Can Magnesium Supplements Really Help You Sleep?

Magnesium has been promoted as a way to improve sleep quality. While some doctors agree that magnesium can be taken in supplemental form to treat certain sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome or restless leg syndrome, there is little evidence of its sleep-inducing effects.

Magnesium, a mineral that is abundant in our bodies, plays an important role in many physiological functions. It supports immune health, blood sugar regulation and nerve and muscle function. Some scientists suspectPoor sleep can be caused by magnesium deficiencies. This can disrupt nerve signaling and alter levels of sleep-inducing hormonal such as melatonin.

Most people have enough magnesium because it is easy to get the mineral if you eat a healthy diet. It’s found in a variety of plant and animal foods like nuts, greens, seeds, beans, yogurt and fish. And although many people fall short of the federal government’s recommended daily intake, true magnesium deficiencies are rare.

Studies have been conducted over the years to determine if supplementing with the mineral can improve your sleep quality. The majority of studies were small and poorly designed, making it difficult for us to draw solid conclusions. One systematic review published in April looked at three clinical trials that studied magnesium supplementation for insomnia in 151 older adults and concluded that they generally provided “low to very low quality of evidence.”

In one study published in 2012Researchers divided 46 elderly adults suffering from chronic insomnia into two groups. One group received 500 mgs of magnesium each day for eight weeks while the other was given placebo. At the end of the study, the researchers found that compared with the placebo group, the people taking magnesium were more likely to report improvements in “subjective” measures of insomnia, such as how quickly they fell asleep each night and the number of times they reported waking up in the early morning hours. Researchers found that magnesium supplementation did not make a difference in the length of their sleep time.

Magnesium seems to have few side effects and low doses are unlikely to cause any harm. The Institute of Medicine states that healthy adults can take up to 350 mg of supplemental magnesium per day. Any amount below this level is unlikely to have any adverse effects on your health. Higher doses of magnesium can cause diarrhea, however, said Dr. Colleen Lance, the medical director at the Sleep Disorders Center at Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital. Dr. Lance stated that although there is limited evidence that magnesium can aid in insomnia, she doesn’t discourage people from trying it.

“I tell patients you can give it a try and see if it helps,” she said. “It may not help, but it’s probably not going to hurt.”

One situation where she does recommend magnesium to patients with restless legs syndrome. This is a nervous system disorder that causes patients to feel compelled to move their legs at night. It can disrupt their sleep and can lead to restless leg syndrome. Dr. Lance suggested that magnesium could be beneficial for patients with restless legs syndrome. However, there is limited evidence to support this claim.

At least one small studyIt was found that magnesium supplementation led to fewer sleep disturbances in people with the disorder, as evidenced by a 1998 study. However, a more recent systematic review of studies concluded that it was “not clear” whether magnesium could alleviate restless legs syndrome. Although more research is needed, Dr. Lance stated that she often tells R.L.S. patients. It might be worth trying to find out if it makes a difference. “We tell patients that they can try some magnesium in the evening hours to see if that calms things down,” Dr. Lance added.

However, chronic insomnia is not something that can be treated with a pill. Dr. Lance usually performs an evaluation on patients who complain about insomnia to find the root cause. She often discovers that patients are having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep due to an undiagnosed sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, or sleep apnea. Many women experience sleep problems as a result of menopause. Some people cannot sleep soundly because their environment is too noisy — they could have a spouse who snores, for example, or a dog that barks through the night. Others may struggle to sleep due to anxiety about the pandemic, work, or other stressful situations in their lives.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as C.B.T. is one of the most effective treatments to insomnia. This helps people identify the root causes of their problems and then help them get better sleep. People with sleep apnea may benefit from therapies like continuous positive pressure (or CPAP). Dr. Lance stated that while medications, such as melatonin, can be helpful in some cases it is not enough to cure insomnia.

“We see a lot of people who have some underlying issue and yet they’re looking for a pill to sleep through the problem,” she said. “Whereas what we try to do instead is find and address the underlying problem.”

Source: NY Times

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