If the joy of deep, restful sleep has become elusive it is often ‘stress and anxiety’ that give you sleepless nights, which further contributes to your stress. And it is a terrible and vicious cycle that can be hard to break.
Whether triggered by stress, depression or another health condition like fibromyalgia, lack of sleep can be detrimental to your mental, physical and emotional well-being. You need to sleep well as that’s when your body gets down to repair damaged tissues and gets you energized for a new day. It is also when your body releases important hormones that you need to maintain a healthy body and mind.
It is better you nip insomnia in the bud before it gets better of you. Studies show that chronic sleep deprivation can cause depression, obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease. [1-3].
Doctors often recommend sleeping pills to help you sleep but that actual wreak havoc on your brain chemicals. The less we say about this approach the better. Lifestyle modifications like maintaining healthy sleep habits, exercise, reducing stress, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol often work well. However, an over-stressed and chronically sleep deprived body might needs a little bit more support. That’s where magnesium helps.
How magnesium helps you sleep better?
Magnesium knocks down your stress levels and induces a natural calm effect over your body and mind. In fact, magnesium sort of winds your body down and prepares you to fall asleep.
- Relaxes muscles
Relaxed muscles are a precursor to healthy, sound sleep. Tensed muscles and leg cramps often wake people up during the night. Magnesium keeps excess calcium (that signals muscles to contract) out of the cells and helps muscles relax. Muscle cramps can happen if you are taking calcium supplements but short on magnesium.
- Calms nervous system and regulates stress hormones
Magnesium makes your body well-equipped to combat stress and to calm down an over excited nervous system. It is as simple as that. And ironically, your body tends to lose more magnesium in the urine when it is busy dealing with stress. So, while a constant state of stress makes you more deficient, poor magnesium levels make you sensitive to stress.
Your body uses magnesium to balance the effects of glutamate, a neurotransmitter that excites nerves. Magnesium balances the excitatory roles of both calcium and glutamate, helping nerves to relax. This prevents the nervous system from always sticking in an excited mode. The mineral also increases the production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that calms you down. Low levels of GABA trigger anxiety and makes it difficult to relax and sleep.
In addition, magnesium works in the adrenal glands to regulate the release of stress hormones such as cortisol. Magnesium also helps in the synthesis of serotonin, a hormone known for its role in regulating mood, sleep and body temperature.
This 2016 study found that magnesium intake can reduce mental and physical stress and can help “prevent magnesium deficiency and diseases such as, for example, restlessness, irritability, lack of concentration, sleep disorder or depression.” 
Considering the role of magnesium in relaxing and alleviating stress, magnesium can be effectively included in your plan to treat insomnia. Not to mention that low levels of magnesium are associated with “stressful conditions such as photosensitive headache, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, audiogenic stress, cold stress, and physical stress”.  These conditions also affect the sleep quality and make it difficult to fall sleep and remain asleep through the night.
If you are planning to take oral magnesium supplements, you need know that your body doesn’t fully absorb the ‘regular’ magnesium you take this way. Consider either rubbing some magnesium oil on your skin (start by spraying just a little and work your way up to greater amounts once your skin gets used to it), or a better strategy to achieve maximum absorption and benefits is to take liposomal magnesium.
True, our food should be a great source of most vitamins and minerals but unfortunately with modern agricultural practices taking over, our soil, and therefore the food that grows in it, is not as rich in micronutrients as it used to be in the cavemen times (when we certainly didn’t need any supplements). However, that is not to say that you should swap your food with supplements. Organically grown nuts, bean, seeds, whole grains and green leafy vegetables are exceptionally good sources of magnesium and these foods also provide a lot of other nutrients that you need for optimal health. But when you are facing more stressors than your body is naturally designed to deal with, you certainly need additional help.
Have you ever used magnesium to treat your insomnia? It is your turn now to let us know how using magnesium has helped you sleep better.
- Li L, Wu C, Gan Y, Qu X, Lu Z. Insomnia and the risk of depression: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMC Psychiatry. 2016;16:375. doi:10.1186/s12888-016-1075-3.
- Yun Li, Alexandros N. Vgontzas, Julio Fernandez-Mendoza, Edward O. Bixler, Yuanfeng Sun, Junying Zhou, Rong Ren, Tao Li, and Xiangdong Tang. Insomnia With Physiological Hyperarousal Is Associated With Hypertension. Hypertension, January 2015
- Sofi F, Cesari F, Casini A, Macchi C, Abbate R, Gensini GF. Insomnia and risk of cardiovascular disease: a meta-analysis. Eur J Prev Cardiol 2014;21:57-64.
- Magda Cuciureanu, Robert Vink. Magnesium and stress. Magnesium in the Central Nervous System. Chapter 19.