Magnesium plays a key role in hydration, muscle relaxation, energy production and, crucially, the deactivation of adrenaline. Having sufficient levels of magnesium in the body does not necessarily guarantee that you will fall into a deep sleep quickly and stay there until morning, but insufficient levels guarantee that you won't.
How can you tell if you need more magnesium?
If you're suffering from any of the following then you may be deficient:
- difficulty in going to sleep
- you wake easily or wake before the alarm
- regular cramps
- fluids pass through you easily
- cold hands and feet
- tightness in the neck and shoulders
- twitches in small muscles (e.g. the eyelids)
In fact you can think of magnesium as the relaxation mineral - anything that is tight, irritable, crampy and stiff, whether it is a body part or a mood, is a sign of magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium levels are decreased by excess alcohol, salt, coffee, phosphoric acid in soft drinks, profuse sweating, prolonged or intense stress, chronic diarrhoea, excessive menstruation, diuretics, antibiotics and other drugs, and some intestinal parasites.
Not only are diet and lifestyle choices depleting our bodies' of this important mineral, the issue is compounded by the fact that magnesium is poorly absorbed. We need a lot of it in our diet, plus enough vitamin B6, vitamin D, and selenium to aid absorption.
To eat a diet rich in magnesium it should include the following foods:
- Kelp, wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds, cashews, buckwheat, brazil nuts, millet, pecans, walnuts, rye, tofu, soy beans, brown rice, figs, dates, avocado, parsley, beans, barley, dandelion greens, garlic
How does magnesium work?
Magnesium is vital for the function of GABA receptors, which exist across all areas of the brain and nervous system. GABA is a calming neurotransmitter that the brain requires to switch off - without it we remain tense and our thoughts race. Whether the brain is in 'on' of 'off' mode is a very complex area (affected also by chemicals such as noradrenaline, serotonin and histamine) however, on a more simple level, the most crucial balance is that of GABA versus glutamate. GABA calms the brain while glutamate fires it into higher states of activity - you need GABA to prevail in order to fall asleep.
How much should you take?
The recommended daily allowance for an adult is around 375 mg however studies have shown people to benefit from 400 to 1,000 mg a day. This should ideally be in a chelated form (such as citrate, ascorbate, orotate or glycinate). For even better results try taking a good quality multivitamin alongside it.
To aid sleep try taking around 500 mg of magnesium before you go to bed. Or try taking a hot bath with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) - not only is this a good way to absorb much needed magnesium but encourages active relaxation!
If you're someone that struggles with poor sleep patterns then it's probably safe to say that you've tried most things to get a good night's rest? The introduction of magnesium is so easy why not just give it go?
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.