Does Magnesium Help You Sleep?

How does magnesium help you sleep? Are you getting enough of this sleep-promoting mineral?

Does Magnesium Help You Sleep? photo

Magnesium is known to be essential for over 300 different biochemical reactions in the body, including energy production and hormone activity. When it comes to supporting sleep, magnesium has several roles to play.

Magnesium for relaxation

Magnesium and calcium are both essential for healthy muscle function. Calcium is needed to help muscles contract properly, and magnesium is used when muscles relax. Muscle cramps are a common sleep disruptor and can be a sign that you need more magnesium in your diet.

Magnesium is frequently known as the “anti-stress” mineral because of its role in relaxation and stress hormone production and function. Conversely, stress can impair magnesium absorption, so it is important to focus on dietary and supplemental sources of magnesium when managing long term stress.

Magnesium and melatonin

Melatonin, the sleep hormone that signals the body to start winding down for sleep, can be derived from foods and manufactured in the brain via the conversion of serotonin. Magnesium and vitamin B6 are essential co-factor nutrients for this conversion process, and to produce serotonin from tryptophan, an essential amino acid.

Factors affecting magnesium requirements

Magnesium is widely found in natural wholefoods, particularly nuts and dark green vegetables. Diets high in processed foods, however, are low in magnesium, and magnesium deficiency is common in the typical Western diet.

Many medications affect magnesium absorption, especially proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) used to manage acid reflux. Other medications increase magnesium excretion rate, leading to higher magnesium requirements.

Magnesium supplements and sleep

Magnesium is a common ingredient in nutraceutical sleep formulas, often found alongside sedative herbs like valerian and chamomile. As a supplement, magnesium has been shown to improve melatonin levels, sleep efficiency, time spent asleep, sleep onset latency, and early morning awakening.


Where to find magnesium

Good sources of magnesium are:

  • Dark green vegetables
  • Oats
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Buckwheat
  • Pecans
  • Brazil nuts

Foods that provide B6, the important co-factor for magnesium in melatonin production, include bananas, tuna, avocado, poultry, brown rice, and pistachio nuts.

Are foods the only sources?

Magnesium can also be absorbed transdermally – through the skin. Using magnesium sprays and creams can be especially helpful when digestion is compromised, as in cases of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), or when using medication that affects magnesium absorption in the gut.

Epsom salts are rich in magnesium sulphate. Add 250-500g of Epsom salts to a bath or 100g of Epsom salts to a foot bath and be sure to soak for at least 15-20mins to give the salts chance to absorb. Other options include magnesium skin sprays and moisturising creams.

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 [online] 17(12), 1161–1169