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- About magnesium
- Research on the benefits of magnesium for quality, restful sleep
- Research that has shown mixed or incomplete results on magnesium + sleep
- Other potential health benefits of magnesium
- Magnesium dosage for maximum benefits
- Who magnesium is best for
- Forms of magnesium
- Side effects
- The bottom line
- How magnesium stacks up to other natural sleep ingredients
Here at Proper, we 🤓 nerd 🤓 out over the science of sleep. Years of rigorous research went into developing our products to directly support aspects of the mind and body that impact sleep quality. Our PhD-led formulations team looked for ingredients backed by multiple human clinical studies that verified the efficacy of the ingredient itself AND its dosage—with no conflicting findings. All were double-blind and placebo-controlled.
We’ve taken this same vigor and applied it here, to our ingredient guides that evaluate what the science says (and doesn’t say) about various vitamins, minerals, and herbs/natural botanicals. Some are in our products, others aren’t. The goal? Equip you with the know-how to make the most informed decisions for your personal sleep journey.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that our bodies need for optimal blood pressure, immunity, bone health, circulation, and muscle functioning. (1)
Because this essential mineral plays an important role in the cellular timekeeping of our circadian rhythms, low levels of magnesium have been associated with poor quality sleep. (2) Additionally, magnesium deficiency has been studied as a risk factor for depression, which in turn may increase the risk of insomnia. (3)
In a double-blind randomized clinical trial, (4) 46 elderly participants with insomnia either received a 500 mg of magnesium or a placebo for 8 weeks. Results showed that compared to the placebo group, the study group experienced statistically significant increases in sleep time, sleep efficiency, and melatonin levels. They also experienced decreases in sleep onset latency (amount of time it takes to fall asleep) and concentration of serum cortisol (a stress hormone).
One potential hypothesis for how magnesium supports a good night’s sleep is its relationship with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter produced naturally in the brain that blocks certain brain signals and decreases activity in the central nervous system. It appears that magnesium increases GABA’s availability (5) while GABA works to reduce excitability and produce a calming effect that may support a reduction in anxiety and sleeplessness.
Magnesium has been extensively studied, but not all the clinical trials have yielded consistent results.
- Restless Leg Syndrome
While there is anecdotal evidence pointing to magnesium as a natural sleep aid for Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD), clinical trials haven’t yielded conclusive results. In one pilot small study, (6) RLS patients who took magnesium for 4-6 weeks experienced a 75-85% increase in their sleep efficiency. However, other studies that have evaluated the impact of magnesium on an older demographic (7) found that the supplement did not reduce the frequency of nocturnal leg cramps. Conflicting results such as these have led researchers to submit that “it is not clear whether magnesium helps relieve RLS or PLMD or in which patient groups any benefit might be seen.” (8)
In a systematic review published in April 2021, (9) researchers analyzed results from three randomized control trials to assess the effectiveness and safety of magnesium supplementation for older adults with insomnia. The review confirmed that while “the quality of literature is substandard for physicians to make well-informed recommendations on usage of oral magnesium for older adults with insomnia.” However, oral magnesium supplementation is readily available, economical and safe, offering a low risk supplement to possibly support healthy sleep.
Proper has multiple human clinical studies verifying the efficacy of each ingredient AND dosage in our supplements—with no conflicting findings.
- Type 2 Diabetes
Recent data suggests that magnesium improves glycemic response in subjects with Type 2 diabetes. (10)
- Migraines/migraine headaches
The American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society have stated that magnesium is “probably effective” as a migraine treatment, (11) although the studies showing that it can reduce the frequency and duration of migraine headaches are limited.
- Calcium absorption
Magnesium facilitates the body’s absorption of calcium, (12) which helps support bone strength.
The fact that a supplement contains an ingredient is only one half of the equation. It’s also necessary to ensure that the ingredient is included at the dosage levels in which it has been proven effective.
The recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for magnesium intake are as follows: (13)
- Males 19 - 30 years old: 400mg
- Males 31 - 51+ years old: 420mg
- Females 19 - 30 years old: 310mg
- Females 31 - 51+ years old: 320mg
Proper formulations directly support aspects of the mind + body that impact sleep quality.
The following groups are at a higher risk for magnesium deficiency: (14-15)
- Older adults
- Those with diabetes/insulin resistance
- Those with Vitamin D deficiency
- Those taking antibiotics, antacids, or hypertension medication for health conditions
- Those with digestive conditions (Crohn’s disease or celiac)
- Those who drink heavily
There are different types of magnesium that are suited for different health needs. Here’s what you need to know about which type is best for you when selecting a dietary supplement.
- Magnesium glycinate: used to support sleep for those suffering from anxiety, insomnia, general poor sleep, chronic stress, or other inflammatory conditions
- Magnesium citrate: has mild laxative effects + is used to treat constipation
- Magnesium oxide: used for short-term relief for digestive discomfort (heartburn, indigestion, constipation)
Magnesium in food
There are several common magnesium-rich foods, including leafy greens, whole grains, beans/legumes, and nuts/seeds.
READ MORE: The 15 Best + Worst Foods For Your Sleep
In rare cases, research shows that supplemental magnesium (especially in high doses) can cause nausea, cramps, and diarrhea. (1 + 16) If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional.
Magnesium may be “trendy” right now in the world of natural ingredients for sleep—and it may very well affect sleep due to its relationship with GABA, which helps reduce excitability and produce a calming effect—but not all clinical trials have yielded conclusive evidence, specifically as it relates to the effect of magnesium on sleep disorders. Given the relatively low risk, it may be worth asking your healthcare provider about magnesium supplementation, especially if you’re at a high risk of deficiency.
Melatonin vs magnesium
Unlike magnesium—which is particularly suitable for those who need help calming the mind and body—melatonin helps regulate your sleep patterns and internal body clock.
READ MORE: Melatonin vs Magnesium For Sleep
Alternative natural sleep aids
Interested in exploring alternative natural ingredients for sleep? We’ve got you covered:
- Guide To GABA For Better Sleep
- GABA vs Melatonin For Sleep
- Guide To Ashwagandha For Stress + Anxiety
- Guide To Melatonin: Uses, Types, Side Effects
- Guide To Valerian Root For Sleep
- Guide To L-theanine For Sleep
- CBD vs Melatonin For Sleep
- Guide To Tart Cherry For Sleep
Sleep Quality vs Quantity: Which Is More Important?
Do Natural Sleep Aids Work? Our Head Formulation Scientist Weighs In.
When To See A Sleep Specialist: 6 Signs + Symptoms Of Sleep Disorders
FAQ: How To Get Better Sleep At Night