Research & Education

Magnesium and Healthy Sleep Patterns

Human beings spend approximately one-third of their lives sleeping. It is well known that adequate and restful sleep is essential for maintaining optimal health. Conversely, sleep disturbances and insufficient sleep have been linked to a variety of chronic conditions and a higher rate of all-cause mortality

It is estimated that approximately 40% to 50% of adults aged 60 years and older have insomnia, which is described as unsatisfactory quantity or quality of sleep. Insomnia can result in early awakening or difficulty getting to sleep, staying asleep, and feeling refreshed upon waking. For older individuals, insomnia may be associated with cognitive impairments, reduced memory, higher risks of falling, or weak physical function. 

Magnesium (Mg) is involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including those of energy metabolism and neurotransmitter synthesis. Magnesium may play a key role in the regulation of sleep, maintaining normal circadian rhythms, and increasing sleep quality by acting as both an N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) antagonist and a gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) agonist. Additionally, magnesium has an essential role in ion channel conductivity that may support healthy sleep. 

Magnesium deficiency may occur in aging populations due to decreased bone mass, inadequate dietary intake, and higher consumption of processed foods. Additionally, research suggests sleep deprivation may also be a contributing factor to the loss of magnesium electrolytes, further perpetuating suboptimal magnesium status. 

A double-blind, randomized clinical trial (n = 46) administered 500 mg of Mg per day or a placebo for 8 weeks to adults with insomnia. Compared to a placebo, the individuals supplemented with magnesium displayed significantly improved sleep time, sleep efficacy, sleep onset latency, and improved insomnia severity index. Furthermore, the experimental group had a statistically significant decrease in serum cortisol and an increase in melatonin and serum renin concentrations. It has been shown that nonrapid eye movement sleep is associated with increased plasma renin levels and spontaneous or stimulated awakening halts the normal increase of plasma renin. 

Magnesium may also help individuals with restless leg syndrome. An open clinical trial and polysomnographic study demonstrated that individuals taking magnesium supplements significantly reduced periodic limb movements during sleep versus placebo. As a result, the sleep efficiency of the supplemented group significantly increased from 75% to 85%. 

A systematic review (n = 7,582) concluded that observational studies suggest an association between higher magnesium intake and sleep quality in healthy adults, where randomized controlled trials show a positive effect of Mg supplementation (such as Mg Citrate) on Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) score, sleep efficiency, and sleep time. However, more research is needed. 

Magnesium is an essential mineral for hundreds of functions in the body. One of which is magnesium supplementation, which may promote healthy sleep patterns for the general population or those experiencing sleep disturbances. 

By Danielle Moyer, MS, CNS, LDN