A Dose of Magnesium for Sleep

the mineral that winds you down
Dose of Magnesium for Sleep: Magnesium-rich foods in a circle
© Shutterstock / Tatjana Baibakova

SLEEP!! Whether it’s not being able to get to sleep, or not being able to stay asleep, issues with sleeping are one of the most common concerns we see in our practice.

As naturopathic doctors, we’re always on a journey to uncover the root cause of one’s difficulty sleeping. Could it be due to stress at work? Too much activity, or not enough? Or is something else the culprit?

We always discuss lifestyle factors with our patients — such as avoiding caffeine, making dietary changes, and altering sleep routines — as ways of increasing both the quality, and length, of sleep. But sometimes these measures aren’t enough. Although we have many different medicines we prescribe to aid in falling asleep, as well as for sleep maintenance, one of our favorite supplements — one that’s always on our shelf — is magnesium. 

Foods containing magnesium 

Magnesium is naturally found in a wide range of foods. Dark green leafy veggies, eggs, nuts and seeds (such as sunflower, pumpkin, chia, and almonds), as well as some whole grains, are all great sources of magnesium. Unfortunately, since these foods don’t necessarily contain the same amount of nutrients as they did in the past, it makes it more difficult for the average adult to achieve the recommended daily intake (RDI) of 350 mg of magnesium. Factors such as stress, high consumption of caffeine and/or alcohol, or even too much exercise, can further deplete our magnesium stores, and at the same time increase our daily magnesium requirements significantly.

Magnesium’s multiple mechanics

Magnesium is an important mineral that’s necessary for every cell in our body to function properly, and as such there are multiple ways it affects our body’s ability to sleep. 

Magnesium helps to quiet and calm the central nervous system by helping to produce neurotransmitters to activate our parasympathetic (or resting) pathways. It has a reputation as an anti-stress mineral, and helps to both reduce cortisol and support melatonin levels through serotonin production, thus regulating our sleep-wake cycles. 

Since magnesium can be thought of as the relaxation mineral, it can be used to loosen up anything that’s tight, crampy, or stiff. This ability to relax muscles and decrease pain naturally also leads to a more restful sleep.

Not only does magnesium help with sleep quality, it also can act as a headache eraser, an anxiety reducer, a depression fighter, and a tension easer. It's also great at combating constipation, has anti-inflammatory benefits, and helps keep bones strong and dense. Magnesium is especially great for women, helps with PMS and menstrual cramps, and is great for pregnancy woes!

Mg for the whole family

There are numerous types of magnesium available in supplement form, but our favourite for sleep is magnesium bisglycinate (a combination of magnesium and glycine). Glycine, an amino acid, aids magnesium’s bioavailability, making it easier to absorb into the bloodstream. Try a small amount: 150-300 mg before bed — this should have you catching some zzzzzz’s in no time!

Have restless kiddos? Magnesium works for them, too! Most children can safely take 50-150 mg before bed. Just remember: it’s best to consult with your ND or doctor before starting any new supplementation regime, especially when children are involved.