Wondering if magnesium can really help you drift off? Here we separate fact from fiction & break down the myths about magnesium & sleep
If only getting eight hours of sleep was as easy as it sounds. If you find yourself lying awake at night struggling to switch off, you’re not alone. Whether it’s down to racing thoughts, a busy schedule, too much screen time or taking care of children, many of us find it hard to get enough shut eye thanks to the stresses of modern life.
If that sounds like you and you’ve been looking for something to help with sleep problems, you may have come across reports that magnesium can aid sleep. Here we delve deeper into this mineral and whether there’s any truth behind these claims…
First up, what is magnesium?
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a role in over 300 processes in the body.* It has many health benefits including helping our bodies turn food into energy and supporting the nervous system. The recommended daily amount of magnesium is 300mg for men and 270mg for women, and it’s naturally found in a variety of foods such as:
• Wholemeal bread
So, can magnesium help with sleep?
Some studies suggest magnesium can help with sleep, and other research has found it may help regulate melatonin** (a hormone produced by your body when it’s dark to help bring on sleep). Evidence from these studies is very limited, however, and more work needs to be done to draw any definite conclusions about its effectiveness as a sleep aid.
That being said, magnesium does play a role in regulating muscle contractions by acting as a natural calcium blocker to help muscles relax. And there are many other proven benefits which can help maintain our overall wellbeing. After all, taking care of ourselves is all part and parcel of supporting good-quality sleep.
What are the benefits of magnesium?
Reduces tiredness & fatigue
Initially, this might sound counterintuitive, as surely you want to feel tired before bed. However, the benefit lies more in magnesium’s ability to support energy levels so you can go about tasks as normal.
The more tired you feel during the daytime, the more likely you are to reach for an afternoon boost like caffeine and sugary energy drinks. Or you might even be tempted by a quick nap that inevitably turns into a longer daytime snooze (we’ve all been there!). All of this can have a knock-on effect by disrupting your circadian rhythm. Simply put, you may not feel sleepy enough to drift off at night-time.
Supports normal bones & muscle function
We all know the importance of staying active throughout the day, and for this we need healthy bones and muscles. Moving around frequently and doing moderate exercise throughout the week (150 minutes is recommended) can help with sleep. Just remember not to exercise too close to bedtime or workout too intensely, as this can cause aches and pains that may keep you awake. Of course, there are a whole host of other benefits of exercise too, which are worth checking out.
How can I ensure I’m getting enough magnesium?
The best way to get the recommended amount of magnesium is to eat a balanced and varied diet including some of the food sources mentioned above. If you’d like to consider other forms of magnesium, here’s what you need to know:
Magnesium is available in supplement form as capsules, chewies, effervescent tablets or liquid formulas.† If you’re considering magnesium supplements, don’t take more than 400mg a day as this could be harmful and lead to diarrhoea.
Body sprays & lotions
You may have come across magnesium body sprays and lotions which are designed to be massaged into sore muscles to support relaxation. The jury’s still out on whether magnesium can be absorbed through the skin, and evidence for this is very thin.^ Therefore, magnesium is unlikely to support muscles in this topical format.
Nevertheless, you may find the process of massage can help relieve any aches and pains before bed. These sprays and lotions often have an uplifting aroma which can be a great accompaniment to a spot of meditation or time spent reading a book to help get you in the mindset for sleep.
Epsom bath salts
Have you ever tried a salt bath? Well, it might surprise you to know that Epsom salts are also known as magnesium sulphate and have been used for hundreds of years by many people who believe they offer health benefits.
Like with magnesium sprays and lotions, the benefits are still up for debate and there’s limited evidence to support the idea that magnesium from the salts can be absorbed by the skin. But who doesn’t enjoy a warm salt bath as a relaxing way to unwind and prepare for bed?
If you think you’re suffering from insomnia or you find yourself feeling overwhelmingly tired even after a full night’s sleep, it’s best to see your GP for advice.