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Magnesium its role in good sleep

By Andrea Walker

We all know how important it is to get a good night’s sleep, for both our physical and mental wellbeing.

It should come easily, yet research shows approximately one-quarter of adults in
New Zealand may suffer from chronic sleep problems.

In the eternal quest for a good night’s sleep, magnesium has gained attention as a supplement of note.

As we go through the day, our magnesium levels rise and fall. Magnesium helps cells maintain the circadian rhythm (our internal body clock) that regulates sleep, wake time, hormones, and body temperature. The circadian rhythm cues our brain to feel sleepy when the sun goes down and to wake when the sun rises.

Magnesium maintains healthy levels of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is a neurotransmitter which has a sedative/calming effect and relaxes the brain. In addition, magnesium enhances muscle relaxation and relieves spasm, helping to relax the body for sleep.

In a small double-blinded clinical trial of 43 older people, 500mg of magnesium per day over eight weeks was found to increase sleep time and decrease the time it takes to fall asleep, showing an essential role in sleep support.

Eating magnesium rich foods is the best way to metabolise this mineral however due to our modern-day lifestyle and farming practices, many people are not consuming or absorbing enough from their food. Demand for this essential mineral increases with stress, exercise, use of antibiotics, diuretics, and steroids. Tannins found in coffee and tea decrease absorption of magnesium.

Good food sources of magnesium include brasil nuts, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, dark leafy greens, dark chocolate, avocado, bananas, and fish.

So, apart from diet, how can you top up levels enough to support good sleep?

You can take a supplement. Magnesium glycinate is a good choice for sleep support, is easily absorbed and is gentle on the stomach. Magnesium citrate helps the mind and body relax as it has calming properties. It also absorbs readily into the bloodstream and tissues. Both these forms are more bioavailable than others making them more likely to boost your magnesium levels.

The recommended daily amount of elemental magnesium in supplement form is between 200mg to 400mg for adults or higher when there is increased demand.

Another very good option is to apply a magnesium cream or oil directly to the skin, where it quickly enters the body, bypassing the digestive system where nutrients can get lost. This also avoids potential problems with gut irritation that oral supplementation can cause in some people. Creams and oils are an effective way to get fast results. You can apply to areas of the body where there is discomfort or pain. Rubbing it into the soles of the feet is a great way to help induce sleep.

Magnesium can help reduce restless leg syndrome, a condition that causes the legs to twitch and ache making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. This condition affects at least 10% of the population and is common in pregnant women and the elderly.

It seems most people are looking to get more, or better-quality sleep these days. If you are struggling to improve your sleep habits, it may be well worth giving this ‘miracle mineral’ a try.