium supplements come as either a powder or pill; neither is more effective, it just depends on your own preferences (like multivitamins, the pills are quite large).
There are different forms of magnesium, including magnesium citrate, glycinate, and succinate, all of which are easily absorbed and get to work helping your body relax fairly quickly. You should look for a powder or pill that is made specifically for sleep, such as those made by Neuro-mag, which you can buy on Amazon, or Opti-mag Neuro, which you will need to order from a nutritionist or pharmacy.
Magnesium supplements should be taken an hour or so before bed for full effectiveness.
Seriously, do they work?
Taking a magnesium supplement is not like taking an Ambien or sleeping pill, which means it won't knock you out. However, what magnesium will do is help you feel more relaxed at bedtime by calming your muscles and easing anxiety. That's because magnesium binds to GABA, a neurotransmitter that can affect our ability to sleep; very often people who suffer from insomnia have reduced levels of GABA, and magnesium is one very effective way to bring GABA levels up.
Not only will a magnesium supplement help you to relax, but it will also improve the overall quality of your sleep. A study conducted by the NIH found that adults with difficulty sleeping who took a magnesium supplement, as compared to those who did not, exhibited naturally higher levels of melatonin and renin, both of which regulate our sleep cycles. So, while magnesium will not knock you out for a guaranteed 8 hours, the cumulative effect of taking magnesium before bed every night will improve your sleep quality overall, meaning you do not have to rely on an Ambien as a last resort. In short, magnesium trains our bodies and our brains to be better sleepers.
Are there any downsides?
The upside of easing gently into a better sleep routine with magnesium, as opposed to sleeping pills, is that you will not feel drowsy in the morning or experience any of the serious side effects that come with sleeping pills (such as hallucinations, migraines, sleep walking, etc.). The most common side effect to be aware of when taking a magnesium supplement is an upset stomach (including diarrhea, cramps, and in rare cases, vomiting), though as long as you take magnesium in proper doses, that's unlikely to occur. Still, it's always wise to consult with your doctor first, as certain antibiotics may interact poorly with magnesium supplements.
But remember, magnesium supplements are part of a healthy lifestyle. If you want to improve the overall quality of your sleep, as well as your ability to get to sleep quickly, then magnesium supplements will work best when combined with healthy habits, such as a nutritious diet and regular exercise.