Many people take magnesium supplements because of magnesium's calming effect. Researchers have identified several roles that magnesium plays in our sleep-wake cycle, as well as in relaxing our nervous system. Further, scientists have seen improvements in sleep quality and quantity with magnesium supplementation.
Magnesium’s Role in Sleep and Relaxation
- Magnesium activates our parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxation. This is playfully referred to as our “rest and digest” system.(1)
- Magnesium helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle and can mimic the action of melatonin.(2)
- Magnesium plays a role in the body’s timekeeping mechanism.(3)
Magnesium Intake and Sleep Problems
In mice who were fed a magnesium-deficient diet, sleep worsened and wakefulness increased after a period of just 9 weeks. When magnesium was returned to the food and water given to the mice, their sleep returned to baseline quality. This indicates that there may be a causal relationship between magnesium status and sleep quality.(4)
Human research on this subject was done in a large cross-sectional study that looked at magnesium intake of ~1,500 men and women from the Jiangsu Nutrition Study Cohort.(5)
- Those with the lowest magnesium intake were more like to fall asleep involuntarily during the day than those with the highest magnesium intake (highest vs lowest quartile).
- Magnesium intake was inversely related to falling asleep during the day in women.
Magnesium Supplementation and Sleep Disorders
- Older adults who supplemented with 500 mg of magnesium daily for 8 weeks saw a statistically significant increase in sleep duration and efficiency, as well as a decrease in sleep onset latency (trouble falling asleep), as compared with the placebo group.(6)
- Patients suffering from insomnia related to involuntary leg movements supplemented with 12.4 mmol of magnesium for 4 to 6 weeks, and saw significant decreases in times per night waking up from involuntary leg movements, and their sleep efficiency improved.(7)
As you can see, magnesium is essential for reactions in our sleep-wake cycle, as well as our parasympathetic nervous system. There seems to be a clear relationship between magnesium status and sleep efficiency, quality, and even quantity. If you consider yourself one of the many millions of Americans suffering from poor sleep, consider optimizing your magnesium intake.
- Wienecke, E. and C. Nolden. 2016. [Long-term HRV analysis shows stress reduction by magnesium intake]. Article in German. MMW Fortschritte der Medizin 158(Suppl 6): 12-16.
- Durlach, J., et al. 2002. Biorhythms and possible central regulation of magnesium status, phototherapy, darkness therapy and chronopathological forms of magnesium depletion. Magnesium Research 15(1-2):49-66.
- Feeney, K. A., et al. 2016. Daily magnesium fluxes regulate cellular timekeeping and energy balance. Nature 532(7599):375-379.
- Depoortere, H., et al. 1993. Effects of a magnesium-deficient diet on sleep organization in rats. Neuropsychobiology 27(4):237-245.
- Cao, Y. T., et al. 2018. Magnesium intake and sleep disorder symptoms: Findings from the Jiangsu Nutrition Study of Chinese Adults at five-year follow-up. Nutrients 10(10):1354.
- Abbasi, B., et al. 2012. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences 17(12):1161-1169.
- Hornyak, M. et al. 1998. Magnesium therapy for periodic leg movements-related insomnia and restless legs syndrome: An open pilot study. Sleep 21(5):501-505.