Is Magnesium The Secret to Better Sleep?

Plus, the best magnesium-rich foods to add to your diet.

By: Dominique Michelle Astorino

You’re tossing, you’re turning, you’re exhausted, you’re frustrated. And now, you’re Googling… how can I get some sleep?

If you’re looking for natural ways to support sleep, you may have heard about the power of magnesium. It’s touted as one of nature’s miracle minerals for its purported ability to calm the mind and body, aid digestion, and support sleep. 

Ahead, we’re going to dive deep into the importance of magnesium, its role in sleep, and how to incorporate magnesium rich-foods into your diet.

Why Can’t I Fall Asleep?

“An estimated 50 to 70 million Americans have chronic, or ongoing, sleep disorders,” reports the National Institutes of Health. And that’s disorders… not even counting the millions of individuals who generally struggle to sleep now and then. 

Something that *should* be so natural and easeful can get thrown off by a myriad of things; many aspects of modern life disrupt our circadian rhythms (our natural sleep cycle, dictated by the rise and fall of specific hormones). Think: blue light from technology, being in an office all day and not getting natural sunlight, caffeine, working late, jetlag, inconsistent sleep and wake schedules, and more. There are so many (seemingly inconspicuous) things that can make it more and more difficult for us to fall and stay asleep, and it seems to compound over time. 

Pinpointing the source of your sleep struggle will be a personal journey and come down to a bit of self-investigation and habit monitoring. With that being said, there are things you can do lifestyle-wise to help you get some shuteye while targeting the root of any potential sleep difficulties. 

How Does Magnesium Play a Role? 

A mind-blowing statistic — are you ready for it? — is that half of us (yes, 50%!) in the US don’t have enough magnesium in our bodies. In 2018, the American Osteopathic Association reported that “Up to 50 percent of the US population is magnesium deficient.”

What does that mean for our brains and bodies? Because magnesium is needed for enzymes used in neurotransmitter synthesis,  a magnesium deficiency can affect multiple systems in the body. Magnesium is also a building block for important sleep-generating chemicals, such as adenosine, GABA, and serotonin. So, not getting enough magnesium would not be ideal when it comes to sleep quality.  

Signs of Magnesium Deficiency

RELATED: Always Tired? Your Diet May Be Missing These Nutrients

Getting More Magnesium From The Foods You Eat

A nutrient-rich diet filled with the foods your body needs to thrive is essential for supporting overall health, and eating the right foods may encourage better sleep efficiency. Here are some delicious magnesium-rich foods to consider incorporating into your diet. 

  • Dark leafy greens 
  • Almonds and cashews
  • Unsweetened Dark chocolate 
  • Bananas
  • Pumpkin and chia seeds
  • Avocado
  • Peanut butter
  • Edamame and black beans
  • Brown rice
  • Halibut and salmon
  • Tempeh and tofu
  • Chickpeas

Imagine a PB-banana toast for breakfast or an avocado-chickpea hummus sprinkled with chia seeds, or a brown rice, salmon, and spinach dinner… There are a lot of delicious options to get more magnesium every day. 

What About Magnesium Supplements?

If you’re deficient, it may be worth speaking with your doctor about supplementation. There’s some evidence that indicates that the supplementation of magnesium improves sleep. However, the research isn’t necessarily indisputably conclusive.

Of course, for anything medically related — including supplements — it’s imperative that you confer with your physician before making adjustments based on assumed deficiencies. Even if it works for most, it doesn’t mean it works for everyone, so please be mindful of your unique physiology.

It’s also important to note that a supplement shouldn’t replace a healthy lifestyle. Eating a varied diet rich in colorful fruits and veggies, protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and those nutrient-dense magnesium-rich foods listed above is key. Pair a healthy and balanced diet with regular exercise and stress reduction, and you’ll set yourself up for better sleep success.

The Pros and Cons of Magnesium

This mineral is often touted as a panacea, but there can always be too much of a good thing! Part of your decision-making process for any supplement, diet, food, medication, etc., is knowing both the pros and cons so you can be completely informed. 

Let’s get the (potentially) bad out of the way, shall we? Fortunately, there’s nothing major out there, but definitely, a few things to keep in mind. 

Cautions to Consider

While a magnesium deficiency can lead to a backed-up digestive tract, too much magnesium can cause the inverse, including nausea, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea. Fortunately, this isn’t a concern when it comes to magnesium content in your food, but supplements are another story! Additionally, magnesium could be contraindicated with your own prescriptions. Just another reason to discuss all of this in detail with your doctor.

Benefits of Magnesium

As for the pros? There are many studies across medical journals that have evidence supporting the following: 

  • Mental health support 
  • Stress relief
  • Sleep support
  • Digestive support
  • Cramp relief + exercise recovery
  • Migraine prevention
  • PMS relief
  • Heart health support
  • Anti-inflammatory benefits

The Bottom Line

Given that there are so many ways to eat your magnesium, you may not need a supplement at all. However, if you’re in a tough spot with sleep deprivation, it’s important to quickly correct it. If you suspect you may be dealing with a sleep disorder, be sure to speak with a specialist who can help you develop an individualized plan so you can get as much sleep as you can while continuing to make any necessary lifestyle adjustments to support better sleep long-term. 

Ready to improve your sleep education? Take the FitOn Better Sleep 101 course, led by neurologist and sleep specialist, Dr. Chris Winter. With this course, you will have the opportunity to learn the tips and tricks that will help you identify your own personal sleep issues and get more restful sleep to improve the quality of your life.