In the eternal quest for a good night’s sleep, magnesium has gained attention as the latest supplement of note. Could this mineral help you catch some ZZZs?
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“Overall, the evidence for magnesium is thin, but some people have found it helps them,” says integrative medicine specialist Naoki Umeda, MD. Here’s what to know about magnesium sleep aids.
Magnesium is a nutrient that’s involved in several important bodily functions. It plays a role in muscle and nerve function, is involved in regulating blood pressure and blood sugar, and even helps build bones and DNA.
Some research shows it may also be a better alternative to counting sheep.
“Magnesium may help regulate neurotransmitters that are directly related to sleep,” Dr. Umeda says. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit messages between nerve cells in your brain and body. (It’s important to note that magnesium plays only a supporting role in their function.)
If you eat a balanced diet, you probably get plenty of magnesium. “It’s widely available in both plant and animal foods such as dairy products, leafy greens, nuts, legumes and whole grains,” Dr. Umeda says. “And magnesium deficiency is rare in healthy people.”
However, you may be at risk of magnesium deficiency if you:
Can taking magnesium help you get the rest you crave? Some studies have found that magnesium supplements can:
Sounds great, right? Not so fast. “The studies on sleep and magnesium were all small studies, and the evidence is thin,” Dr. Umeda says.
It’s technically possible for a doctor to test your magnesium levels, but the findings aren’t very beneficial, Dr. Umeda says. Some people with low levels of magnesium sleep just fine, after all, and having it in your system is no guarantee of a sound snooze.
Magnesium supplements are safe, in general, but they could potentially interfere with some medications. Talk to your doctor before adding them to your routine.
If you plan to try magnesium supplements for sleep, look for these products:
Avoid magnesium oxide, which is a stool softener and probably much less helpful for your insomnia.
Dr. Umeda recommends taking the supplement about 30 minutes before bedtime. And don’t take more than the recommended amount. More won’t help you sleep better, but it may cause stomach upset.
While magnesium might improve your slumber, it’s no substitute for a good sleep routine, Dr. Umeda says. “Limit caffeine, create a dark, cool sleeping environment and don’t use a smartphone or other devices before bed,” he says.
Dr. Umeda says there are other supplements he’d recommend first, including melatonin, valerian and chamomile tea. “But if those don’t work,” he says, “it’s worth giving magnesium a try.”