When counting sheep isn't working, can magnesium help with sleep?

Finding a sleep support that works can feel like an endless journey.

Written by
Kaitlyn Wilson
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
May 15, 2024
min read
When counting sheep isn't working, can magnesium help with sleep?
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The advice to count sheep to fall asleep is believed to have been invented centuries ago, in a time before blue light, Netflix, TikTok and the inability to put down our phones.

Plus, we can't forget the everyday life stressors like work, kids and family that can influence your slumber and result in a bad night's sleep. Chances are you've tried a number of sleep remedies and have experienced little to no success.

It's frustrating and finding a sleep support that works can feel like an endless journey. But, have you tried taking magnesium before hitting the hay?

Before you buy a bottle of magnesium supplements, let's explore how magnesium works in the body and how it might be able to help your slumber.

What is magnesium?

Magnesium is an essential mineral for healthy bone, nerve and muscle function. It also helps in blood sugar and blood pressure regulation. While many foods are rich in magnesium, you can also find this mineral in the form of supplements as well as sprays, oils and bath salts.

There are a few different forms of magnesium, however, magnesium oxide, magnesium chloride and magnesium citrate are the ones most commonly used in magnesium supplements.

With over 300 functions in your body requiring magnesium, it's no wonder that low magnesium levels can lead to some pretty dire circumstances.

Not only can magnesium deficiency lead to low calcium and low potassium, but it can also cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, fatigue, and loss of appetite.

Prolonged magnesium deficiency can also lead to serious conditions, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • Migraine headaches
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Osteoporosis [1].

What are the health benefits of magnesium?

While sleep can be positively influenced by magnesium, this handy mineral has a number of other positives.

Some of the major health benefits of consuming enough magnesium include:

  • Improved energy and concentration
  • Central nervous system optimisation
  • Improved muscle movement and cardiovascular health
  • Decreased symptoms of mood disorders
  • Healthy blood sugar
  • Reduced inflammation which decreases the likelihood of disease
  • It can help prevent migraines
  • Promotes bone health
  • Decreased risk of heart disease
  • Improved gut health [2].

What is the recommended magnesium intake?

The recommended dose of magnesium changes depending on your age. Men under the age of 30 should consume around 400mg of magnesium per day, while men over 31 require around 420 mg a day [3].

Comparatively, women under 30 need less than men, with 310 mg per day the recommended daily dose and 350-360 per day for women over 30.

Are there any side effects of magnesium?

There are no risk factors associated with receiving the bulk of your magnesium from food. However, when it comes to magnesium supplements, there are a few side effects and too much magnesium can result in result in nausea, abdominal cramping and diarrhoea.

Magnesium supplements can also cause some adverse reactions when mixed with certain antibiotics and other medications such as antacids or laxatives. Always check with your healthcare provider before commencing magnesium supplementation, especially if you take regular prescriptions [4].

Magnesium for sleep: does it work?

Taking a magnesium supplement can improve your sleep cycle in a number of ways. Unfortunately, scientists aren't 100% how or why magnesium supplements can help with sleep regulation.

But, they do know that low levels of magnesium have been linked to poor sleep quality and sleep disorders such as insomnia. In contrast, healthy magnesium levels have also been shown to decrease anxiety and depression symptoms, which are also associated with poor sleep.

In fact, studies have shown that 500mg of magnesium per night decreased symptoms of insomnia significantly with the supplemental magnesium helping participants: [5]

  • Experience less difficulty falling asleep
  • Increase their sleep efficiency (spending more time asleep at night)
  • Decrease excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Wake up less throughout the night
  • Produce less cortisol (stress hormone).

Taking a magnesium supplement can also help you sleep by reducing the symptoms of restless leg syndrome, a periodic limb movement disorder that often prevents restful sleep [5].

The science around why magnesium can help sleep is a little fuzzy and it's important to note that it isn't a silver bullet for slumber and those with more severe sleep issues may not find it overly impactful.

Can you take magnesium every night for sleep?

When given the go-ahead by your doctor, magnesium supplements are perfectly safe to take daily. It's recommended to take your supplement 30 minutes before bed and only take the recommended amount — doubling your dosage won't increase the sleep benefits [5].

Maintaining healthy magnesium levels can also be achieved through your diet and you may want to add some of the following magnesium-rich foods to your plate going forward:

  • Seeds such as pumpkin and chia seeds
  • Nuts, including peanuts, almonds and cashews
  • Spinach
  • Wheat cereals and grains
  • Soy milk
  • Potato (with skin)
  • Brown and white rice
  • Plain yoghurt
  • Oatmeal
  • Full cream milk
  • Wholewheat bread
  • Broccoli
  • Beef and chicken
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Avocado [6].

Besides food and dietary supplements, you can also try using magnesium salts before bed or lathering your body in a magnesium-infused oil or body spray to help induce those sleepy feelings.

Take the guesswork out of sleep

While magnesium might work for some, it might not be making enough of a difference to your sleep routine. A staggering 1 in 3 Aussie men don't get enough sleep, which is why we want to help you get more of it.

Pilot's sleep support can help you get fall asleep and stay asleep. Our treatments help to regulate sleep and aid in relaxation to help tackle the stresses that can keep you awake. And, it's also natural and non-habit forming so you can take it nightly or as needed.

You'll love falling asleep faster, improving your sleep quality and feeling more energised when you wake up.

Simply follow these steps for a good night's sleep:

  • Step 1: Have an online consultation with one of our resident sleep experts
  • Step 2: Have your custom sleep treatment plan delivered to your door
  • Step 3: Sleep like a baby

Photo credit: Getty Images

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