It’s a mineral most of us don’t think much about, but without magnesium, our bodies couldn’t complete hundreds of internal chemical reactions that allow us to make and use energy, metabolize fat, control blood pressure, make hormones, regulate body temperature, expel toxins and a whole lot more. And given magnesium’s magnitude of roles in the body, a deficiency can lead to many symptoms, including high blood pressure, leg cramps, migraines, anxiety, irritability, depression, heart palpitations and unsteady blood sugar. Another big one? Poor sleep. The good news is that boosting your magnesium intake can improve sleep. But the mineral comes in so many formulations, many people find themselves wondering how to find the best magnesium for sleep. So we asked experts to weigh in. Read on for their advice!
How magnesium improves sleep
“Magnesium plays a role in supporting deep, restorative sleep and insomnia is a common side effect of low levels,” says sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD. That’s because magnesium helps maintain healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps us relax, he explains. “When magnesium levels are low, sleep is often restless and wake-ups are frequent.” (Click through to learn more about how magnesium can alleviate restless legs syndrome.)
Fortunately, boosting magnesium levels can help you get the deep sleep you need. Food sources of magnesium include pumpkin and chia seeds, almonds, leafy greens, salmon, chicken breast and black beans. (Click through for a recipe for black bean brownies!) And while it’s always a good idea to incorporate magnesium-rich foods into your diet, many people may need to supplement to keep their levels high, says Carolyn Dean, MD, author of The Magnesium Miracle. It’s difficult to get enough of the mineral through food because it’s depleted from the soil, she says. “Cooking and refining also depletes magnesium, and glyphosate [a weed killer widely used in farming] binds to it,” which makes it unusable.
Magnesium deficiency is surprisingly common
Research shows that 48% of Americans get less than the recommended daily amount of magnesium, but experts we spoke with said that number is too low. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CNS, maintains that up to 80% of us have low magnesium levels. That’s a problem — and not just for sleep!
“Not only is magnesium essential for major metabolic functions, it’s the only mineral that studies have linked deficiencies to cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart disease,” says women’s health expert Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD. “As the body’s master mineral, we need between 500 and 1,000 mg of magnesium every day. But most of us only get half of that and the body uses it as quickly as we get it.”
What’s more, she says, “Given our busier-than-ever lifestyles, our body uses magnesium mainly to deal with mental and physical stress, so this adapatogenic mineral is being used faster than we can take it in.”
The best magnesium for sleep
If you’ve been through the supplement aisle in your local grocery or drugstore, you’ve probably been confused by the different types and wondered which one you should buy, from magnesium sulfate to magnesium threonate, magnesium chloride, magnesium sulfate and more (and more!)! Click through to learn about two more types: magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate
“Magnesium glycinate is a good choice for sleep,” says Ken Berry, MD, author of Lies My Doctor Told Me, adding that it’s highly bioavailable, generally well-tolerated and less likely to trigger the diarrhea that other forms of magnesium (particularly magnesium oxide). What’s more, because this form delivers magnesium that’s bound to the amino acid glycine, it does double-duty to improve sleep. Not only does the magnesium promote relaxation, Breus says, the glycine helps produce serotonin, which plays a role in how well and how long we sleep and is crucial to the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. (Click through for must-read news on melatonin gummies and for the best serotonin boosting foods.)
The daily dose that brings on sleep
The right dosage of magnesium glycinate can vary from person to person, says Dr. Berry. “For some, 200 mg works great and for others, they may need up to 800 mg to feel the effect.” Because of this, he suggests starting with the lowest dose and increasing until you get the result you want. “For most people, it’s safe to take every night. But if you have kidney disease or are taking other medications, check with your doctor before supplementing.” (Click through for tips on how to improve kidney function naturally.)
When we asked Dr. Berry if he has a favorite brand, he noted, “Any reputable brand will work.” One we like: Nature Made High Absorption Magnesium Glycinate Capsules, 200 mg (Buy on Amazon, $50.97 for a 90-day supply). It’s got nearly 23,000 rave reviews on Amazon, including this one from Amy, who says, “Melatonin alone doesn’t give me restful sleep, but with 2 of these pills, I’m almost guaranteed to sleep through the night.” Another reviewer, Hannah, raves, “I started with just one pill every night before bed and immediately noticed positive affects. Not only did I sleep so well, I also felt I was in a better mood the next day.”
Other reasons to consider boosting your magnesium intake
Boosts mood: Among its many benefits, magnesium is also said to alleviate symptoms of depression. In a study published in the journal Magnesium Research, depressed adults given 450 mg of magnesium per day saw improvements in mood equal to those on medications for depression. Some experts even claim that the removal of magnesium from modern-day foods through extensive processing might be a major cause of depressive symptoms, considering that the mineral plays such a significant role in mood regulation in the brain. Interesting! (Click through to learn how magnesium can dial down anxiety and stress.)
Dials down inflammation: Another major benefit of magnesium is that it’s a potent anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is the root cause of many diseases, as well as things like joint and muscle pain. A low intake of magnesium has been linked to chronic inflammation. On top of sickness, chronic inflammation can cause things like premature aging and obesity, which means that increasing your magnesium intake is important if you’re looking to maintain a healthy body and weight over time. (Click through to our sister site to discover more about how magnesium can speed weight loss.)
Relieves aches and pains: Another study of 100 older adults found that supplementing with magnesium significantly lowered inflammatory markers in subjects compared to a placebo group. And because of its anti-inflammatory properties, magnesium is also used as a potent pain reliever for aching muscles and joints, migraines and even PMS!
For more natural ways to sleep more deeply: