I’m not usually one to pitch supplements. I’ve got enough going on in my life to keep me busy: raising 4 kids, a full-time gig as an ER nurse practitioner, and a side-hustle as a  functional medicine health coach. 

But if there’s one supplement I will shamelessly promote (without a financial incentive), it’s magnesium. Well, make that two supplements. I also think vitamin D supplements are necessary to take for most people. But we’ll save that for another topic. 

So here’s why I think you should take magnesium. 

First of all, 57% of Americans don’t get enough of this critical nutrient. Honestly, I’m surprised that number isn’t higher. At best, it’s a coin flip whether you’re getting enough magnesium. If you’re curious about what nutrients you’re deficient in, we can run some simple lab tests

Magnesium For Sleep

Before becoming a functional medicine practitioner, my view on magnesium was something that can help prevent cramps. And that is certainly true. Magnesium helps nerves and muscles relax. 

But it also helps a pretty important organ relax as well: your brain. 

In fact, research studies support magnesium for feeling more calm and sleeping more deeply. 

That’s great news for the approximately 50% of older adults with insomnia. A small study involving 46 elderly patients showed that the subjects who took 500 mg of magnesium daily for 8 weeks “brought about statistically significant increases in sleep time.” 

The study concludes, “Supplementation of magnesium appears to improve subjective measures of insomnia such as sleep efficiency, sleep time and sleep onset latency, early morning awakening, and likewise, insomnia objective measures such as concentration of serum renin, melatonin, and serum cortisol, in elderly people.” 

Now, there might be a few things that aren’t clear about that conclusion, especially the part about ‘insomnia objective measures.’ 

Concentration of serum renin means that the subjects who took magnesium had higher levels of renin. Renin is an enzyme that regulates blood pressure and sodium and potassium. Sodium and potassium are electrolytes that act like a see-saw in the cell. People who eat lots of processed foods have higher sodium levels in the cell and lower levels of potassium. Low levels of potassium have also been linked to poor sleep quality. 

As for melatonin, you probably already know that it’s the so-called “sleep hormone.” So the fact that magnesium supplementation may boost melatonin levels is promising. And then there’s serum cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone. If you have high levels of cortisol in your blood, your sleep quality can suffer. 

Mixed Magnesium Results

Of course this is just one small study’s conclusion. But lots of observational studies in which subjects were given a magnesium supplement demonstrate the same positive results. 

Honestly, there have been clinical studies that don’t support magnesium for sleep. Maybe it works for some people and not for others. But I think it’s definitely worth giving it a try. 

Just keep in mind that not all magnesium supplements are created equal. Not only is there the quality factor, form matters as well. You see, there are several different forms of magnesium in supplement form: magnesium citrate (found in citrus); mag. chloride (for constipation, heartburn); mag. sulfate (which is the same as Epsom Salt; great in a bath and will definitely help you relax); and then there’s the one which I think is best for sleep quality: magnesium glycinate. 

Magnesium for A Calm Mind

Glycine is an amino acid, and when you combine it with magnesium, you get magnesium glycinate. Both magnesium and glycine help activate a neurotransmitter called GABA. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain. They help neurons send and receive messages that are critical for virtually every function in the body. 

GABA is like your body’s natural tranquilizer. The more GABA activation occurs, the calmer you will feel. 

So that’s why if you struggle with sleep, I recommend taking a high-quality magnesium supplement that contains at least magnesium glycinate. If it contains other forms of magnesium, that’s like a cherry on top. 

There are lots of other benefits of magnesium. Dozens, hundreds, or perhaps thousands of them. For instance, it can help regulate blood sugar levels and control inflammation. But for this article, I just want to highlight how it can help with sleep because so many people struggle with it. 

If you take magnesium, does it help your sleep quality? Let me know!

Until next time.

To your health,

Jenna Witt, NP