Ask a Nutritionist: How Important Is Magnesium for Sleep?

Hi Jess, I have a few friends who swear by magnesium supplements for better sleep, should I give them a try?

We often focus on diet and exercise in the quest for better health. However, it’s important to acknowledge another crucial aspect: sleep.

If you’re like most people, you’re not getting enough of it and are probably in a near-constant search to get more of it. One nutrient you might have come across (which has also been getting a lot of attention recently) is magnesium. But is it really a game-changer for sleep, or are we just seeing a passing trend? Let’s take a look. 

What is magnesium?

Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, supporting functions like energy production and brain activity. It's naturally abundant in many foods and available as a dietary supplement, playing an important role overall.

What do we need magnesium for?

Regulate energy levels: Involved in ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production,  converting food into energy needed for various cellular processes.

Aid muscle and nerve function: Plays a key role in muscle contraction and relaxation, as well as the transmission of nerve signals throughout the body.

Bone health: Magnesium supports calcium metabolism, crucial for maintaining strong bones and teeth.

Does magnesium help with sleep?

Some research has suggested that magnesium can help with sleep. A small study looked into the effect of magnesium supplements in older adults suffering from insomnia. This clinical trial demonstrated improvements in subjective and objective sleep measures with magnesium supplementation of 500mg daily. 

In a more recent systematic review that included nine studies with over 7000 participants, researchers looked into the relationship between magnesium levels and sleep quality. They discovered a connection based on observational data, suggesting that magnesium status might influence sleep patterns.

However, when it came to randomised controlled trials, the evidence did not support a clear link between magnesium supplementation and improved sleep. Due to the conflicting findings, there is a need for larger, longer-term studies to better understand the potential benefits of magnesium for sleep quality and insomnia.

What foods are naturally high in magnesium?

Nuts: Cashew, brazil, almonds.

Leafy greens: Spinach, kale, swiss chard.

Seeds: Flaxseed, chia or pumpkin seeds.

Beans: Black beans, kidney and soya.

Dark chocolate: 70%+ cocoa can be a great source of magnesium.

Should I take a supplement?

As always, a food-first approach is recommended for meeting your magnesium needs. While a healthy, balanced diet can provide all the magnesium required by your body, it’s worth noting that research on magnesium supplements and sleep is conflicting. While they may potentially aid in better sleep, this effect is not guaranteed for everyone at this point.

TL;DR

Magnesium is vital for various bodily functions, including energy regulation, muscle and nerve function, and bone health. While some studies suggest a link between magnesium supplementation and sleep, more robust research is needed to draw definite conclusions. The good news is that you can reach your daily magnesium requirements through dietary sources like seeds, nuts, beans, and even dark chocolate.

Words: Jessica Stansfield RNutr, Huel nutrition team

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