If you struggle with getting a full night’s sleep, or if you’re constantly waking up throughout the night, then it’s probably safe to assume you’ve tried just about everything to help with your sleep quality. Melatonin, valerian, Advil PM, Unisom, the list of over-the-counter products goes on. However, there’s been a recent increase in popularity of a supplement many people are touting as a sure-fire sleep aid: magnesium. But does taking magnesium for sleep actually work, or is it just a social media fad?
Before we dive into whether or not you should take magnesium for sleep, it’s important to first understand what magnesium is.
What Is Magnesium?
The idea that magnesium can help with sleep is not without reason. Magnesium is a mineral that is essential to your body’s day-to-day function. It’s responsible for more than 300 different processes in your body, including regulating blood pressure, strengthening bones, and keeping your heart rhythm steady.
The average human body contains around 25 grams of magnesium, with around 50-60% located within the skeletal system. The remaining 40-50% is located in the muscles, soft tissues, and bodily fluids.
Many people in the United States do not get enough magnesium in their diet, though deficiency symptoms are uncommon in otherwise healthy people. Doctors link magnesium deficiency with a range of health complications, so you should always aim to meet your daily recommended levels of magnesium.
But where did the idea of taking magnesium for sleep come from? Of all the bodily functions that magnesium is known to help with, sleep is not one that has been scientifically proven. Let’s take a look at whether or not magnesium can aid in a good night’s sleep, or if you’re better off finding other alternatives.
Is Magnesium a Sleep Aid?
Before delving into whether magnesium can help with sleep, it is important to understand that prescribed magnesium for sleep isn’t standard practice. The reality is, there’s not much in terms of concrete science surrounding the use of magnesium for sleep. The theory behind why many believe magnesium may provide some sleep benefits is that magnesium works by calming down the central nervous system.
According to Daniel Barone, MD, a sleep expert at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian and author of Let’s Talk about Sleep: A Guide to Understanding and Improving Your Slumber, “A lot of this stuff is kind of peripheral in terms of hardcore science. That being said, the theory is magnesium works by calming down the central nervous system.”
Cinthya Pena Orbea, MD, a sleep specialist at Cleveland Clinic, explains how the theory gained popularity, even though magnesium hasn’t been proven to improve sleep quality. “People sometimes refer to that because there were some studies done earlier, [but] they were not strong.”
Dr. Orbea explained that the benefits of taking magnesium for sleep have only been observed in elderly patients. This means that it may not be beneficial to you if you are younger or middle-aged.
That said, taking a magnesium supplement each night before bed isn’t likely to cause you any problems. Still, it’s important to talk with your doctor before starting any kind of supplement regimen. As magnesium is necessary for a healthy body, taking an over-the-counter supplement may bring you more benefits than just a good night’s sleep.
How To Safely Take Magnesium for Sleep
Getting more magnesium through your diet is easy, especially if you believe your levels are lower than the recommended amount. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that all women aged 19 to 30 get 310 milligrams of magnesium each day, and men of the same age get around 400 milligrams daily. From age 31 on, the recommended intake is 320 milligrams for women and around 420 for men.
But going overboard with the magnesium could be dangerous: “Magnesium in high concentrations could raise the magnesium level in blood, [and] that can affect the heart,” Dr. Barone explains.
It’s important to monitor the foods you eat, especially if you are specifically concerned about your magnesium levels. This will help ensure you’re getting the correct amount of magnesium for your body.
Another way to boost your magnesium levels is to take a magnesium supplement each night before bed. This should only be done after speaking with your doctor, or after consulting a sleep specialist. “Everybody who’s taking any kind of supplement should let their doctor know,” Dr. Barone says. “If your physician okays your decision to take magnesium, it’s crucial—as it is with all medications—to stick to the recommended dosage on the label.”
But what does all this mean? Should you take magnesium for sleep, or stick to the melatonin?
Bottom Line On Taking Magnesium for Sleep
The truth is, there’s just not enough scientific evidence to definitively claim that magnesium can help with sleep. While there have been small studies that show magnesium may slightly improve sleep quality, they are inconclusive and often only show improvements in elderly subjects.
If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, try taking sleep aids such as melatonin or Advil PM. If you still don’t see results, it may be time to speak with your doctor to see if there is an underlying cause of your sleep problems. Oftentimes, your doctor can run tests that can help rule out or determine the exact cause of your sleep problems. They may also recommend seeing a sleep specialist to more closely monitor your brain while you sleep.
Whatever the cause of your sleepless nights may be, taking magnesium doesn’t seem to offer any significant benefits. While taking magnesium for sleep has become popular on social media, it’s safe to say it likely won’t help.
Have You Ever Taken Magnesium for Sleep?
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